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Film: "Avatar: The Way of Water"
Directed once more by James Cameron, Avatar: The Way of Water continues the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana).
In 2009, director James Cameron’s film Avatar took the box office by storm. It did well, and many critics praised the movie’s engrossing visuals and immersive world, though some took issue with the relatively generic story and character work. In terms of box office money, however, it proved to be a massive success. Aided by the more expensive nature of 3D screenings, it went on to earn nearly $3 billion worldwide over the course of multiple releases, and it still reigns as the number one worldwide box office earner today. Some have wondered whether the long-awaited sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, would be able to match such an impressive run. Given its strong opening weekend, I think it has a shot at earning a decent portion of its investment back.
In the film, original director James Cameron continues the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). When a familiar foe re-emerges as a threat to the world of Pandora, Jake must move his family out of harm’s way and into the planet’s oceans, where they join forces with a new Na’vi civilization and learn their customs and ways of life.
Upon the initial release of Avatar: The Way of Water, the one thing that all of the critics seemed to agree on was how stunning the visuals were. I wholeheartedly agree with them. This may be the most visually beautiful movie of the year. James Cameron is a notorious perfectionist when it comes to the films he makes, and in this instance, it has absolutely paid off. Every shot in this film looks like it was created to be the most beautiful frame ever seen, and I never noticed a single weak spot in the CGI. The blue-heavy color grading is astounding, especially on the big screen. The Na’vi people look incredibly realistic and well-rendered. What really hit home for me were the underwater sequences in this movie. I found myself in a state of genuine awe at how realistic they looked, and I have no idea how any of it was filmed or edited.
The exploration of the world of Pandora was the strongest element of the first Avatar film, but The Way of Water may surpass its predecessor in this facet. The new tribe of Na’vi that we meet has a unique way of life that is extremely interesting to explore from an audience member’s perspective. The Na’vi people have a fascinating connection with their oceanic environment and the other creatures living in it, and the movie really highlights the importance of environmental appreciation. The film also makes the bold choice to shift the primary viewpoint away from Jake Sully and towards his children. While this decision very easily could have fallen flat, I think the movie does a fine job of giving the audience reasons to connect with the characters. I also found this to be an ingenious way to increase the feeling of awe within the audience as they venture deeper into the world. By exploring it through the perspective of a younger character, it boosts the pre-existing feeling of wonder that you already feel.
That said, I do think there are potential drawbacks for some viewers that I should disclaim in this review. The three hour and twelve-minute runtime may prove to be a tiresome challenge for some, though I personally didn’t notice the length very much. It also took longer than I felt was necessary to become emotionally invested in the film. Around the halfway point, there were events that helped me to fully buy into the movie and its story, but the first half of the film felt almost devoid of real emotional connection. Even so, I was never bored or uninterested while watching the movie.
Overall, I’m extremely happy to say that I think Avatar: The Way of Water is a success. The staggering runtime flew by, and there’s a lot of joy to be found in returning to the world of Pandora. It’s a beautiful and thrilling cinematic experience that absolutely needs to be seen on the biggest screen possible.
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