Avatar: The Way of the Water12¦ 4K UHD, 3D, Blu-ray, DVD
In 2009, director James Cameron released his space epic Avatar, which did pretty well for him, for when you make adjustments for inflation, it became the second highest-grossing film of all time.
It just goes to show that despite something being hugely successful, it can also be a real dud of a film. It is sluggishly slow, with the bare bones of a story on it. And it’s certainly a film that didn’t warrant a sequel.
Tell that to James Cameron; with his kind of impressive commercial success, he’s a difficult man to say no to. So when Cameron says he’s going to make more, no-one is likely to stand in his way.
That said, it’s taken some time getting here, thirteen years after the original’s release. So the question is, was it worth it?
Time has passed on the planet of Pandora, with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) not only chief of his Na’vi clan, but a family man, with his partner Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), raising four children, including human Spider (Jack Champion).
Life is bliss, until that is, the RDA decide to return to Pandora once again, with Earth dying. This time they think they’re better prepared, with Recombinants, who are Na’vi avatars who have been implanted with the memories of dead soldiers – the leader of which having the memories of a certain Quaritich (Stephen Lang), Sully’s nemesis.
This forces Sully and his family to leave the forest home behind, and look for safety elsewhere, retreating to the Metkayina clan, who have the same kind of affinity for water that the Na-vi do for the forest.
But with the new and improved Quaritch on the loose on Pandora, with only the one thought of confronting Sully once again, it’s only a matter of time before he and his team track Sully and his family down, putting not only themselves in danger, but the Metkayina too.
There’s no question that Cameron is a gifted filmmaker, but after the release of the first Avatar, it has to be questioned whether this is a franchise worth pursuing. And although this sequel is a vast improvement over the first, that statement remains.
The first issue is a simple one, its length; at over three hours long it is far too long. Where the main problem was the blandness of the story of the original, this one has gone too far the other way by having too much of it. It’s no surprise that five people are credited with creating the story, as you can pretty much count all of the storylines on one hand. And it’s too many. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a hint of originality in any of them, but there isn’t. It’s stuff about family, loyalty, bullying, etc, but all at very basic levels. And if that wasn’t enough, Cameron even throws in a subplot that is a blatant rip-off of Free Willy for good measure.
This then is a film where time does anything but fly by.
But to his credit, it’s an attractive film, but with so much CPU power thrown at it, you would expect so. But the fact there is so much CGI raises another point; there is so much of it used, for characters and world-building, that it comes across as more of a hybrid film, between CGI and animation. Yes it is a spectacle in places, and quite enjoyable to watch, but with little involvement with actual humans, you could be watching a Pixar film.
You also have to feel sorry for the actors involved, especially the leads. Worthington and Saldana have invested so much of their time into this franchise, they are completely unrecognisable, so despite all the green screen work in Lycra they would have done, it is essentially voice–over work they’re doing. And if Cameron gets his way – and he will – there’s more to come, with three further sequels in the pipeline. Considering how time-consuming this is, that will undoubtedly take away opportunities where we can actually see these fine actors, well, you know, act, which is a real shame.
Undoubtedly this sequel is far more entertaining than its overrated original. But if you strip all the impressive technical achievements away, what’s left is an unremarkable story with a number of generic plots.
Unfortunately James Cameron is an unstoppable force, especially where this particular franchise is concerned, so there will be more to come. And they will no doubt be successful in terms of bums on seats, but on this effort, it’s likely to be more of the same, which is all show and no substance.