Avatar: The Way of Water – an overlong yet awesome sci-fi epic

Avatar: The Way of Water – an overlong yet awesome sci-fi epic

The best special effects and 3D ever buoy an environmentally conscious action spectacle

The Way of Water picks up a decade or so later, in a period of relative peace Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) raise their family of four children.

THIRTEEN years in the making, Avatar: The Way of Water has come with massive hype and expectations. It is also reportedly the most expensive movie of all time and will need to make a pretty penny to be profitable.

Fortunately, for writer-director James Cameron it seems as if this cheque has cleared with the film eating up the global box office. But what about the film itself? After so many years away from the lush and dangerous planet of Pandora, is the return trip worth it?

For the most part the answer is a resounding yes – especially in IMAX 3D. There is just a nonstop cavalcade of jaw-droppingly impressive sequences and imagery. Without a doubt these are the best special effects ever seen in a movie, so lifelike in its creation of an entire planet that just feels real.

This is even more impressive when you see the behind the scenes footage where everything is basically filmed in a warehouse in New Zealand.

As for the story, like the first Avatar it doesn’t exactly tread new ground and some of the twists and turns can be easily predictable.

The Way of Water picks up a decade or so later, in a period of relative peace Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) raise their family of four children – including an adopted daughter that is Sigourney Weaver’s character reincarnated in Na’vi form. The calm doesn’t last very long as the humans make a dramatic return to Pandora.

This time Earth is dying and it’s up to this military force to ‘pacify’ the natives. The way they describe the Na’vi, the dense jungle of Pandora, as well as the designs of their military vehicles very quickly bring to mind the Vietnam War in the 1960s. Cameron being meticulous as he is, there’s no way that’s a coincidence.

Jake and his tribe are quickly labelled ‘insurgents’ – shades of the Iraq War – as they prove a thorn in the side of human exploitation of the planet.

This is where one of the most interesting wrinkles of The Way of Water comes in. Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) bites the bullet in a pretty definitive way at the end of the first movie, now he’s back – this time reincarnated in the form of a Na’vi.

He and his squad of similarly reborn Marines from the first movie are tasked with hunting down Jake using any means necessary.

At the same time Jake and his family leave their home and go into hiding with a distant tribe that lives off the ocean, which is ruled by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet re-teaming with Cameron for the first time since Titanic). There they learn the titular Way of Water.

What’s interesting is how the movie mirrors both these storylines, with Quaritch and his unit getting used to their new bodies while learning how to think and feel like a Na’vi, while Jake and family learn to become one with the ocean and be in symbiosis with the creatures that call it home.

One of the things that really sells the idea of Pandora and the Avatar series as a whole, is the level of thought that goes into designing just about everything, from Pandora’s geography, to its flora and fauna and how they relate to one another.

That’s not even mentioning all the technology the humans use, from their spaceships to mechs to their guns.

Despite all the wonderment and impressive effects, if the movie was to have been trimmed down a bit from its 3-hour-and-12-minute runtime, it probably would have come from this fat middle section.

At the same time, we experience a number of topics that have become fixations of Cameron’s over the years, namely protecting our oceans and preserving the environment.

An extended sequence of a heavily militarised whaling operation is filled with all sorts of science fiction touches, like crab robots and telepathic sea creatures, but really it’s something that happens all the time on Earth.


One of the things that really sells the idea of Pandora and the Avatar series as a whole, is the level of thought that goes into designing just about everything, from Pandora’s geography, to its flora and fauna and how they relate to one another. – Facebook pic

The humans who take part are portrayed so cartoonishly evil that when they get what’s due, it’s all kinds of satisfying.

In that regard, this is in no way a subtle film, with its characters saying its themes out loud at every moment. But conversely, that openness and bluntness are kind of refreshing. Cameron has a vision and ideas he wants to express and he isn’t afraid of saying them out loud.

That being said, the dialogue gets the job done but isn’t really that great, especially when it comes to the teenage characters. A lot of ‘bros’ and the feeling like it’s written by adults who have no idea how kids actually talk.

Watching the movie and being impressed with the effects, it also made me think how under-appreciated the actors are because Worthington and Saldana are doing some serious dramatic work. Neytiri is a little underused in the movie, but when she’s featured Saldana goes all the way.


We experience a number of topics that have become fixations o f Cameron’s over the years, namely protecting our oceans and preserving the environment.– Facebook pic

Quaritch is probably my favourite character in the film. You can tell Lang is having the time of his life, just having fun with his line readings as a badass Marine who’s now stronger than ever. He’s a great villain who you don’t like, but you understand where he’s coming from.

Pretty much the final hour of the film is a non-stop action spectacle and another reminder that Cameron is one of the greatest directors ever of large-scale action. Sure, there are probably a couple reversals too many, but this is very much the director of Terminator 2 and Aliens flexing his muscles.

There’s just a clarity and precision to the action where you’re never confused about where everyone is and what they’re doing at a given moment. Sounds simple, but so many action movies are sloppy at this.

If only there were movies of this scale with this level of thought going into them coming out every year. Did it have to be more than three hours long? Probably not, but the fact that one man’s crazy vision made it to the big screen on his own terms is an achievement of its own.

source – The Vibes

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