Avatar 2 Movie Review: In 'Avatar 2: The Way of Water', James Cameron continues to push movie technology while remaining content with the most generic writing

James Cameron
It's a great theme-park ride. As a movie, though, it leaves you wanting for at least some drama to hold on to.
Avatar 2 Movie Review

Avatar 2 Movie Cast & Crew

Production : Lightstorm Entertainment,TSG Entertainment
Director : James Cameron
Music Director : Simon Franglen

We are back on Pandora. We move through blue mists. We soar past the flying mountains we know from the earlier film. We enter the forest with winged creatures as sunlight falls in shafts, filtered by the thick flora. And then Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) opens his mouth and brings us crashing down to earth. He says, "The forests of Pandora have many dangers, but the biggest danger is that you may grow to love her too much." And we instantly are reminded of both the pluses and minuses of the first Avatar. I wrote then: "The visuals are expectedly eye-popping, especially in 3-D, but couldn’t they have diverted a few more dollars towards the script?" I'd say the same about Avatar 2: The Way of the Water. It's a great theme-park ride. As a movie, though, it makes you want to have a long interview with James Cameron about his big psychological shift from muscular action filmmaker to New Age-y, touchy-feely, digital world-builder.

There are many directors who have had a great run of consistently great films. Francis Ford Coppola comes to mind. Between 1972 and 1979, he made The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather Part 2, and the magnificent Apocalypse Now, which was an IMAX movie before IMAX was invented. James Cameron is another. He made The Terminator in 1984. He followed it up with Aliens, Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and True Lies, in 1994. He proved himself a pitiless manipulator of our senses. He made the action sing like poetry. And then, something happened. He made The Titanic, and though the disaster sequences were epic, the love story exposed his weaknesses in dramatic writing. He's never really recovered. For all the complicated CGI work on Avatar 2, there isn't a single suspenseful sequence like the one in, say, Aliens, where the Sigourney Weaver character enters the lair of the mother alien. There, you held your breath. Here, you just keep thinking that it's breathtaking.

The story of Avatar 2 makes little practical sense. For a former marine, Jake Sully does not seem to anticipate the return of the villains from Part 1. He does not equip his tribe with weapons or training in anticipation of that possibility. When he goes into hiding with a colony of sea people – this is when the screen turns into a gorgeous aquarium – he does not seem to realise that he is bringing his war to these innocents. There are two action scenes with identical events of kids being captured – though I must say that the second action sequence is brilliantly shot, CGI-ed, and edited. It is a long, long stretch and it is the one place where we see flashes of the genius James Cameron used to be.

Based on the Avatar films, Cameron is certainly a visionary. He is taking movie technology to new places, and future filmmakers will no doubt owe a big debt to Cameron's efforts. But in the present, while inside the IMAX theatre, all I could think was this: my eyes are being entertained, my heart and mind not so much. Actors like Kate Winslet and Sigourney Weaver are given little to do. There are quite a few subplots with immense possibility for emotion: the troubled relationship between a father and son, the eco-bonding of a young girl with Nature, or the wonderfully strange friendship between a boy and a whale-like creature. But none of this is developed and when a major character dies at the end, it feels like an extension of a theme-park ride rather than a shattering loss. Think of the mother-child bond that animated Aliens, or the father-son shadow that loomed over Terminator2: Judgment Day… No, actually, it's better not to think about all that. Still, the answer to the "should you watch it?" question is a no-brainer. You should, and on the biggest possible screen. But for hard-core James Cameron fans, you should also be prepared for confirmation that one of the greatest pure-action filmmakers of all time has been snatched away from us.

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Baradwaj Rangan

National Award-winning film critic Baradwaj Rangan, former deputy editor of The Hindu and senior editor of Film Companion, has carved a niche for himself over the years as a powerful voice in cinema, especially the Tamil film industry, with his reviews of films. While he was pursuing his chemical engineering degree, he was fascinated with the writing and analysis of world cinema by American critics. Baradwaj completed his Master’s degree in Advertising and Public Relations through scholarship. His first review was for the Hindi film Dum, published on January 30, 2003, in the Madras Plus supplement of The Economic Times. He then started critiquing Tamil films in 2014 and did a review on the film Subramaniapuram, while also debuting as a writer in the unreleased rom-com Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. Furthermore, Baradwaj has authored two books - Conversations with Mani Ratnam, 2012, and A Journey Through Indian Cinema, 2014. In 2017, he joined Film Companion South and continued to show his prowess in critiquing for the next five years garnering a wide viewership and a fan following of his own before announcing to be a part of Galatta Media in March 2022.