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.

Pam says:

I didn’t make it through the first one so I’m letting Chuck take one for the team to view the second one.  Thanks, Chuck!

Chuck says:

I’ve always felt James Cameron would have been right at home in the silent era of filmmaking. He’s a BIG idea man who can compose a well-crafted shot and tell a story in such a visually dynamic way that conversation often isn’t necessary.  Intricate plots and pithy dialogue are just so much collateral damage where battling hordes of aliens or sinking a gigantic ocean liner is concerned.  Words just get in the way.

However, it is Cameron’s fate that his magnum opuses are made in the sound era and as such, discourse between his characters and other similarly troublesome human interactions are necessary. They are present in his latest, “Avatar: The Way of Water” but you can rest assured you won’t remember a single syllable that’s uttered. No, you’ll be dazzled by the sights in this long-gestating and VERY expensive ($350 million) sequel, one that breaks no new ground narratively and beautiful as it is, only seems to be a slight upgrade from its 2009 predecessor.

Picking up 10 years after the events of the first film, former U.S. Marine Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) has found happiness on the distant moon Pandora.  Having converted fully to the Na’vi way of life, he’s built a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and all is right on their blue world. His brood consists of brothers Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), the former emulating his father, the latter a master at stumbling into trouble. Their precocious sister Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) an energetic, bright child, while their adopated sibling Kiri, is the teenage daughter of Dr. Augustine, Sigourney Weaver taking on both roles.

This clan is content until humans – the Sky People – return to colonize Pandora, led by Major Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Yes, the character was killed in the first film, but the rules of mortality mean little in the sci-fi genre, the military zealot’s memories having been transposed into a Na’vi clone, as have those of his slain comrades. The theory is that in becoming the enemy, it will be easier to defeat them. There may be some merit to this, but it plays havoc with telling the good guys and bad guys apart.

The plot is simplicity itself. Quaritch is intent on hunting down Scully, he and his family go on the run, a peaceful community takes them in, their village is wiped out as a consequence, many things are blown up and those troublesome blue kids get in trouble again and again and again. And that’s it.

So much of the movie comes off as a travelogue of a world that doesn’t exist. Long stretches play as if they belong in a demonstration reel to promote the digital process used in the film. There are numerous long, languid sequences in which we hear nothing but Simon Franglen’s serviceable score, the accompaniment to moments of tranquility that occur beneath Pandora’s teal oceans or in the lush forests that surround it.

Without question, the movie is visually impressive. It’s about as immersive as a filmgoing experience can be, its soothing colors brightly rendered and ready to bleed off the screen while the 3-D effects add a depth and clarity to the frame that’s impressive.  There’s something to be said that every single cent of the budget is on the screen, the middle hour which takes place in a community of reef dwellers led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet) being particularly impressive, cool blues and greens suffusing the scenes throughout.

And while the film is a treat for the eyes, it lacks heart. There’s a disconnect between the Na’vi and the audience that’s simply too great to bridge.  The lack of character development and the simplicity of the plot contribute to this, but the greatest problem is the characters themselves.  While they are brought to life by actors through motion capture technology, the digital effects inserted over them to create the Na’vi wipes out any sort of human connection. There’s an artificiality to them that prevents us from truly empathizing with their plight, tragic though it might be.

That being said, in the end, this simply might not be my cup of tea. I’m older than the demographic this is pitched to and not having grown up or gotten emersed in the age of modern video games, I’m prepared to concede, there may be something about this I don’t fully understand.  Be that as it may, there’s no getting around the fact that “Way of Water’s” dramatic foundation is leaky.  Then again, you’re not supposed to notice that. Cameron provides distractions aplenty.

2 Stars


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