James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Rated PG-13 for sequences of strong violence and intense action, partial nudity and some strong language
All media used courtesy of Twentieth Century Studios
I was a Senior in High School in 2009 when I watched the first Avatar. 3D had the allure of new technology, and the way it was being utilized by director James Cameron could only be described as “game-changing”. 13 years have passed since then, and the journey to returning to the big screen has been long, and uncertain. Delay after delay, while bizarrely paired with news of multiple sequels, fans have been hoping for this weekend for more than a decade. But was it worth the wait?
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is back and has fully immersed into the Na’vi, now having been married to Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) long enough to have a young family with 4 children. But when the past returns to hunt him and his family, they must retreat from their home and find roots among a new tribe of Pandora natives to hide from danger. We are exploring an entirely new location of Pandora, and learning new customs, and connections to the world itself, and all done entirely digitally. What the original Avatar started with its groundbreaking effects is further enhanced, along with a more compelling story that may make this better than the first.
Having the chance to view this in 3-D is almost nostalgic- but a requirement if you want to have the full experience. It’s not used as a gimmick but used to enhance what we’re seeing on screen in almost every scene. Now if you decide to find a 2-D version you may be missing that surrounding effect, but the visuals will be more than enough to blow you away. In this day where Marvel and many other notable studios are putting out blockbuster after reboot after sequel with rushed visual effects, it’s a breath of fresh air to see such meticulous detail put into every frame of what you’re watching. It’s a singular vision put to screen and even though I may have some issues with some of the creative choices, I respect the hell out of the boldness in James Cameron.
The performances by Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana continue to ground the stakes and story. Now with sons and daughters each with their own side plots, I found those moments to be the most enjoyable, albeit the dynamics between each other are very familiar and maybe a little cliche. The most screentime of the children belongs to Kiri played by Sigourney Weaver whose backstory was very interesting and something James Cameron is clearly building the next films around, and the middle child with a heart of gold Lo’ak played by Britain Dalton. The new tribe’s leaders headed by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet) were a good dynamic to play against Jake and Neytiri, but the story revolving around them doesn’t do enough to make them feel like a dynamic character.
It’s a simple story surrounded by spectacle, and if you were disappointed in the first film’s story this film has more, but may not be enough to sway you. Another issue I personally had with my screening is with the frame rates. Knowing this was an intentional part of Cameron switching from a high frame rate to a traditional 24 frames a second makes the moments where the film switches feel jittery and like an unintentional mistake. I’m not a fan of high frame rates in films in general since The Hobbit trilogy, and Avatar: The Way of Water did little to sway me in favor of it. Perhaps if the film stuck to the 48 frames-per-second formats for the entire runtime It would at least feel complete, but I found it to be completely distracting.
The action is much bigger here, and our villain is more menacing and more of a dick than ever before. The entire third act my jaw was on the floor with how much they were able to ground the fighting into the story and bring stakes that weren’t in the first film. Overall, Avatar: The Way of Water is a visual spectacle aiming to please fans who’ve been waiting for over a decade. With stronger characters and emotion overall, this is an improvement in every way, aside from the frame rate and more common thematic tropes.