Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Jemaine Clement, Giovanni Ribisi, and Kate Winslet
Movie Length: 3 hour 12 minutes
When Avatar came out in 2009 it was ahead of its time. Director James Cameron apparently had to wait to make the film until he could develop the special effects technology to bring it to life. From a technical standpoint, it delivered. Like The Matrix, Avatar’s visuals were mind blowing at the time, so effective that they papered over a pretty pedestrian plot. It made for great viewing back in the day, but the film didn’t really stick with you like other movies do. As special effects improved, the movie kind of faded away from the public consciousness. That’s why, though I’m sure many people are interested in checking out the long awaited sequel (the first in an announced sequence of movies).
Any time there is a sequel made over ten years after the original, it can be tough to remember what was going on. Basically, there’s this planet called Pandora that had a material Earth wanted to exploit. Humans used genetically cloned ‘avatars’ to put their minds into the native residents of the planet (really tall blue humanoids that kind of resemble cats). Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) came to realize that it wasn’t cool to mess with the awesome creatures of Pandora and he switched sides. This movie picks up years later, and starts with the exposition heavy voiceover necessary to try to catch us up to where the movie picks up. At first, it’s quite confusing, especially if you haven’t seen the first movie in a while. I found myself asking “wait, that kid came from where again?” However, as the movie progresses, it all starts making sense – though at least one big question is left dangling, presumably to be picked up in a sequel.
In many ways, Avatar: The Way of Water is like the first movie with updated special effects. The humans have come back to Pandora to take another stab at snatching precious resources and the noble residents of the planet – who have a super awesome relationship with nature – have to fight back. But this time, there’s the added layer of family to up the stakes. Like the first movie, the sequel doesn’t really break new ground with its story. Where it stands out is with its visuals.
Cameron has been working on this movie for years, and it all shows on screen. The plot basically serves as an excuse to get the characters to a new part of the planet, which allows Cameron to show us a whole new menagerie of creatures, all based on water. The new creatures are a highlight of the Way of Water and like the first movie, they all pretty much get to show off. I liked how the Na’vi (the Pandora people) were a bit different in this area, reflecting their aquatic lifestyle. There are some nifty fight scenes that are well choreographed and plenty of crowd pleasing moments. The climactic battle scene was awesome, though it slowed down a bit as the movie glided to the end. While this is a long movie (coming in at just over 3 hours) it doesn’t overstay its welcome because it is so pretty to look at.
The brilliance of Cameron’s special effects is how they make CGI characters look real, show emotion, and often subtly resemble the actor lending their voice to the character. The voice work was solid enough, and the stranger aspects of the plot allowed for the return of some favorites from the first movie. Also, hello random Edie Falco sighting!
I liked this movie. While it kind of felt like the first movie in a new environment with better effects, it turns out that’s exactly what I needed to watch. Can it be predictable? Sure. Are there some cheesy lines and heavy handed lessons? Yep. Is it entertaining? Absolutely. If a movie can make me root for aliens against humans, it must be doing something right. Even if the plot doesn’t end up doing anything special for you, this is a movie that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Final Score: A- (A+ for visuals, B+ for story)
Avatar: The Way of Water is now in theaters.
Have you seen it already? Do you plan to? Chat with us in the comments section below or on our Twitter at @TheConCollectve.
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