Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Stephen Lang
Director: James Cameron
Writer: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver
Let’s cast our minds back to 2009. The summer blockbuster season is upon us and we have already been transported back to Hogwarts (Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), into the skies with Karl and Russell (Up) and to gloomy Forks in another adventure with Bella and Edward (Twilight: New Moon) and James Cameron hasn’t even made his mark yet. Avatar opens with a groundbreaking opening weekend, with the use of 3D and motion capture technology, audiences are collectively astounded. And rightly so. People go back again and again to be immersed in the beauty of Pandora and all its glory.
James Cameron’s passion project is ambitious, expensive and fascinating and takes audiences on a rollercoaster of discovery, scientific study and an emotional character journey for lead character Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington), Avatar is a phenomenon. Skirting around the 3 hour run time it falls into the same category as each of the epic Lord of the Rings saga, the cinematic classic Gone with the Wind and Cameron’s previous groundbreaking achievement, Titanic. It is an investment, both emotionally and physically (there’s no time for toilet breaks in this perfectly paced epic!).
After battling the greed and brutality of the American humans that are attempting to colonise Pandora, we leave Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) in the trusted hands of her people as Jake makes the permanent transition from human to Na’vi.
13 years later and audiences around the world are being transported back to Pandora to catch up with some old and new friends in Avatar: The Way of Water.
From the opening shot to the closing music, Avatar: The Way of Water is everything a sequel needs to be. Cameron hasn’t shied away from the powers of the original whilst injecting the plot with new characters, new settings, new lore and a powerfully emotional story. Jake Sully is back with his young family, sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak’s (Britain Dalton) and young daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). Also amongst the Sully brood is Kiri, voiced by returning cast member Sigourney Weaver, who, despite her troubled and confused past, has become the adopted daughter of Jake and Neytiri. As well as the 4 Na’vi children, Jake and Neytiri have welcomed nomad Spider to their midst, a human boy that was born on Pandora and despite knowing his father, believes he is to be a part of the Na’vi tribe and lives with the Sullys when he can.
A family of 7, living at peace with Pandora and their people. Until ghosts from their past show there ugly faces in a plot to seek revenge for Jakes mistakes. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) returns to the Na’vi bodied version of his previous character who was killed at the end of the first film, and finds himself on a revenge mission, to kill Jake Sully. With his family to keep safe, Jake leaves their home in the forest and flee to the water people who after some convincing, welcome the Sullys to their home.
A bold and ambitious third act allows the family to work together with their new tribe and battle the ghosts of Jakes past.
After 13 years, a lot rides on this being a successful sequel. And after James Cameron’s success with sequels in the past it seemed like a sure deal. And for me, it is everything I hoped it would be and more. It seems an obvious thing to point out but the visual effects are like nothing seen before, the introduction to the world of water allows the creative team to embellish what we have already seen in the original. New characters and new creatures encourage the vast creativity of this seismic world that Cameron and his team have created. The transition from daytime to nighttime is a feast for the eyes and encapsulated the audience with every frame.
Powerful performances throughout encourage the audience to suspend their disbelief and fully engage in the dynamics and relationships between the family. Despite the 3+ hour runtime, the pacing of the storytelling is careful and delicate where it needs to be and jam packed with epic action sequences where the story requires it.
James Cameron holds on to the standard 3 act structure, which helps drive the film in the right direction and allows for immense world building techniques throughout. Just as the first one challenged the way visual effects can be used to tell a story, the sequel continues to hold the mantel for what a blockbuster can be, and what technology allows performers and filmmakers to achieve.
Avatar: The Way of Water is magnificent, both visually and emotionally. I urge anyone who wants to see this film to see it on the biggest screen possible, and run to the loo as close to the start time as you can! Because you will not want to miss a second of it.