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Was Avatar: The Way of Water worth the wait after 13 years?


Was Avatar: The Way of Water worth the wait after 13 years?

Another great film review from our fellow film reviewer Jacob James.

Tired of this terrible, gloomy, greyscale reality? Then come revisit Pandora. Filled with lush colours, breathtaking scenery, beautiful waters, and big blue men. Come back to Pandora today. (Disclaimer: don’t bring a large drink. It’s going to be a long ride).

Well, they said this film was never going to be a reality but, low and behold, it’s here: Avatar 2. Two Avatars, Too Many.

Now, in case you’re young and/or blissfully culturally unaware, here’s a history lesson. It was 2009. The king of pop had left the throne, Obama was president, and we got Avatar (no relation to the property about the bald kid, the two siblings, the emo hunk, or the badass blind girl). And Avatar decided that it would be the highest grossing film of all time, beating the previous film at that position (which, ironically, was also made by James Cameron) Titanic.

Now, what gave Avatar the ammo to reach the number one spot? Was it because its characters were fully developed people that the audience grew attached to? Well, no. I’m not saying the first Avatar movie had bad characterisation, I’m just saying that’s not the reason I believe it became number one. Instead, I think it has more to do with when it was released.

As previously mentioned, Avatar came out in 2009. This was at the peak of the late 2000s/early 2010s 3D craze. It gave us masterpieces like How to Train Your Dragon and Gravity — but also films like Spy Kids 3D and Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Avatar really took advantage of this popular technology and helped draw people into its world. With its colourful world, impressive use of 3D (and, in some cases, aided by some funky brownies), Avatar raked in a lot of cash.

So, with all this money, a sequel seems obvious right? The first film leaves a lot to cover in future films. Surely we would expect to return to the theatre for a sequel soon, right? Right? Well, it turns out that Avatar entered production limbo, joining GTA 6 in the league of “We’re probably going to get it, but it’s going to take a stupid amount of time till we do ” projects. The main reason why it took so long was because they had to invent technology that could work underwater. But a decade, some tinkering with technology, and one plague later, we finally got around to the first of the promised sequels.

So, how was it? It was good. I think the long wait definitely helped in terms of visuals. Not to say the first Avatar has aged like most CGI from 2009, but there is a noticeable step up of how polished it now looks. Pandora in particular looks gorgeous. In the first film, I thought the planet looked nice but wasn’t overly exciting. Here though, the colours of Pandora look so much more vibrant and beautiful. Even scenes set in the previously mentioned jungle look fantastic. Honestly, this just makes me want to book a holiday to Pandora right now. Though, that may also be because most of the other alien planets I know aren’t really ripe for holidays. (Homeworld is literally split and Gallifrey just entered another Time War).

I’m getting sidetracked. Anyway, visuals aside, I think everything else in Avatar was good. The acting was fairly decent. The returning Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are good. Sigourney Weaver is good too, but the role she’s playing is a bit… odd. She’s playing both the character she played in the first film, as well as her mysterious kid: Kirl. I think she does well as Kirl, but there are a few moments where she speaks and my mind went “did that girl just turn 40 or something?” Also, shout out to Trinity Bliss who plays Tuktirey. While only having a page or two worth of dialogue, I think she does great playing the youngest Sully kid.

I’ve been very positive to the film so far and that might be because this is possibly the most positively rated film I’ve reviewed on this site. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my share of criticism of this film. Firstly, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana’s character) does not have much screen time. Despite the movie being over three hours long, I feel like her character gets shafted a bit. The story is mostly focused on the Sully kids (minus Tuktirey) and also the cloned Colonel Miles (Stephen Lang) and his son. So, that would logically mean she and Sully would get pushed to the side — except Sully still gets a lot of screen time while she only gets around 30 minutes or so. She does get some badass moments during the climax, but I wouldn’t really say that makes up for her lack of presence.

I don’t really have many other negatives, other than the one scene that drags a bit. I think the pacing in most of the film is pretty good for a film of this length. The only real scene where it drags is where Miles and his kid (Spider) are on a boat hunting for a Pandora whale. I think it just really drags a bit and in a film where every scene is decently paced, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

In conclusion, while it’s far from perfection, I do think it’s one of those sequels that sits on the same level as the first film. I can also see people making the claim that this was better than the first film. I don’t really know if I would be one of those people, but I do know that Avatar: The Way of the Water gets an 8/10 and was a good choice for the first film of 2023. (Confession: it wasn’t technically the first film I saw this year, but it is the film I’m labelling as first. I mean, which film would you rather confess as your first of the year: this or Shrek the Musical?)