I remember, over a decade ago, getting a glimpse of the last ten minutes of a movie someone was watching on their PC. I saw some blue beings fighting against humans, and the blue beings achieved victory in the end. The movie was called Avatar, and having only heard about and never seen the Avatar of the anime genre, I confused it for that, and I was quickly and playfully corrected by those around me and informed of the distinction between the two. I also got an ineffective crash course on the plot and premise of the film and learned that one of the blue beings was actually a human.
Naturally, watching only the last 10 minutes, all that was on my mind were the words of Colonel Miles (Stephen Lang) to Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), “Why would you betray your kind?” I kept wondering, “Why would a human detest their own skin so much as to take it off and side with another race?” While I was never able to watch the first Avatar movie until very recently, I had, through various media, been able to understand the plot and the premise for Jake’s actions. Seeing the first installment made me understand why it was such a groundbreaking film when it was released 13 years ago, why there was so much hype around the release of the sequel, and why it is on its way to breaking records.
It’s been a long wait since 2009, and we finally have the long-awaited sequel to Avatar, James Cameron’s digital film, The Way of Water, set on the planet of Pandora, decades after the tussle for Pandoran land between the humans and the Na’vi and after the humans were sent back to earth. “Happiness is simple,” says Jake (Sam Worthington). He is now fully integrated into the Na’vi way; he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) now have kids, and the Na’vi live in peace, but the happiness does not last long. The sky people (humans) have returned, not only for the valuable resources, but also to prepare Pandora for colonization, and they are even more destructive and technologically advanced this time. Na’vi avatars implanted with the minds and memories of colonel Miles (Stephen Lang) and his marines are among the returning humans.
The Na’vi, led by Jake, fight back, attacking the supply lines of the humans’ operation. Miles and his men are tasked with capturing Jake and stopping the Na’vi attacks. Following a skirmish, Jake realizes his family is in danger: “A father’s duty is to protect his family; it’s what gives him meaning.” They flee the tree-dwelling Omatikaya clan and seek refuge with the amphibious Metkayina tribe, led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). Jake and his family have to learn the way of water to be able to survive among the Metkayina, but Miles is relentless in hunting Jake, and once again, Jake has to fight to save his people.
Coming off the back of a record-breaking original, The Way of Water has a tough feat to perform better than the first installment; the plot of Avatar wasn’t anything otherworldly in the first place and was only accentuated by the creative use of CGI technology. Since 2009, the use of CGI has been improved, and fans are looking forward to something even more groundbreaking. After solely writing and directing Avatar, James Cameron is joined by a writing team of Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, and Shane Salerno in the sequel. This film lasts for a little over three hours, but one cannot help but feel like it could have been wrapped up in half the time. The story is unnecessarily drawn out as it descends into a pool of trope narratives—natives fighting for their land against colonizers, teenagers finding themselves, a misunderstood character bonding with an outcast character, etc. The story, despite the vibrancy of the visual effects, is soulless, like a Disney movie without the humour and singing.
One thing that is striking about the story is how shortsighted the Na’vi people are. The sky people are expelled from Pandora, and despite having ample resources and human allies on their side, they never prepare for a possible return of the sky people. One wonders why they do not put effort into protecting their home when they claim to love it so much. With how intelligent they are portrayed to be, it is farfetched that they would just sit back and wait to be overrun by humans again. Also, watching The Way of Water makes one realize how little we know about Pandora and the Na’vi; perhaps this is done to have complete control of the story and be able to introduce new elements as conveniently as possible given that a third and fourth installment are on the way.
Like earlier mentioned, the plot of The Way of Water is nothing extraordinary (if it had been set in 19th-century Africa instead of outer space, there wouldn’t be a significant difference); the predominant language used does not do it any favors. A premise is quickly set in the beginning, with Jake saying he’s so used to the language now that it could as well sound like English. Unlike in the first installment, where the Na’vi mostly spoke their language and only used English to communicate with the human avatars, the Na’vi use English extensively and, in a reverse situation, use their native tongue sparingly. To make things worse, English is spoken with one of the designated Hollywood African accents.
One thing most people will look forward to is the design of the film. Naturally, The Way of Water has better CGI than its predecessor; the colors are more vibrant, and the visual effects are top-notch. But unlike the first installment, The Way of Water is not a first of its kind type of film, and while the actions and special effects are exciting and thrilling, they are unable to distract us from how the film has no heart, which sometimes feels like we are watching an animated documentary of an alien world.
Despite The Way of Water losing the sense of disruption the original has, it’s a great film, as other aspects of the filmmaking like the acting, cinematography, and sound are well handled. The plot is also airtight and director James Cameron has a good handle on the story. Avatar: The Way of Water is a very enjoyable film, especially if you have not seen the 2009 original.
Avatar: The Way of Water is showing in cinemas.
Share your thoughts in the comments section or on our social media accounts.
- Avatar is a fantasy for every ever persecuted race.
- Why are the Na’vi speaking like Africans?
- Humans can be really destructive.
- Why did Jake not change his name?
- There is a difference between the bodies of the natives and the avatars?
- Why are the Metkayinas bluer?
- Why so blue?