Written by Deepesh Vasudev
Simple Taste, Exceptional Presentation
Avatar: The Way of Water is a straightforward story conveyed with possibly the best visual effects and technical mastery we have yet seen.
The film is a visual tour de force. The skilled artistry of the visual effects artists is showcased in every shot of the film. With all the CG characters from the previous film looking more real, more animated, and more alive. As the title suggests, the main focus of this film is Water. After the first thirty minutes, the film is set mostly in, on, and around water. With characters running, diving, and swimming in water. The cinematography highlights how detailed the CG water is, and after a while, you truly suspend your disbelief. They have crossed the uncanny valley without reaching the bottom.
Director James Cameron after making me accept his computer-generated world starts messing with me. He has introduced a character that is human and interacts with the inhabitants of Pandora, cutting between him in real water and real sets and to the computer-crafted world, he’s testing us to see if we notice and I can confidently say that I failed. Apart from the masterful work, the worlds themselves are interesting and revealing as the film progresses. The aquatic life of Pandora resembles our own but is still different in interesting ways and becomes an integral part of the story. The connection between the Na’vi and their ecology is explored further, deepening this shared network that was discovered in the first movie. Another point of praise is the final battle sequence. It contained all the hallmarks of great action sequences from Cameron’s past and it is a long sequence that goes by in a blink. The sequence is also elevated with elements from the famous sinking scene in Titanic (1997).
The story is another matter entirely. The story is simple; there isn’t anything unexpected or new bought to the table here. It even feels at some points like a shadow of the first film’s story. The story in the first film had higher stakes and delivered more catharsis than the second outing. The narrative felt more like an episode and a very apparent setup for the upcoming sequels. The characters too, have arcs but are quite simple. One of the central characters disappears during the middle of the film without any explanation as to what they are up to.
Even if the story of Avatar: The Way of Water leaves much to be desired, it is still a must-watch film at the theatres, in 3D and if possible, IMAX 3D. From a person who believes that story is everything in cinema, this is high praise. For those who are hesitant about watching the film in 3D, Cameron has introduced a technical element that has never been seen in cinema before that prevents eye fatigue from watching 3D and further suspends our disbelief of Pandora. I do not want to spoil this but when you see it, you’ll definitely notice it.
I am excited to see what James Cameron has in store for the sequels but what will elevate the longevity of these films in addition to the exceptional presentation is an exceptional story. Only then will people remember these films for a long time to come. However, this outing is still worth the time and money, just close one eye, figuratively of course, to the story.
This review is published as an extension of *SCAPE’s Film Critics Lab: A Writing Mentorship Programme organised by The Filmic Eye, with support from the Singapore Film Society.
About the Author: Deepesh Vasudev is a filmmaker and also majors in Philosophy at NUS. He has created short films, music videos, adverts and visual poems, to name a few.
About the Movie:
Directed by: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington (Jake Sully), Zoë Saldana (Neytiri), Sigourney Weaver (Kiri Sully), Kate Winslet (Ronal), Stephen Lang (Miles Quaritch), Cliff Curtis (Tonowari), Trinity Bliss (Tuktirey)
Duration: 3h 12mins
Synopsis:Jake Sully lives with his newfound family formed on the extrasolar moon Pandora. Once a familiar threat returns to finish what was previously started, Jake must work with Neytiri and the army of the Na’vi race to protect their home.
Catch Avatar: The Way of Water in cinemas now.