Sunday, January 1, 2023

Review: "AVATAR: The Way of Water" is Indeed Too Long, But it is Never Boring

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 1 of 2023 (No. 1890) by Leroy Douresseaux

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Running time:  192 minutes (3 hours, 12 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of strong violence and intense action, partial nudity and some strong language
DIRECTOR:  James Cameron
WRITERS:  James Cameron and Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver; from a story by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver, and Josh Friedman and Shane Salerno
PRODUCERS:  James Cameron and Jon Landau 
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Russell Carpenter (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  James Cameron, John Refoua, Stephen Rivkin, and David Brenner
COMPOSER:  Simon Franglen

SCI-FI/FANTASY, ADVENTURE, DRAMA/WAR

Starring:  Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Edie Falco, Brendan Cowell, Jemaine Clement, Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton, Trinity Jo-Li Bliss, Jack Champion, Bailey Bass, Filip Geljo, Duane Evans Jr., Dileep Rao, and Matt Gerald

Avatar: The Way of Water is a 2022 science fiction-fantasy, action-adventure, drama and war film from director James Cameron.  It is a direct sequel to the 2009 film, Avatar.  In The Way of Water, the world of Pandora is under renewed threat from human invaders, forcing Na'vi Jake Sully to seek refuge for his family with a new tribe.

Avatar: The Way of Water opens on the habitable moon, Pandora (one of several moons orbiting a gas giant planet), a decade after the events of the original film.  The former human who led the Na'vi fight that expelled the humans, Na'vi Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington), is now chief of the Na'vi “Omaticaya” clan.  He raises a family with his mate, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), that includes sons, Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo'ak (Britain Dalton); daughter, Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss); and two adopted children.  They are a human boy named “Spider” (Jack Champion) and Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), a girl who was born from the inert avatar of Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the late scientist who sided with Jake Sulley in his first battle with the humans.

However, to the dismay of the Na'vi, the human corporation, Resources Development Administration (RDA), has returned to Pandora.  This time, RDA wants to prepare Pandora as a new home for humanity because the Earth is dying.  RDA has even created new combatants, called “recombinants,” which are Na'vi avatars implanted with the minds and memories of human soldiers killed in the first conflict with the Na'vi.  One of them is Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), Jake and Neytiri's greatest human enemy and now leaders of the recombinants.

A year after the return, there is a confrontation between Jake's forces and Quaritch's forces.  Jake realizes that the RDA has made him, as a former human soldier and traitor, the focus of their mission.  To protect the Omaticaya clan, Jake and his family go into exile and retreat to the sea islands in hope of finding refuge with the “Metkayina” reef people.  The family struggles to adjust to the new home, especially the children who are coming of age.  And recombinant Quaritch and his squad are still hunting Jake, and they are willing to do anything to capture him.

When I reviewed the first Avatar film, I wrote that “Avatar is everything good that you have heard about it and more.”  I can say the same for Avatar: The Way of Water, although I will not say it with the same intensity as other film critics and film reviewers.  Some people seem to enter a kind of state of ecstasy when they talk about The Way of Water.  I am not that crazy about it.  Let us see how simply I can explain this.

When I first saw the original Avatar in theaters, I was blown away.  It was like nothing that I'd ever seen before then.  It was an epic science fiction film set on a strange new world, full of incredible creatures and environments.  Plus, Avatar has a great group of villains in the form of the invading humans.  However, as crazy as I was about it then, I have never watched the film in its entirety since.  I can't make myself interested in even watching sections of the film.

Avatar: The Way of Water is full of wonderful new characters, new environments, and a strange new tribe, living in a water world of amazing creatures.  I am impressed by how many intriguing new characters James Cameron and his co-writers have created for this film.  But, as good as the film is, I am not “blown away” by it.  I don't find it remotely as interesting as I found the first Avatar.  However, like the first film, James Cameron does quite a bit of skewering of colonialism and militarism and of toxic wealth and capitalism.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a great, big science fiction epic full of fantastic visual special effects and CGI (computer-generated images).  The motion-capture CGI that creates the Na'vi still makes the characters look and move awkwardly in some instances, but that does not ruin the characters.  Also, despite what some are saying, I did not find the first two hours of this three-hour plus film boring.  Yes, the last third of this movie is at least an hour of great, great action, but the first two hours also offer some thrilling and riveting action, engaging character drama, and eye-popping exploration of the reef world of the Metkayina.

Still, for me, the Avatar thrill left a long time ago, and Avatar: The Way of Water does not make it return.  I think it is a really good film, but not a great film.  But, hey, it might “blow you away,” dear readers.

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, January 1, 2023


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