Avatar: The Way of Water

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Avatar: The Way of Water
dir James Cameron
prd James Cameron, Jon Landau
scr James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
with Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Jack Champion, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Bailey Bass, Filip Geljo, Brendan Cowell, Jemaine Clement, Joel David Moore, Edie Falco
release US/UK 16.Dec.22
22/NZ 20th Century 3h12

worthington saldana weaver
See also:
Avatar (2009)

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weaver, saldana, flatters, dalton and worthington
Never rushed, James Cameron returns 13 years later for another clash between indigenous people and brutal earthlings on Pandora. There's enough eye-popping action and effects work to effortlessly fill more than three hours, so even if the majority of the film is animated, it has a terrific sense of colour, texture and weight. And some emotional plot threads make what's essentially a blunt-edged battle movie into something surprisingly engaging.
Over the last decade, Jake (Worthington) has built a happy life with Neytiri (Saldana) and their four sparky kids. But Jake's nemesis Quaritch (Lang) returns as a Na'vi avatar made from his clone, determined to avenge his own death. With their forest community under threat from Quaritch's ruthless pursuit, Jake and Neytiri take their children to hide out among an isolated clan of water-dwellers. The children get into this new sea-based life, but the local leaders (Winslet and Curtis) are nervous about these outsiders. Indeed, they're all heading for an epic clash on the water.
Bringing a high-framerate, hand-held aesthetic to the imagery adds earthy urgency, emphasising the thriller-style aspects in the startlingly violent action set-pieces. These baddies are full-on monsters, happy to murder people and sentient animals for profit while carelessly laying waste to the glorious landscapes. Although for Quaritch this is a grudge match. A wide range of characters keep things moving, and Cameron manages to keep them distinct, with the story's main beats revolving around the youngsters.

Most characters are performed using motion capture, rendered as lanky, near-naked Na'vi with blue or green skin. They're not always easy to keep straight, but the story is propulsive enough to create emotional waves that flow between and through the enormous set-pieces. While Worthington and Saldana have moments to shine, the kids win us over, adeptly played by Weaver (as the Na'vi daughter of her previous character), Champion (as a human teen), Flatters and Dalton (as Jake's teen sons). Of the humans, only Cowell (as an amusingly tenacious harpooner) properly registers.

Parent-child issues feature heavily throughout the narrative, which gives the audience something to hold onto in the cheesier moments, such as a surge of family-values schmaltz or when a whale-like creature's song is subtitled. Meanwhile, Cameron has a blast referencing his own filmography, with a particularly notable capsizing nod to Titanic. And he keeps the movie so visually dazzling that it's impossible not to be massively entertained. He also leaves several threads dangling, promising more to come.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 12.Dec.22

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© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall