Does Avatar 2 Match The Hype?
Complex character building
Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to James Cameron's 2009 mega hit Avatar, was 13 years in the making. In an age where attention spans have come down to tik toks, Cameron shows the huge amount of confidence he has in his vision.
The big question is, does Avatar: The Way of Water deliver on this hype. And the answer is, for the most part, yes. In an age where almost every big ticket movie is billed as a big screen spectacle, The Way of Water arrives in style to own that moniker like no other before it.
The visuals of the film are, to put it mildly, out of this world. Whether it is the scenic landscapes of Pandora, or action sequences with more simultaneously and intricately choreographed action than that mind can possibly process at any given moment, this film really begs to be seen on the big screen.
The sequel to Avatar opens several years later in Pandora, at a time when Jake Sully, the US Navy Seal turned Navi Avatar loyalist, has fully integrated to life on Pandora as one of the Navi. He has four children with his wife Neytiri and leads a peaceful existence on the planet until humans come back to Pandora in another attempt to colonise it, and this time with better tech and more diabolical plans.
Amongst the humans is General Quartirch who we last saw dying in the first film. Turns out that the government had made contingency plans. His memories and personality had been stored away on a hard drive back on Earth, and now they have been used to implant Quartirch into a Navi body and sent back to Pandora with an entire crew of such Navy Seals turned Navi Avatar's who are loyal to Quartirch.
The purpose – to try to evade Pandora's natural immune system response where every being on the planet attacks any foreign life system that poses a threat. This same immune response by the entire planet was what had taken out the humans the last time around.
This time, they hope to evade that by tricking the planet into thinking that the Navy Avatars in the Navi body are actually Pandora natives. That is just one of the many intricate details that elevates James Cameron's sequel far above its predecessor.
The same attention to detail is also reflected in the character development in the film which is filled with a plethora of new characters, several amongst which are so complex and charming that they could easily have spin off stories of their own.
Top amongst these are Spider, a child who was left behind on Pandora by the humans because he was too young to make the space journey back home, and Kiri, Jake and Neytiri's adopted daughter who was born of Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver from the first film) a human scientist sympathetic to the cause of the Navi who died on Pandora.
Riri's heritage is complex and intriguing because while we know who her mother was, no one knows who her father is. Intriguingly, Kiri seems to have undiscovered powers which even the mightiest of Navi do not seem to possess. How these powers are connected to the story of her conception is one of the biggest mysteries that James Cameron has created, and left strategically unanswered.
Spider, on the other hand, is as emotionally complex a character as you will ever see in big budget blockbuster filmmaking. Despite being human by birth, spider has formed a close bond with the Navi having grown up on Pandora, and is a de facto member of the Sully family.
His lineage looms large over him, and he finds his loyalties challenged when faced with the Avatar of his father. For the most part he chooses his adoptive family over his genetic one, but also ends up unintentionally helping out the humans by teaching them the way of the Navi on Pandora.
The film's plot is not the strongest. It follows a vengeful general Quartirch on the hunt for Jake Sully and his Navi family. Sully does everything he can to protect his kin, even going as far as separating them from their air tribe, taking refuge thousands of miles away with one of the several hundred water tribes. Thus the name, The Way of Water.
While the politics of The Way of Water are fairly detailed and complex, the story Itself follows the same colonial powers versus natives trope of the first film. It uses that to explore the wide and expansive world of Pandora – this time even more feverishly than the first film. That works well because the world building here is even more in depth and top notch than in the first film.
For example, while the connect between the Navi and the other living beings of Pandora was only superficially explored in the first film, we get a more layered and in depth look at it in this film through the arc of To'ak, Jake Sully's second born, and his friendship with a sentient whale like creature of the Tulcun species named Payakan.
The Tulcun also play an important role in the human occupation of Pandora. We learn that humans spend a large part of their resources hunting the Tulcun because their frontal lobe secretes a liquid called Amrita (a reference to Amrit from Indian folklore) that has the ability to completely stop human aging.
This complex character and world building sets Avatar The Way of Water apart from its predecessor. An equal effort was put into the scripting of this film as well as in the technical aspects.
This is a theatrical experience like no other. The visuals are – to use a much overused cliché – never seen before. The background music pulsates through the film bringing it to life. And the direction is, perhaps, the best in the modern history of big screen storytelling. It makes the three-hour plus running time feel less.
Avatar: The Way of Water would be a fairly compelling watch no matter how, where and when one watches it. but if you want to experience its true spectacle the way it was meant to, go to your nearest Imax screen and you will be left with an experience like never before.