|Worth seeing:||as a re-run of the 2009 original, with the action moved from the forests to the water|
|Featuring:||Sam Worthington, Stephen Lang, Zoë Saldaña, Britain Dalton, CCH Pounder, Cliff Curtis, Edie Falco, Giovanni Ribisi, Jack Champion, Kate Winslet, Sigourney Weaver|
|Released:||16th December 2022|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It’s been 13 years since we last visited Pandora, so a quick recap: Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) was human – he was sent down to the planet as an avatar of a Na’vi warrior to persuade the indigenous population to give up Pandora’s valuable mineral unobtanium to humans, but ended up siding with the Na’vi and forcing the “sky people” back to Earth.
Years later, Scully has gone native and lives a happy life with Neytiri (Zoë Saldaña), their two sons and their adopted daughter.
But their peace is shattered when the Sky People return – but with a difference; General Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who led the previous Earth attack has been cloned as a Na’vi Avatar so that his team will blend in better on their second attempt.
This time, their mission isn’t just to mine the minerals – but also to kill Scully, so to protect the rest of the forest-dwelling Na’vi community, Scully takes his family to seek refuge with a rival tribe that lives along the water’s edge.
It’s only a matter of time before the Sky People trace the Scullies and they have no intention of returning to earth without accomplishing their mission again.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Avatar: The Way of Water will divide people – there’ll be those who liked James Cameron’s original film and those who didn’t. Very little in this excessively long running time will change anyone’s mind.
The ground-breaking visuals are even slicker this time, as Cameron resurrects the medium of 3D – something that was taking off back in 2009 but never really went anywhere – but the high frame rate makes it looks oddly soul-less – more like a TV soap opera than a big screen epic.
There’s an uncomfortable mismatch between the perfection of the presentation of these 3m tall, blue-skinned bipeds with tails and wiggly ears and our ability to identify with them as protagonists.
And with the key “Sky People” now in Na-vi form, the “otherness” of the rivalry is lost.
Cameron really didn’t need more than three hours to tell this story; it’s as if he’s been working on it for 13 years so he might as well throw in everything he’s done. There are many scenes with almost no narrative purpose – it’s like he’s just showing off how he can create the most fantastical sea beasts and have our protagonists ride on them or swim with them. Moving the action from the forest to the sea has given him scope to let his imagination run riot and that’s the brunt of the conflict; it’s an amazing spectacle but leaves less of an impact on the heart than the retinas – and it seems that Cameron is more interested in flirting with your retinas than your heart.
Avatar: The Way of Water is a film about family, loyalty and honour, buried under 13 year old special effects. Whatever you thought of it last time, you’ll think exactly the same now – but with so long having passed since the original, you’d have to be at least in your mid-twenties to be able to make that call – and more than ever, cinemas need to be attracting – and entrancing – younger audiences, not just drawing back the same people again and again.