After 2009’s Avatar became the highest grossing movie worldwide (Avengers: Endgame did overcome it for a bit, but a rerelease just pushed Avatar back into first place), Cameron wasted little time in working on the second film (he is hoping to make a total of five).
Unlike the MCU movies, Cameron does not seem to feel any pressure with release dates. It also helps when it is reported how much of a perfectionist he is. Now, thirteen years later, we get to see if Cameron is able to live up to the hype with Avatar: The Way of Water.
The answer is, for the most part, a definite yes.
In the far off moon of Pandora, nearly a decade has passed since the events of the first film. Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have been able to not only find some sort of peace, but also raise a family (more on that in a bit). Of course, the sky people (humans) return to get more resources. Furthermore, before his death in the first film, Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) had his memories infused inside an Avatar, and informs “himself” that revenge is what needs to occur with Jake Sully. This puts Sully and his family on the run, as they encounter a new tribe of Na’vi that live among the coastal region (think of the “Zoras” in “The Legend of Zelda” video game series). They are led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtiss) and Ronal (a hard to recognize Kate Winslet).
I won’t begin to pretend that I understood all of the kids in Jake’s family, but I will try. He has two boys; the eldest Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and (a more rebellious) Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and an eight year old daughter named Tuktirey (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss), or “Tuk” for short.
They also have two adopted children. One is Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who was born from the avatar that belonged to Dr. Grace Augustine from the first film (also played by Weaver). The second is Spider (Jack Champion), a human born on Pandora who could not return to earth. It won’t completely surprise you to find out the identity of his dad.
There are some callbacks to the original film that I found a little tiresome. Sure, they looked great, but I found myself wanting to get back to the water scenes. A look into the filmography of James Cameron will show that he is obviously a fan of shooting underwater. Here, he has nearly outdone even himself. There are no true words to describe what you witness on screen, but I have settled on otherworldly.
The action set pieces are also awe-inspiring. Consider one of the first scenes where Jake and company have to stop a train. We see the train crash, but not like we would in other films where slow motion would take over. Instead, it is rather authentic in how quick and massive it is. Now fast forward a little (well, a lot) to the ending action scene. I recently heard that the reason the action seems so fast (as if it is at 1.5 speed) was because Cameron does not use the typical 24 FPS (Frames Per Second). This is not entirely new, as it has been done in films such as Gemini Man and The Hobbit Trilogy (both rather underwhelming). While this type of movie making may not be perfected yet, I would easily wager that James Cameron has done the best with it so far.
Parents, the film is a pretty strong PG-13. There is some swearing, and minor nudity (nothing sexual). It is really the action sequences/violence that makes the rating what it is. If you kids have seen an MCU film, they would be fine here (there are also some good family lessons to take, especially when it relates to fathers and sons).
There is one thing I have not stated yet: this film is long. As in over three hours. I admit to having to take 1-2 trips to the restroom (no thanks in part to all the water on the screen.) Still, that does not mean the film is boring (for the most part.) While not as good as the original, the story here at least did not have me being instantly reminded of other similar plots.
I have heard that, in order for Avatar: The Way of Water to break even, it needs to make at least around 2 billion dollars at the box office.
With movies staying in the theater for a lesser amount of time these days, that does seem like a tall order.
Still, the universal rule of any James Cameron movie has always been simple: Doubt him at your own peril.
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