By: Amanda Guarragi
After thirteen years, James Cameron has returned with Avatar: The Way of Water. In 2009, Cameron changed the cinematic experience with the technological advancements he pushed for while making Avatar. The motion capture and special effects became lifelike. On top of that, it was the rebirth of 3D, as he placed you in the world of Pandora. Cameron created a visual spectacle that also changed the genre of science fiction. 3D became a staple after, but no one could ever match his breathtaking visuals or the VFX work. Cameron raises the bar again with the sequel, as the visuals appear even more polished than before, and it feels as if the characters are real. The sequel is gorgeous, but it suffers from a weak script and an emotional disconnect between these characters.
There’s a montage of Jake Sully’s (Sam Worthington) life with his children and Neytiri (Zoë Saldana) on Pandora. And they soon find out that there is a familiar threat that is targeting them. The Sullys find a place to hide with the Metkayina Clan, who are one with the sea. The choices made by Sully and his children throughout this film are questionable and cause confusion. As the Sullys adapt to the traditions of the water tribe, the looming threat continues to move closer, thus feeling a bit like a carbon copy of the first one with new characters. As Sullys children explore the water tribe, they keep getting into trouble. We don’t get a loving family unit, which should have been the beating heart of this film. They keep mentioning that their family unit is strong, yet we only see the kids get reprimanded the entire runtime.
The exploration of Metkayina Clan is stunning, as Cameron’s visuals in the water world completely take you into another universe. They spend time in the water and learn about the creatures within it. Cameron incorporates the skills from both tribes and plays to their strengths when exploring the ocean. The creatures are also beautifully designed, and it was so impressive to see what Cameron came up with. The whole second act has Sully’s children learning the way of the water from the Metkayina Clan. It looked magical whenever they were in the water, and the VFX was extremely well done. Even the way the action scenes were executed felt more fast-paced than usual because of the double frame rate in the water. This is another technical achievement for Cameron and a visual spectacle that we haven’t experienced in over a decade.
Avatar: The Way of Water visually exceeds expectations in every single way. James Cameron is the only one who can push the boundaries with this franchise to see technology raised to new heights. However, the story suffers and feels like a recycled version of the first instalment. There is no emotional connection to these characters or this family because their family dynamic was rushed. Out of a three-hour runtime, it felt like we did not spend any time with the family. There was an obstacle to overcome in almost every other scene, which only divided the family unit even more. There were subplots introduced but also dropped. It felt like there was no time, yet it also felt like they could have explored so much more. There could have been much more depth to this sequel, but sadly it was more style over substance. The focus is more on technological achievement than the development of the world and its characters.