FRIDAY NIGHT/MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Avatar: The Way of Water” stars Sam Worthington (The Shack , Hacksaw Ridge), Zoe Saldana (Avengers: Infinity War, The Book of Life), Sigourney Weaver (Alien , A Monster Calls), Stephen Lang (Tombstone , Don’t Breathe), Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Titanic ), Cliff Curtis (Risen, Training Day ), Joel David Moore (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Savages ), Jamie Flatters (The Forgotten Battle, The School for Good and Evil), Britain Dalton (Goliath [TV series], Ready Player One), Trinity Jo-Li Bliss (The Garcias [TV series], Best Foot Forward [TV series]), Jack Champion (Avengers: Endgame, Message in a Bottle), Bailey Bass (Interview with the Vampire [TV series], Psycho Sweet 16 [TV Movie]), Filip Geljo (Odd Squad [TV series], Annedroids [TV series]), Duane Evans Jr. (Sweet Tooth [TV series], Duckrockers [TV series]), and Jermaine Clement (What We Do in the Shadows , Flight of the Conchords [TV series]). It is directed by James Cameron (The Terminator, True Lies), who wrote the screenplay with Rick Jaffa (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jurassic World) and Amanda Silver (Mulan , In the Heart of the Sea).
Jake Sully (Worthington) and his family are forced out of their home and into hiding when an old foe returns to seek vengeance.
Back to the theater we go to see Jake Sully and friends, almost thirteen years after the initial release of “Avatar.” And this time, there’s gonna be water. Lots and lots of water.
There’s plenty of films I wanted to see on the big screen this year, yet failed to make it to the theater. With “Avatar: The Way of Water,” there was no way I was going to let it slip. As I stated before in my recent review of the first feature, the way these stories are crafted are revolutionary. The first outing left a huge mark in the history of cinema, and this sequel is looking to do the same as it enhances the technology (or rather, creates it) to shoot motion capture underwater. Quite extraordinary, if you ask me. This technological feat took an eternity to produce and now the fruits of James Cameron’s labor have been released to the public. Now begs the question: does it hold a candle to the original?
I usually don’t jump to conclusions with my opinions, but I will with this one: “Avatar: The Way of Water” is just as good as the original, if not better. The visuals are striking, the story well-paced, and the narrative highly entertaining. Cameron is no stranger to producing sequels, having crafted some of the greatest in film history (“Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”). With this movie, he takes us out of the jungle we know in Pandora and plants us on a new island filled with aquatic life and culture. It’s a gateway for him and his team to dazzle the audience with stunning visual effects within the realm of underwater photography, and boy was it a sight to behold. All of the landscapes looked life-like, from the trees to the coral to the waves. The characters of this story have also been enhanced, while at the same time retaining their look that we grew accustomed to the last time we saw them. From a visual, technological standpoint, this flick is mind-blowing and well worth engaging with on a bigger screen.
On the story side of things, I found this one to be rather interesting. The feature clocks in over three hours, covering a lot of ground with multiple characters. Once again, we have an ensemble piece, though even larger in size. Sully has a family now and has taken a bit of a backseat as we shift focus toward a few of his children; particularly that of Lo’ak (Dalton) and Kiri (Weaver). I was kind of weary of this, as kid characters don’t appeal to me as much as the adults, but Cameron gave them fun personalities and cast solid actors to portray them. Lo’ak had a good arc of outcast to hero, much like Jake’s, and Kiri was fairly unique with her special gifts. Shifting to villains, we are once again dealt with the baddie of Quaritch (Lang). Yes folks, he’s back, but as an Avatar. How? Story convenience. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the role and believe Stephen Lang to be entertaining. Having him come into this story as an Avatar was cool, and eventually won me over as Cameron had a enough going on for his arc to warrant a reappearance (what becomes of him in the last minutes though is… questionable). I do wonder what is on the horizon in terms of villains for this franchise. Some of the ones introduced in this outing weren’t compelling to me; seeing as how we’ve got three more sequels lined up, someone new’s gotta step up to the plate.
There are obvious parallels between both “Avatar” and its sequel. Quite a few arcs and lessons are retreads, though Cameron weaves it through a new theme of family. I enjoyed this theme more so as it pulled on the heartstrings and offered greater stakes for Sully. Sure, there are plot holes regarding conflict choices (why would the army invest so much in tracking this guy down?), but the motivations of characters work enough to blanket these sins. Spirituality is another large component of this tale, being charged primarily through Kiri and her dilemma. I felt connected to this aspect more than I did in the first flick, for reasons I’m still trying to sort through. Perhaps it’s because of the family element I mentioned earlier. As the story worked its way to a close, I found myself getting misty-eyed. The means to get to this point were fairly predictable, but the outcome managed to tug on the heartstrings just enough.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” has its faults. There are story retreads and familiar character arcs. Not to mention an odd choice of having Sigourney Weaver voice a child (which was off-putting). However, the pros to this are abundant. The cinematography and visuals are out-of-this-world, with shots that will stick with you. Most of the new characters introduced are compelling and fun (meant to mention Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis, who knock their roles out of the park), and the story itself is well-paced. It’s a giant visual spectacle worthy of watching on the big screen while it’s in theaters. If you are a fan of this world of filmmaking in general, I’d recommend you see it. FINAL SCORE: 91%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: