Avatar 2 Movie Review: Avatar 2 The Way Of Water Movie James Cameron
“Avatar” first appeared in theatres back in 2009 as an intriguing and believable look at the future of movies. Thirteen years later, James Cameron’s first of numerous eagerly anticipated sequels, “Avatar: The Way of Water,” evokes nostalgia.
When you unfold your 3-D glasses before the movie even starts, you can have a flashback. The last time you donned a pair of those was when? Even the excitement of going to the theatre to see something genuinely fresh seems like a relic of a previous era, before streaming and the Marvel Universe took control.
Cameron’s belief in the advancement of technology was merged with his adherence to the fundamental joys of traditional storytelling and the visceral pleasures of big-screen action in the first “Avatar.” The finely drawn synthetic landscapes and 3-D effects, including the animals and robots that swooped and barreled through the Pandora-trees moons and flowers, gave the impression that something new was about to begin.
The aesthetic uniqueness was supported by well-known themes and genre clichés at the same time. Even though “Avatar” was set in a fanciful world with soulful blue bipeds, it wasn’t strictly (or even primarily) science fiction. With elements of Homer, James Fenimore Cooper, and “Star Trek,” it was a revisionist western, an ecological parable, and a post-Vietnam political allegory. It was also a story of romance, bravery, and retribution.
All of that also applies to “The Way of Water,” which picks up the narrative and moves it from Pandora’s woods to its reefs and wetlands, a landscape that generates some fresh and stunning visuals. The sequel to “Avatar” revels in aquatic wonders, especially a type of armored whale called the tulkun, while “Avatar” found inspiration in lizard birds, airborne spores, and jungle flowers.
We are brought up to date with the people from the previous movie, who we may have forgotten about, before we encounter those entities in a scene that has the peaceful awe of a nature documentary. The protagonist of “Avatar,” Sam Worthington’s troubled U.S. Marine Jake Sully, has rebuilt his life among the Navi. He is now like them.
The brood of biological and adopted children that Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaa) are raising adds a young spark to the somewhat weighty, myth-laden story. There are two sets of brothers and sisters among the four Na’vi children. While Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), the younger sibling, is a rebel and a hothead who frequently finds trouble, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), the older son, walks faithfully in Jake’s heroic shadow.
Their sisters are the young Kiri, whose birth mother was the excellent human scientist Grace Augustine, and the lovely Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). The fact that Sigourney Weaver, who played Dr. Augustine in the first movie, plays Kiri in this one with her identifiable visage digitally de-aged and dyed blue, is one of the movie’s genuinely unsettling effects. The young woman, like her mother, has a mystical bond with Pandora’s plants, much like the Lorax.
Spider (Jack Champion), a scampish human youngster left behind by Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake’s former Marine commander and one of the antagonists in the first “Avatar,” completes Jake and Neytiri’s sitcom-worthy home. Quaritch returns to Pandora with a fresh order to populate the planet and a group of fighters who have undergone Na’vi transformation. He has a long-standing grudge against Jake, therefore “The Way of Water” is primarily about personal dramas of devotion and betrayal rather than grand imperial ambitions.
The Way of Water is overstuffed with character and incident, taking more than three hours to complete—about ten minutes less than “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,” recently hailed as the finest film of all time. Even a pop auteur as creative and resourceful as Cameron may have run out of ideas when it comes to climactic fight sequences, as evidenced by the last stretch, which feels longer than the rest of it. There are many of those, both above and below the surface, fierce and flaming, depressing and rousing, and almost all of them will bring to mind something you have already seen a dozen times.
That’s a shame because “The Way of Water’s” middle section returns a significant amount of the latent promise of novelty, which is a significant accomplishment in a time of tiresome franchise excess. Jake and Neytiri seek the shelter of Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), chieftains of a reef-dwelling Na’vi clan, out of fear that Quaritch and his soldiers will bring murder to the forest.
The physical and cultural variations among the Na’vi provide the anthropology of Pandora and the visual style of the movie an intriguing new depth. In the company of the younger characters, especially Kiri and Lo’ak, the audience learns about this variety. Their adjustment to their new environment—being made fun of for their short tails and clumsy limbs, getting into fights, and meeting new people—gives the film the upbeat, youthful sincerity of young-adult fiction.
I’m intrigued and leaning toward giving this big, confusing undertaking the benefit of the doubt, just like I did in 2009. Cameron’s goals are earnest yet can contradict each other. He aspires to make everything new seem dated once more, to rule the globe in the cause of the underdog, and to honour nature with the most grandiose artifice.