Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) – James Cameron

It’s been thirteen years since writer/director James Cameron introduced to the distant world of Pandora, and its blue-skinned, lean humanoid inhabitants the Na’vi, who live in harmony with their planet.

It’s been thirteen years since we left Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his wife, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their family has grown, with three children of their own, and one adopted daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) whose strange origins will remain a secret for at least one movie.

They’ve settled in for a life together, with the expected squabbles and familial expectations. Still, when an old enemy returns the family finds themselves on the run and taking shelter with clans of Na’vi who live in harmony with the ocean.

The 3D IMAX version of the film is a magnificent visual experience. The visual effects are stunning, the 3D conversion is excellent, and if that’s what you’re going to see the movie for, then you are bound to enjoy yourself. The story is simplistic and predictable, but a massive improvement over that of the first film.

The narrative has its problems, but every now and then, as action sequences build to a giant-sized emotionally packed climax, there are glimpses of the Cameron that made films like The Abyss, Aliens, and T2.

The underwater scenes are where the film, and its 3D, really shine, and where the film’s high frame rate, 48 frames per second, instead of the usual 24, which gives the film an almost heightened reality, really works. When it was used in the third Hobbit film, it was almost jarring, this time around the frame rate upgrade works. The film looks beautiful.

In fact, the first underwater sequence of the film elicited an awe-struck gasp from me. Cameron’s love for underwater photography

Through it all, even when there are human characters on the screen, you can’t help but instinctively know that you are watching computer-generated and augmented images. Because of that realization, one sometimes feels like one is watching cut scenes from a very well-designed videogame.

Word is Cameron and the writers he brought in for the Avatar series know everything about the planet of Pandora, its inhabitants, its lifecycles, and the technologies used there. I wish they’d given as much attention to the story and character arcs, which is arguably the weakest part of the film, and one more thing that makes it feel like a videogame.

But Avatar was never about the story, it was about the experience, exploring a world that only exists on the screen, and if that’s all one judges it on, Cameron’s Way of Water is a technical masterpiece, a gorgeous watch, and arguably the closest you’ll get to SCUBA diving on an alien world.

The aquatic world the film invites viewers into this time around, and the creatures who inhabit it, are amazing and feel like real animals, but once again, we are reminded that humanity is its own (and our planet’s (and theirs)) worst enemy.

Cameron reminds us, again, that we need to be more Na’vi when it comes to environmentalism.

Avatar: The Way of Water is a fantastic IMAX experience, but its the visuals that will engage you not the characters.

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