Sam's Take - Avatar: The Way of Water

8:38 pm on 19 December 2022

By Sam Rillstone

Today we're returning to the world of Pandora with the highly anticipated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water.

Directed by James Cameron, the film is set 15 years after the first film from 2009. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has become chief of the Omaticaya supported by his wife Neytiri (Zoé Saldana) and their four children. After the return of the humans and Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the Sullys take refuge with the reef clan Metkayina.

I'll start with the obvious - this film is beautiful.

It's not overbearing and you can tell what everything is. It all has intention and when you think that every scene is almost all motion capture you have to appreciate what Cameron and his team have achieved.

The beautiful visual storytelling with a vibrant world that has countless details are shown rather than explained. And they are comprehensible. For example, there are plenty of different mechs and creatures that appear sometimes only once but you instantly get a sense for and understand why they are the way they are.

There's also been a fair amount of discussion around the high frame rate (HFR) of the film, with some scenes shot at 48 frames a second rather than the standard 24.

I know there are options to see the film in 24 frames and my opinion is that you definitely don't need the HFR to get the full effect. Same goes for the 3D. My screening had the full frame rate and 3D and it's certainly not a necessity, but either way it definitely pays to be seen on the biggest screen possible. And I can't lie - the underwater 3D is amazing.

Not much actually happens other than exploring the world for the first half really but as I say it's beautiful plus the second and third acts really show how skilled Cameron is at action. You know exactly what is happening at any given time, where a character is both in the world and in relation to the other characters.

Cameron does character well but this sequel isn't much of a departure story-wise from the first. Hopefully, that'll change over the course of the rest of the films, assuming this one is profitable enough to warrant the rest.

It is heavily focused on the Sully children which was a surprise. They aren't uninteresting by any means but they aren't the smartest people either.

But that's probably because Jake is a s*** dad. He's extremely absent and pretty dumb, running the family like a military squad. On the one hand it's gross, but on the other it is probably indicative of his own upbringing which makes for a complex character. I just hope he changes over the course of the series.

There was not enough Neytiri at all, but she rips through the third act like a hurricane. Zoe Saldana is giving it her all and then some, fully committing to each scene with every ounce of emotion and nuance she has.

The return of Quaritch as the main villain is fine. He's supposed to be the overarching villain for the entire five-film series which on the one hand is intriguing but the fact we know this lowers the stakes whenever he's in a perilous situation because we know he will survive.

A huge standout for me was Bailey Bass as Tsireya, the daughter of the chief of the Metkayina. Full credit to her and the technology used because she has so much expression and commitment in all of her scenes so fingers crossed she will be a recurring character.

The script is fairly basic and no one really has a massive arc in this movie but hopefully they will in the subsequent sequels.

There are very similar story beats from the first film, which shows parallels between the water and forest tribes but also laziness in writing.

At the core of it is a climate change message of be good to things and they'll be good back, i.e. nature, which is both on brand for Cameron and a worthwhile message too.

Though the film shouldn't really be relying on the sequels to inform its character arcs and context entirely which at times felt like the case.

But despite this and the ropey script I found myself still invested in the characters even if they were a bit dumb at times.

It feels very Star Wars to me. Sci-fi aside, it's a universe that is rich and expansive but all contained to one planet with its flora and fauna that is just presented to you already well established. The characters have room to grow, the action is immense and of course it's visually stunning. My assumption is that most people will see this but it's definitely a recommendation from me.

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