Avatar 2 is finally here and here's what we think

Is the franchise that critically acclaimed director James Cameron has allegedly dedicated the rest of his career to going to live up to the hopes and expectations he holds for it?

Poster: courtesy Disney China

By Michael MacLaren

In 2009, director James Cameron’s Avatar wow’ed everyone with its cutting-edge and groundbreaking cinematic effects and environmental themes. Today, it still holds the box office record for the highest-grossing film ever made. Now, finally thirteen years later, the sequel The Way of Water is being showcased all over the world with much anticipation. According to relevant media such as BBC News, aside from the original film and Avatar: The Way of Water, three more films are planned to be released in the future. Is the franchise that critically acclaimed director James Cameron has allegedly dedicated the rest of his career to going to live up to the hopes and expectations he holds for it? While we of course can’t speak for any future releases, we’ve watched The Way of Water and we’ll let you know what we think, without unveiling any of the bigger spoilers.

Photograph: IMDb

James Cameron’s original Avatar focuses primarily on protecting our forests using the vegetation-rich planet of Pandora as a metaphor for our earth. In The Way of Water, he now shifts his focus to preserving our oceans. We now return to Pandora to follow the original movie’s protagonist Jake Sully, his family and the Na’vi people who inhabit the planet.

The beginning of the movie, which is a large chunk of the three-hour-and-twelve-minute film, focuses on setting the scene and developing the story. You’ll follow Jake Sully, his family and the rest of the Na’vi people as they live their lives on a vast and beautiful planet. The movie begins with Jake, his wife Neytiri and their four children living on Pandora and facing the adversity of raising a family while also protecting their home planet from the “sky people” (humans from earth) that threaten their utopian way of life. After a group of Avatar-transformed humans come to track Jake down and threaten their way of life, Jake and his family seek refuge with a sea-bound tribe elsewhere on the planet.

Photograph: IMDb

A great portion of the movie follows Jake and his family’s relocation to their new seaside home where they meet a tribe that have embraced the ocean and all of their inhabitants. This is where the movie truly begins to shine. Cameron brings you into a world that is so vastly different yet familiar, introducing you to an underwater paradise filled with exotic creatures and marine life that make you feel like you are truly living among them. Once the extensive world-building and aspects of life in this oceanic wonderland leave you feeling refreshed and comfortable, Cameron brings the whole story to a head with intense conflict and action that pull you right back into the reality of life and the turbulence that come along with it. The final hour of the movie leaves no chance to relax as he continues to build up to the climax of this breathtaking journey.

Photograph: IMDb

Of course, many of you may wonder, “yes, it’s James Cameron, but is it worth sitting through three hours and twelve minutes for just one movie?” This is our take. For starters, the cinematography in this movie is absolutely stunning. James Cameron is known for making a point to create visual innovations in every movie he directs. This film is by no means an exception to this rule. From the special effects to breathtaking shots of vast blue oceans and incredible sea creatures, to the realism of the Na’vi people as they go through their lives on the planet of Pandora, to the common and relatable family dynamics that Jake and his family face throughout the movie, this film is undeniably beautiful in its production and direction.

Photograph: IMDb

The first portion of the movie sets the scene, allowing you to learn about and relate to the characters while you experience an extremely realistic yet alien world. Then, once you’re comfortable, you’re thrown into turmoil and re-engaged once our heroes are faced with an attack from the “sky people” who threaten their homeland and way of life. While in many parts of the film, the dialogue may leave a bit to be desired, the visuals accompanied by the action-packed sequences that make up the latter part of the movie more than compensate for what you may think you’re missing.

Photograph: courtesy Disney China

We watched this movie in the cinema in 3D. With the first Avatar setting the precedent for how 3D films should be, this is in our opinion the best way to truly capture the visuals and special effects that make this movie so unique and special. If you missed the chance to see this movie in the cinema, there’s no need to worry. The film’s message, story and visually pleasing presentation surely won’t be lost even if you’re watching it at home.

While Avatar: The Way of Water has its imperfections as does any movie, it is worth a watch for its underlying and sometimes extremely clear message: protect our oceans and our environment, no matter what the cost. Furthermore, the special and visual effects are groundbreaking and breathtaking by no stretch of the imagination. From the story of Jake and his family, to the adversity that every character in the movie faces, to the engaging and beautiful visuals showcased throughout the movie, this is a film that will leave the casual movie-goer and film-buff alike with a worthwhile and rewarding experience.

Photograph: courtesy Disney China

Avatar: The Way of Water officially opened in China on December 16, 2022. Showings are available in CINITY 3D, IMAX 3D, Dolby 3D, CGS 3D and regular 3D across all major theatres.

Scan the QR code below to see the original post on the 'TimeOutShanghai' WeChat account. Follow us there for the most up-to-date information on activities and events in Shanghai!
QR code