Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Director: James Cameron
Screenwriters: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis, Joel David Moore
After thirteen years (unlucky for some), the box office juggernaut that is Avatar finds itself with a sequel, The Way of Water (2022), the first of several to be released in the upcoming years. Returning to a planet we all forgot existed, director and co-writer James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens) resurrects Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), for round two of the 3D spectacle, where we find that the sky people have returned. Here, Jake must hide with the water clans, become one of them, and then fight the humans with their machines and their metal and their guns.
Let us not take anything away from the team of artists and technicians and geniuses at Weta, who are behind the graphics and CGI and motion capture, because these are the people that have actually made the film. Avatar: The Way of Water looks, as we all expected, absolutely gorgeous. One could take almost any frame from this film and have it as their desktop wallpaper for many years. And, by the time the next decade comes around, it’s possible that most of the visuals will still hold up. Cinematographer Russell Carpenter should also receive much applause, because it is his eye and attention to colour and light that makes the film as sumptuous as it is. These are the heroes, and the hundreds of thousands of cumulative hours that have gone into making this film look as good as it does deserves to be recognised. This isn’t James Cameron’s film, it isn’t 20th Century’s film, it is the film of those geniuses working long hours for nowhere near enough pay. On behalf of cinema, we thank you.
But there, unfortunately, the praise must come to a grinding halt. Avatar: The Way of Water has a very large problem in that it is mind-numbingly dull and unbearably stupid. Beginning with a several minute montage (complete with the annoying voice-over narrations continued from the first film), and waiting for a good five minutes before setting up an actual storyline, it is obvious that this is going to be a long, slow film. A quick rearranging of these scenes, and beginning with the humans setting out for Pandora once more before the titles could have set the film off on the right foot. It also continues to use, right from the get-go, the voice-overs and dialogue in a manner that all-but assumes the audience is blind (even the ones wearing 3D glasses), explaining everything in the most upsettingly bland, sledgehammer fashion imaginable.
Further on, with perhaps thirty minutes gone, The Way of Water proceeds to unveil its master plan; to repeat, almost beat-for-beat, the same plotlines, character arcs, story moments, devices, and messages, as were present in the first Avatar film (2009). The old story of asking to copy someone’s homework but changing it a little so that nobody notices is on display here in every pixel and decibel, and the double-whammy is that it is Cameron plagiarising himself. Is the passage of thirteen years enough to create a legacy sequel? Is this a reboot or a remake? We certainly don’t learn anything fundamentally new about the world; we’re just introduced to the same ideas in different disguises.
Furthermore, pretty graphics and an orchestra can’t hide shoddy editing, cringe-inducing mid-pan zooms, or the overwhelming feeling that the big-wigs at the production companies found their wallets down to their last few hundred million and thought they knew exactly how to get it all back.
Let this be a public service announcement… there is a very easy way to watch Avatar: The Way of Water without giving more money to those who would believe that the highly intelligent cinemagoer is a fool. Simply run a bath, set up the laptop or TV somewhere it won’t drop into the bath, then watch the first Avatar film, making up the runtime of this film by flicking on the last half hour of Titanic. Here you have the same film. You’re welcome.