The second installment of this blue franchise is worth a watch
Jasmin Linton (she/her) // Contributor
It seems like all anyone has been able to talk about these days is James Cameron’s new film Avatar: The Way of Water. Even three months later, we are still being bombarded with Avatar filters, the dreaded Papyrus font, and TikTok’s of Jake Sully set to “Big Boy” by SZA.
But if we strip away all the popularity and notoriety it has gained, is it worth all the hype? Though Avatar: The Way of Water has some issues with plot holes and story progression, it is a film that brings the world of Pandora to life through heartfelt characters, incredible worldbuilding and has set the bar high for the future of visual effects.
Since the first Avatar movie in 2009, it’s no surprise that movie watchers have been waiting to see how the level of CGI has improved, because that was sure to come with the sequel. Since its release, some criticism has touched on The Way of Water falling into the black hole of action movies, where the breathtaking effects take precedence over plot or character development. I argue that when looking at the whole movie, despite all the bombastic scenes with crazy special effects, there is also plenty of breathing room — not only for the characters to shine through, but the world of Pandora itself. Considering the length of the movie, action scenes are actually well balanced with slower scenes showcasing a wide variety of interpersonal relationships.
However, there is no denying that Avatar had a rocky start. The film opens with an incredibly dense prologue, which creates a bit of whiplash for the viewer. We are thrown back into the world of Pandora and have to scramble to keep up with the distracting ten year time jump. We do get an introduction to the Sullies’s growing family, but it’s nothing but a whirlwind of new faces and trying to remember names for the next fifteen minutes — props to you if you weren’t confused. Despite the fast beginning, the rest of the film slows us down and we get to catch up with old characters and learn to love the new ones.
When the story begins to even out and the pacing of events improves, relationships become more complex and dynamic, especially when the setting shifts to focus on the Metkayian Clan. Cameron also takes an interesting approach to how character experiences are conveyed through the film. Rather than expanding Pandora through characters’ individual experiences, Cameron uses a collective approach, which we see through the Avatar world being amplified through cumulative experiences (usually plot driven) in order to add emotional moments and fully immerse the watcher into the world of Pandora.
Since its release, Avatar: The Way of Water has been on the top of everyone’s watch list and for good reason. It is a beautiful display of how far motion graphics has come, with a noticeable difference between the first movie, and works incredibly hard to absorb the viewer into the avatar world — it’s even crazier in 3D. Despite the dizzying introduction, Cameron has created an ever growing world of possibilities and I, personally, can’t wait to see where the story goes next.