Director: James Cameron
Writers: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Kate Winslet
As we all know it’s been a long time since the first Avatar film was released. The promised sequel felt like it was going to be stuck in development for the rest of time, but now its here with at least three more following quickly behind. I haven’t seen the first film since it first came out, and while I remember the broad strokes of the story, I don’t remember that much about it. I know I thought it was okay, but not brilliant at the time. I planned to rewatch it before the sequel, but couldn’t fit it in. The same thing happened with this one, it’s been out for two weeks, but finding an evening to dedicate so much time to a cinema trip has been difficult. I may be the only one with that issue though as the film has grossed well over a billion dollars by now and will probably be even higher by the time this is actually published.
For the first ten or so minutes, I did feel like I was playing catch up, as I couldn’t remember how things left off. To be fair it has been almost half my life since the first one came out. It didn’t take long too catch up though, so even if your one of the handful of people who haven’t seen the first one, or like me haven’t seen it in a long time, you can still jump on here and enjoy the film. The plot is pretty simple all the way through, and very easy to follow. If you have no idea what’s happening at first, then just give it a few minutes it’ll all click in to place quite easily. Essentially Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his family are being hunted down by a clone of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Rather than fighting, Jake makes the decision to run and join a new clan to try and keep his family safe, but that only works for so long.
It’s the world building that makes the film so great. Seeing the Metkayina clan and how they live, the creative and imaginative creatures, and getting to know the Sully family more. The visuals in the film are absolutely brilliant. The world is stunning and just spending time on Pandora is a treat. Around half-way through there’s an incredibly harrowing hunting scene, where the villains take down a whale-like creature called a tulkun. It’s absolutely horrific and hard to watch, made even worse since they’re only after a small part of the animal which stops the aging process in humans. From that alone, you want the bad guys to die.
When the action really kicks in, it’s explosively exciting to watch. All the set up pays off and the final elaborate set piece is fantastic. It takes place on a sinking boat, as James Cameron knows how to make a film about that. There’s one particular character, I won’t spoil who, but when he dies there was someone clapping in front of me in the cinema and I couldn’t have agreed more. The world building beforehand makes the action that much better and the tension is real.
Sadly, the actual finale is drawn out quite a bit. It’s no surprise that the over three-hour film feels too long. No matter what James Cameron says, getting up to go and pee doesn’t keep away boredom from creeping in. The full-on battle is brilliant, the one-on-one fight between Jake and Miles, is good. Then the ship starts to sink, and various members of the Sully family are stuck and can’t get out. That didn’t need to happen, then the film doesn’t end it carries on (not quite to the same extent that The Return of the King does, so don’t worry that much). When a new scene starts, rather than the credits, there were a few groans in the audience. As great as the film is, it just doesn’t justify the length.
Saying that though, Avatar: The Way of Water is the best action blockbuster film to come out this year by far. It’s a lot better than any of the recent comic book films, and it even tops the excellent Top Gun: Maverick. It’s definitely too long, but that’s so easy to overlook when there’s so many great things about it. The action is brilliant, the visuals are spellbinding, the world building is excellently done and most importantly the stakes feel real, which at this point is very refreshing. At no point does the sequel feel unnecessary and the third entry can’t come soon enough.
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