"...I stopped caring about the story-but never really stopped being knocked out by the visuals..."

Aquatic Avatar is Ultimately Shallow

(030323) Avatar: The Way of Water is a big budget, overlong 192-minute sequel to the massively successful original Avatar. While it has its moments, the film is much more impressive for its sensational special effects than its frequently humdrum family drama storyline elements and its generic dialogue. The action scenes are ok but they go on far too long. Although it is a far less artistically important film, I had a far better time watching the even further less artistically important film, M3gan.

This is the second film in a proposed franchise, with parts of the third and fourth one have already been shot. The film has exceeded financial expectations, but it is so expensive that it needed to make a massive amount of money to be profitable. The director/creator has stated that the film needs to make 2 billion just to break even, but it already has passed 2.2 billion. Fifty better films could have been made with that budget.
I have a major problem with both of the Avatar films. It seems a contradiction to make films with a letís go back to nature theme and save the planet using the most expensive technology possible. Itís like putting a "Save the Planet" sticker on your gas guzzling SUV then throwing garbage out the window as you drive by. Also, if you want to make audiences sympathize with native people wouldnít it be better to make them resemble real indigenous people rather than cat creatures with tails. The Marvel comic character Tigra might fit right in.

The film was directed by series mastermind James Cameron who started out making the forgettable Roger Corman produced Piranha 2 The Spawning. Everyone starts somewhere and Cameron's gone on to become arguably one of the best sci fi/action film makers ever. His finest-and/or best-known works aside from Avatar include films in the Alien and Terminator franchises plus Titanic which gained a kind of immortality for its spell bindingly great last hour and its hideous Celine Dion theme song.

Avatar: The Way of Water features Sigourney Weaver, who did some of her best work in Cameronís Aliens playing Ripley, one of the most memorable sci-fi cinematic protagonists of all time. Here she is completely wasted in a role that could have been done by just about anyone. She was far better in a recent episode of the British TV series, Doc Martin. You canít blame her though because every other actor in this film also fails to make an impression. Donít ask me what Kate Winslet did in this film because I have forgotten.

The filmís setting is Pandora (Iím not quite sure if any of this is connected to the myth of Pandoraís box), a moon filled with people who are one with nature who struggle against the more violent and better armed more human looking people who want to exploit the territory. The situation has obvious parallels to the indigenous peopleís more hopeless struggle against the colonizing Europeans in Australia and the Americas.

The story begins thirteen years after the original when the American Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has wed Naívis (Zoe Saldana) and had several children with her. The couple is also raising a full human foster son Spider (jack Champion). The villain Miles who was infused with the memories of the villain from the first film and his underlings launch a raid on the family, and although most of them escape unharmed, they are unable to prevent the kidnapping of Spider.

The family ends up fleeing to an island dominated by the Metkayinas, a group of indigenous people with fins (they are kind of like a more fish like version of Aquamanís Atlanteans.) But they canít even get peace here and the island is soon invaded by a bunch of Machiavellian scientists who want the bodily fluids of beautiful whale like beasts that are as sacred to the Metkayinas as cows are to the Hindus. At one point the scientists team up with the colonel and their troops against the family and the Metkayinas.

After a certain point I stopped caring about the story-but never really stopped being knocked out by the visuals. The oceans in Cameronís film are populated with fictional creations like the Anemone like fish that that evoke the real majesty and mystery of real sea creatures. Also, the island of Pandora has many visual splendors that help redeem the goes on too long story.

But in the end, seeing this new film was not a deep experience that resonated with me emotionally, and it should not have been nominated for best picture (there are dozens of better films this year), although some of the technical nominations it received were justified. It is also probably the least interesting best film Oscar nominee since The Reader from 2008. Seeing it in a big 3-D Theatre was like getting a Christmas present that has a magnificent ornate beautifully ornate wrapped box that contains a plain pair of socks in it (But I did like and appreciate the socks I got this Christmas). But the if you absolutely loved the first film or if you prioritize special effects above every other aspect of film, you still might want to see it.

Directed by:    James Cameron
Written by:    Screenplay by James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, and
 Amanda Silver
Starring:    Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney
Released:    12/16/22 (USA)
Length:    192 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG13 for Intense epic battle sequences
 and warfare, sensuality, warfare, and smoking
Available On:    At press time the film was playing at local theatres

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

AVATAR THE WAY OF WATER © 2023 20th Century Studios
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Review © 2023 Alternate Reality, Inc.




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