Avatar – The Way Of Water: A Visual Stunner That Is Equal Parts Exhilarating And Exhausting

Offers enough fodder for mind and heart.                                                                              

 Avatar: The Way of Water (English)

  • Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, and Cliff Curtis
  • Director: James Cameron
  • Producers: James Cameron and Jon Landau
  • Music: Simon Franglen
  • Runtime: 3 hours 12 minutes

Movie sequels are a tricky act. They don’t always fare well. And when you’ve got a sequel hitting theatres 13 years after the original, you better say a Hail Mary… Unless you’re James Cameron!

It’s safe to say that he did a great job not letting the buzz around Avatar: The Way of Water die for over a decade. But where he really hit the nail on the head – and probably the only place – is with the visual effects. The underwater sequences are simply breathtaking and are further enhanced by the advances in 3D technology. The sequel, however, doesn’t completely match the emotional highs of the first part, but one can say that there is still enough for the audience to take home.

Going back to the beginning

Before going into Avatar 2‘s plot, let’s do a quick recap of Avatar. It takes us along on a US Armed Forces mission to an Earth-sized moon in orbit around a massive star. This new world, Pandora, is a rich source of minerals. While Pandora doesn’t pose a threat to Earth, military officials are sent to attack and conquer it. (Wakanda Forever, anyone?) Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi – blue-skinned, golden-eyed sapient extraterrestrial humanoids. Since Pandora doesn’t have an oxygen-rich atmosphere like Earth, humans visiting Pandora use Na’vi lookalikes – called avatars – whose mind is controlled by them.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a young paraplegic Marine who is recruited for the mission because his genes match that of his dead identical twin, who was an original member of the mission. However, things quickly change when Jack starts interacting with the Na’vi and begins to understand their culture. He also falls in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Eventually, Jack turns into a full-fledged Na’vi.

A major plot point of Avatar was about protecting the ecosystem through the Na’vi. The US Armed Forces, on the other hand, represented corporate greed.

Is it a story worth telling?

Avatar: The Way of Water begins by establishing Jack and Neytiri’s family – them and their four children, all living peacefully. However, the happiness doesn’t last long as humans – General Frances Ardmore (Edie Falco) and Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) [yup, him again!] – return to Pandora. And, obviously, they are hell-bent on destroying Jack and his family. Left with no other choice, Jack and his family leave his adopted home and seek refuge with the Metkayina – an oceanic Na’vi clan. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out whether Jack and his family find a place with this new clan. And, more importantly, how they face the new challenges thrown their way.

It has its best moments

It takes some time for the plot of Avatar 2 to really kick in. Scenes establishing Jack as a family man could have been shorter and to the point, perhaps. Things take a turn for the better when the focus shifts to the Metkayina clan. The portions of the movie where Jack and his family are seen adjusting to the ways of the water give the film some of its best moments. The social commentary in Avatar 2 isn’t as strong as the first one, but there are still some pertinent issues that the director raises. Chief among them is humanity’s attitude towards other life forms. There is a disturbing scene involving the killing of a highly intelligent and emotional sea creature to further drive the point home.

Cinematography chops to die for

Russell Carpenter’s cinematography is easily one of the biggest highlights of the film. The cinematographer did a splendid job of capturing not just the scenic beauty but also the breathtaking action scenes that take place in the water. The action department also deserves a mention here. The fight scenes are exhilarating and I guarantee you that, on more than one occasion, the audience will break out into cheers and applause.

On the flip side, the editing is a tad loose and there are far too many scenes that see a drop in interest.

Another hiccup with Avatar 2 is its portrayal of the children — particularly Jack’s sons. There is nothing unique that the director brings to the table in their depiction. It is strictly surface-level.

Sam & Zoe at their best

Needless to say, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are easily the best of the lot.

Sam is brilliant as the protector of the family, in contrast to his role in the first movie as an amateur who is struggling to learn the ways of the Na’vi. He brings in both physicality and emotional depth.

Zoe Saldana is her fiery self and does a swell job of bringing out the emotions of a protective yet petrified mother.

In all, Avatar: The Way of Water lacks the brevity of Avatar but there is enough fodder for the mind and heart.

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