Avatar 2: The Way of Water – Overhyped or Worth the Wait?
Avatar 2: The Way of Water is James Cameron’s sequel to his record-breaking Avatar. The film spent 13 years in production and has an over 3-hour run time. While the film is as stunning as the first one and has better, more memorable characters, many of its weaknesses make the audience wonder if it was truly worth the immense hype and wait.
What it Does Well:
The movie is best at its visualisation of the world of Pandora and the Na’vi people. The natural and surreal beauty of the alien world contrasts starkly with that of the humans trying to invade it. The film is successful at making the audience wish they could live amongst the alien race. The incredible special effects, especially those used underwater, bring Cameron’s vision to life and can feel startlingly real at times.
Another engaging aspect of the film was the differences between the various Na’vi species, and how they evolved according to their environments. Every design change made sense and it was clear that a lot of thought was put into this. However, it is rather unfortunate how under-utilised this unique concept was, as it only took a single afternoon for our main characters to overcome thousands of years of evolution.
The film had a strong set of themes that it laid out right at the start, with each new plot point and character enhancing this. Family is the most important tenet of the film, with each member of the Sully family undergoing a unique struggle. Each of the five children is well-developed and has depth and dimension. The children do not feel like just props to hang the framework of ‘family’ upon; instead, they act as complex individuals with their own goals and motives.
Avatar 2 also has a very good score that enhances the dramatic scenes of the movie. Composer Simon Franglen carries forward the legacy of the series’ previous composer, James Horner, with an emotion-evoking track. However, where it lacks is in the originality the prequel film had, from incorporating the native music of the Na’vi that had been specially developed for the series. While the film delivers on the heightened action music, the rarer and more surreal elements shine through only at the beginning and the end of the movie.
What it Fails at:
Like the series’ first instalment, Avatar 2 is mind-numbingly predictable. Within the first 15 minutes of the viewing, the audience is able to guess the arcs each character would undergo. While the movie is still enjoyable, there is no element of surprise. Cameron excels at telling stories that people want to hear, which unfortunately litters his story with overused tropes. It is only the Sullys’ older, adopted daughter, Kiri, who brings anything new to the table. Kiri is played by Sigourney Weaver, who is unsurprisingly brilliant even in the difficult role of portraying a teenager. Her character is the only one to truly intrigue the character and not be as predictable. Unfortunately, the film answers very little about her and consistently under-utilises the character while focusing on the most predictable storylines.
When the heroes are not particularly interesting, you would hope the villains would be. Unfortunately, that would be too much to expect of Avatar 2. The film chooses to not only recycle villains from the first film but in fact, bring back villains from the dead. Not only does this undo the entire first film, but it also means that it simply does not matter how many times the Na’vi win, as the humans can simply keep coming back to life.
The first film in the franchise showed a slow and logical progression of the human’s relationship with the Na’vi people, closely mimicking and commenting on colonisation. Instead, the movie is simply a revenge plot, avoiding all the social commentary from the previous films. Why the reanimation of Colonel Quaritch was necessary at all is a mystery unto itself. Not only was the character unremarkable and unmemorable from the first film, 13 years ago, but really just detracted from the humans’ mission to colonise Na’vi. In its efforts to be a more epic and grand version of the first film, unfortunately, the movie only loses out on realism and tact.
While the Sully children are strong characters, it becomes increasingly frustrating for the audience as they are kidnapped again and again for the millionth time. The Sully children are the most kidnappable children in the world. The movie could have easily cut out two or three of the kidnappings that did nothing but pad out the runtime and replaced it with actually explaining so many of the forgotten elements.
The movie also fails to utilise arguably the best character from the previous iteration. Neytiri, who had once been a strong, independent character is reduced to little more than Jake Sully’s wife and the mother of his children. With little screen time, little input and repeated character inconsistencies, she feels like a husk of her past self. It is not until the last few minutes that Neytiri has a significant role at all, and that too is made up largely of very questionable decisions.
Ultimately, Avatar 2 feels pointless. Both the heroes and villains, while undergoing some emotional growth, end in the exact same position as the start. It seems as though the film is missing the entire third act. Although there is plenty of action, it accomplishes almost nothing. Somehow the movie manages to feel both too long and too short. For the over 3-hour run time, it has very little to show for itself.
Avatar 2 is certainly a better film than its predecessor, with better-developed characters. The further exploration into Pandora, its culture and the Na’vi people keep the audience engaged, and the brilliant special effects bring the world to life. However, with the long run time, predictable plot and lack of any conclusion, you will often find yourself questioning if the film is worth the 13-year wait at all.