It’s the 18th December as I run through the street to my local IMAX cinema. Huge puddles splash against my boots while heavy rain and wind lash against my face and threaten to soak my handbag. As I entered the cinema, I couldn’t help but think that I was getting the full experience before seeing James Cameron’s ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’.
‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is the sequel to the 2009 film ‘Avatar’, the biggest earning film ever ($2.9 Billion worldwide). This film takes place a few years after the previous entry where Jake Sully (Sam Worthington – Avatar, Hacksaw Ridge) is now living happily as a Na’vi on the planet Pandora with his wife and family. But Pandora is threatened once again when the humans return, with a much bigger army. Now, Jake must once again protect the Na’vi.
While it was the biggest earning film, it’s safe to say that ‘Avatar’ left no cultural impact. And, while it was a film that I enjoyed experiencing, I saw no need for a sequel, let alone 4 more that Cameron has planned. But, after the first trailer was revealed, I had changed my mind on not wanting to see it. So, a few days ago, I went to the IMAX cinema. And I overall loved it; just be prepared for the 3 hour and 12-minute runtime! If you’re prepared for that length of time, you’ll be rewarded with a visually beautiful treat.
Just like the 2009 film, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ has the most impressive visuals in any live action film. By now, the technology has caught up to be able to create the Na’vi and Pandora and even improve upon the visual effects because they look phenomenal here. While it is Cameron’s film, the main credit should go to the film’s Effects and Art departments for their hard work in creating this, because the end result is just amazing. And, just like the previous entry, the film is made with 3D in mind. Watching it on the IMAX screen further emphasized the detailing of the characters and setting. And, once again, the 3D helped with demonstrating the depths of each landscape and oceans and it worked beautifully; the best way to see this film is in IMAX.
‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ strongest elements are its visuals and world building. The film has a very thin plot, so it used its runtime to instead build the world of Pandora and introduce viewers to parts of the planet that weren’t explored previously. Your enjoyment of the film will depend on whether this style of narrative is something of liking or not, but I loved it. It was interesting to see how various clans of the Na’vi lived and functioned, and ‘The Way of Water’ has done an amazing job at showing viewers this instead of telling. It also felt like the long runtime was justified.
The majority of this film is set by the seas of Pandora, meaning that a lot of scenes are set and filmed underwater. And they look incredible; twelve years ago, the filming of the underwater scenes with motion capture, wouldn’t have been possible, hence the long gap between films. I would’ve happily have watched a film dedicated to just the underwater sequences purely because they were so beautiful and immersive. Plus, these scenes introduced new creatures that couldn’t have been shown in the previous entry, further adding to the world building.
However, ‘The Way of Water’ did a have couple of strange decisions: because the IMAX format emphasized details, there was a noticeable change in the cinematography’s frame rate. It would occasionally switch from 30FPS (frame per second), which is the standard cinematography definition, to 60 which gave the film a strange appearance. The film could’ve also done more with the relationship between Spider (Jack Champion) and Quaritch (Stephen Lang – Don’t Breathe, Avatar). These two characters had potential to go in a different direction than they did, even helping Quaritch abandon his squadron or change his ways. This could then lead to further narratives in the third film.
However, I overall loved ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’. It felt like a natural progression after the first film, as well as acting as a build up to the rest of the sequels, something that is needed considering three more films will follow! It’s the most impressive film I’ve seen in terms of its visuals and effects, and even the long runtime is justified. It used the runtime to fully explore the world of Pandora and its characters, and not one second felt wasted. But there’s no ignoring that it is nearly 4 hours long and moviegoers will have to prepare for that, as well as the strange framerate of the cinematography.
After thinking a sequel was not necessary, I have completely changed my mind; I was blown away by the effects and the world building and will happily return for the third film. It’s safe to say I’m on board with the ‘Avatar’ franchise.
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