Visually magnificent as it is, Avatar: The Way of Water could have been better as a miniseries.
Avatar: The Way of Water Synopsis
Ecological catastrophe threatens Pandora once again with the fiery return of the Sky People, i.e., humans. Worse, the earthlings bring with them vindictive new weapons called Recombinants, which are avatars implanted with the pre-recorded memories of deceased antagonists such as Col. Miles Quaritch from the first movie. Quaritch’s ruthless hunt for Jake Sully then forces the ex-marine and Neytiri to flee their children to Pandora’s oceans for sanctuary.
James Cameron’s sequel to his most successful movie ever finally hit the big screens after 13 years. Sorry … sorry! Let me just say this once. I’ve actually watched a hint of this sequel back in 2009, right after the first movie.
As in, I dashed to the loo right after the first movie and for a minute thereafter, stared at the way of (my) water.
(Sorry! Couldn’t resist! 🙂 I know it’s sordid!)
This time, to avoid this spoiling experience, I took care not to drink too much before the show and to watch it at a cinema with a convenient toilet location. Well, I ended up still having to go once in the middle of the movie, but you know what, I didn’t sprint the way I did back then. I was even glad for the brief interlude.
Glad because I needed a breather and the story was barely moving at that moment. After returning to my seat, I didn’t feel I missed anything too.
But the good things about Avatar: The Way of Water first! As anticipated worldwide, this watery sequel is sheer cinematic magnificence. The underwater segments are executed with an almost feverish determination to dazzle and awe. Unlike what Cameron himself previously claimed, the themes of environmentalism and ruthless commercial exploitation are more pronounced than ever too. Correspondingly, providing for a more gripping message.
The end result is a sci-fi saga within an oceanic documentary, and the other way around, one that I’m sure most audiences wouldn’t mind watching twice. Naturally, all that high frame rates and collective expertise also laid the way for some of the most thrilling and satisfying action sequences this year. On the latter, I’d just say the Tulkun/whale hunting sequence was brutal, but if you endure it in full, you will clap when a certain spiritual brother attacks.
Returning to my issue with length and pacing, this largely involves the lengthy middle segment, i.e., where the bulk of the underwater splendours are. To be very clear, I’m not saying this hour is dreary. For viewers into coastal and aquatic wonders, this could even be the high point of the show.
Just that, after seeing the Sully kids plopped into the water for another adventure the umpteen time, I couldn’t help but long for the story to stride forward. Beautiful as those wavy scenes were, I wished the story would return to the tension established by the opening events. Moreover, this chapter felt like one of those breather episodes of miniseries, one that went on for an extra half-hour. It was in the middle of these serene moments that I strolled to the toilet.
Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian used the word “soggy”to describe the movie and though he was summarising how he felt about the underwater cinematography, I guess the unkind word could also be used to describe my experience. However visually impressive they are, the aquatic scenes soon weighed like a soggy tee during a dive session. Something you can tolerate but really wish wasn’t there. It’s also what led me to feel that if Cameron had that much to show and tell about the sea, The Way of Water could perhaps be better as a miniseries.
Lastly, there’s much more groundwork for future episodes in Avatar: The Way of Water, compared to the first movie. Since Cameron and his team long announced their intentions for Avatar 3 and 4, there’s no real fault in this.
But with the movie being over three hours long, one does wish more storylines were resolved. For example, Kiri’s mysterious abilities. I’m hoping the compromise is worth what’s coming in future sequels.
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