James Cameron is back to surf the waves caused by his hugely profitably Avatar movie. Why the delay in a sequel? Because yet again technology had to be pushed forward before this follow up was even possible. People who are blue / green colourblind beware, it’s The Way of Water!
Sixteen years after the 7 foot tall native Na’vi fought off those human rotters who wanted their rich fossil fuels, the threat is back.
Thanks to a rather extensive preamble you should be able to pick up where we left off: the existence of avatars so that humans could become Na’vi (like Sam Worthington); life force of Pandora; families built; returning dangers, and so on.
What Is Avatar The Way of Water About?
Whereas Avatar was all woods, trees, and 3D lichen, as the title suggests this time we are getting aquatic.
Jake (Worthington), Neytiri (Saldaña), and teenage children flee their forest home to hide with the Metkayina clan, who live on the outer reefs in harmony with the sea and its vibrant inhabitants. Yet all the while the human threat – complete with some familiar faces – looms large.
Do you remember the plot of Avatar? Good, then be prepared to see it again but wet, and with kids. The ‘unwelcome strangers must integrate’ element continues as Jake’s efforts to suppress his rambunctious children fails to prevent clashes with the Metkayina’s own young.
The Way of Water may be over 3 hours long but it contains all the narrative of a short story quickly consumed on a train ride.
Does this really matter? Well, that’s up to you. Cameron offers us no surprises in the story. Each scene plays out exactly as you would expect for the vast majority of the movie.
It’s only as the action ramps up considerably in the last hour that Cameron’s skill with set pieces takes over and the popcorn thrill is sufficient to break the paint by numbers plotting.
Avatar The Way of Water Official Trailer
Is Avatar: The Way of Water Worth Watching?
As with Avatar, the caveat to this criticism is that The Way of Water is a visually stunning experience.
Motion capture technology combined with free diving actors and server processing power delivers a rich ocean replete with all the colourful weird and wonderful creatures you could ever want. Several (arguably over long) sequences are designed to envelope you in the splendour of Pandora’s underwater finery.
As video games, CGI, deep fakes, and movies all converge their technological prowess into something approaching an homogeneous state, does such computer coded screen time still enthral?
The Way of Water could be a Playstation 5 game for large chunks of time, which betrays a kind of all encapsulating whizz bang over and above any singular artistic vision.
All this could be supplemented by some character within. Inexplicably for a movie about a far flung planet populated by a native species with a rich lifestyle based on ecological equilibrium, the dialogue in The Way of Water could be plucked from the suburbs of any American middle class home: the dialogue is world-breakingly terrible.
When combined with a predictable pedestrian plot this means that when you subtract the technology, water, and big blue Na’vi what is left is something that would feel right at home in some bog standard city.
This isn’t relatability: this is bland. Each character is the same old archetype with not a glimmer of pearl to be found anywhere.
Sometimes you have to ask yourself a question: what do you want from a film? ‘Film’ is a rich tapestry that can be thought provoking or mind numbing, and both are just as valid as each other depending on what you want in the moment.
Thus when Avatar: The Way of Water sloshes into your life those who choose to jump in will be swept away, whereas those caught up in its wake will be left upside down with a nose full of brine.
Words by Mike Record
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