The sequel of Avatar gave James Cameron a chance to pay tribute to 1980s and 1990s cinema, including his own films!
It has been a decade and a half since we experienced life at Pandora through James Cameron’s Avatar, and the director makes the audience revisit the planet again, but this time, everything has changed. The way he captures the beauty of the alien planet makes you want to watch the film again and again, just like it happened with the original Avatar. The film may have taken more years to complete than entire franchises do, but the result proves that when there is a will, there is always a way. Despite its drawbacks and throwbacks to films of the past, James Cameron raises the bar again with technological advancements and visionary filmmaking, showing that he is the only one in the race to the future, with no other person in sight!
Avatar – The Way of Water takes place a decade after the humans were defeated in Pandora; former human turned Na’vi Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) have laid down their arms to raise a family, that includes two sons Neteyam and Lo’ak, daughter Tuk, adopted daughter Kiri and a human boy named Spider, the left-behind son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). They are doing a good job until the ‘Sky People’ return, forcing the Sullys to run for cover so that their tribe doesn’t get hurt on their account. They do find a place with the sea tribe but are unaware that Spider (Jack Champion) is tricked by his estranged father’s avatar to help them trace Jake and his family so that he can have his revenge.
Avatar – The Way of Water is not just a film, but as most James Cameron flicks, it is a template for others to follow. The film might have taken more than a decade to complete but every step of the way, it’s going forward. Add water to all that and the director returns to the world of The Abyss and Titanic, someplace where he hadn’t been for 25 years. He makes the viewers fall in love with the ocean by taking them for a dive in such a way that not many would be able to resist the temptation. With crystal clear water everywhere, different species of sea animals that not many had seen, and the return to motion capture for actors, everything is perfect here despite the passage of so much time.
As for the performances, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana stand out as always, but one must mention the return of Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver, in new avatars. They use all their experience to play the new characters and are able to connect with that audience easily which remembers them from the first film. Also, Cameron reunites with Titanic girl Kate Winslet who joins the cast as one of the main characters and uses her star power to attract her fans and those of the Titanic. Although suspense was the last thing on the director’s mind when he was making the movie, he did put a few elements here and there to surprise those who wanted something new from the movie.
When a director like James Cameron repeats himself, it’s either because he is short of ideas or desperate for a hit. He does a ‘Terminator’ here (the plot of the first two films is more or less the same) by going back to the classic films of the 1980s and the 1990s when the going got tough and that put off that audience who were familiar with those films. Why was there a Commando angle in the film where the lead character has to fight the antagonist to save his children; why did one character repeat the most popular ‘Come with me’ line from T2 when anything else would have had the same effect; why was the protagonist hunting the hunters in Rambo mode; or the sea animals behaving as if they had watched Jaws or Jurassic Park during their spring break. And if that’s not all, there is a little of Titanic here and there, especially at the climax when the battle between the humans and the Pandora people enters the final phase.
Also, the action arrives too late in the film, and even though it doesn’t disappoint, there is hardly a ‘wow’ moment in the flick, one that stays with the audience when they exit the theatre. The film’s storyline is the weakest link which could have been bettered somehow, but it might be due to the fact that the director has eyes on more sequels that he used this film as a go between the first and the third film. Even then, the second film could have had more sequences like the ones in the first film, such as the one where the Colonel is about to attack the avatar link unit and Neytiri saves the day, or the one where Jake finds out that the humans are the bad guys here, and decides to switch sides.
The Verdict 3.5/5
They say sequels aren’t necessarily as good as the original flick, and it’s both true and false in the case of Avatar – The Way of Water. True, because it doesn’t surpass the original in any way except VFX and duration, and false, because the original turned out to find a place amongst the biggest films of all times, bettering which wouldn’t have been possible. Yes, the duration of the film was too long and it could have been trimmed by 30 minutes, but then the result might have been different. On the whole, Avatar – The Way of Water is a breath of fresh air in a tsunami of films that are following the same pattern, doing the same things all over again. James Cameron broke it in the past with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Titanic, and Avatar, and is back to what he does best.