How do you follow up the biggest film of all time? Good question isn’t it? And it’s clear that it’s a question director James Cameron has been asking himself hundreds of times.
You see, Avatar was released way back in 2009, and it also happened to be my first ever review on this site (ignore the rusty writing back then). It’s taken 13 years for Cameron to release The Way of Water. But is it any good? And more importantly, are people going to be at all interested in it?
Ten years on from the events of the first film, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana) have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.
If all of that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The Way of Water is thematically exactly the same as its predecessor, but manages to surpass it on virtually every level, apart from one key point which proves to be this sequel’s downfall. More on that later.
Pandora is a feast for the eyes
With 13 years of advancements to play around with, you’d be expecting The Way of Water to be one of, if not the, best looking film you’ve ever seen. And you’d be right – this film is an absolute feast for the eyes. Not once in this three hour behemoth did I find myself looking at substandard green screen or poor CGI, it is absolutely exquisite from start to finish.
Taking inspiration from his earlier works, Cameron uses elements from two of his most iconic films; Titanic and The Abyss. He knows how to work a camera below the surface, and it’s in The Way of Water’s underwater sequences where the film dances before the eyes.
Every single frame is brimming with creatures so astonishingly rendered, you half expect Sir David Attenborough to take over narrating duties from Sam Worthington’s Jake Sully. I can’t begin to tell you how fantastic it feels to be back on Pandora – which rightly takes the crown as the most realistic-feeling planet in film history.
A rich and diverse cast
Avatar’s small and insular main cast has ballooned to more than a dozen key characters, and while that does highlight some poor scriptwriting from time to time (main characters have a tendency to disappear as and when the plot needs them to), the new brood are a joy to spend the majority of the film with.
Jake and Ney’tiri’s family now includes four young Na’vi. Kiri, voiced by Sigourney Weaver in a casting return so ridiculous it’s hard not to roll your eyes. Then there’s Lo’ak, Tuktirey their youngest daughter and Neteyam, the pair’s oldest son. The addition of kids to the main cast adds a pleasing new dynamic to the film and they’re written in a similar way to how Spielberg writes young characters – which is a good thing.
You won’t be surprised to learn that Stephen Lang makes a return as Jake’s arch nemesis Colonel Miles Quaritch. After being killed by Neytiri in the events of the first film, he’s back for blood. His return forms the basis of the entire plot – with a simple cat and mouse chase being about as complex as it gets. It’s a little disappointing that the main villain in this sequel is the same, but Lang’s return is handled about as well as you could expect it to be.
3D or not 3D
Sadly, the film becomes unstuck with technology in one key area: 3D. Whether this is just the 3D experience at my local cinema, or a global issue, the beautiful depths of Pandora are all but ruined by dreary 3D that feels lightyears behind that in 2009. Characters and creatures move with a jerky motion that isn’t befitting of the film and its director. Only when everything on screen is completely still are we able to appreciate The Way of Water.
Nevertheless, as the film rolls to its exciting conclusion, two things become abundantly clear. One, James Cameron knows how to pace his films. At over three hours long, there is not a single point in this film that outstays its welcome. It moves at a blistering pace, with beautifully poignant moments breaking up half a dozen or so key action sequences.
And two, the film ends leaving us with more questions – and that’s not a bad thing at all. If the predicted $500million opening weekend comes to pass, we’ll be back on Pandora before you know it.
Avatar: The Way of Water is a treat for the eyes and the ears, with a better cast and a visual magnificence rarely seen on the big screen. If you needed proof that the cinema is the place to see all the latest blockbusters, this is it.
How long is Avatar 2?
Avatar 2 is 192 minutes long, which makes it James Cameron’s second longest film.
Is Avatar 2 in 3D?
Yes, you can watch Avatar 2 in 3D at most cinemas. You can however, find a 2D showing should you prefer it.