December 12, 2022

CINEMA | Beyond Pandora – 'Avatar: The Way of Water' Swims

"The way of water has no beginning and no end."
Sam Worthington Zoe Saldaña James Cameron | Avatar: The Way of Water
20th Century Studios / Lightstorm Entertainment
Never bet against James Cameron ever again. He is undeniable. The iconoclastic Ontario-born filmmaker returns to the world of Pandora thirteen years after the original Avatar broke box office records around the globe. What he has done with Avatar: The Way of Water, the first in four planned sequels, is nothing short of a totally immersive visual experience of action blockbuster spectacle.

Original stars Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña return to perform their roles of Jake Sully and Neytiri, who now have a family of four young blue-skinned giant nine-foot beasts to protect from the "sky people", through motion-capture technology. It's impressive how seemless the admittedly overstuffed sequel looks and what a vast improvement it is in how far the complicated 3D visual effects and its use for storytelling have come. Cameron's eye and balance enhance his warrior characters and magical world superbly.

Despite their respective characters perishing, veteran actors Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang return as new figures still very much tied to their previous roles. This and other elements recreate some familiar touchstones already seen while literally submerging viewers into a wondrous underwater setting totally unseen in the film's predecessor.

Cameron and husband-and-wife screenwriting team Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver craft their script remaking elements of the first entry where the forest-based Na'vi characters must adapt to a different Indigenous culture based in the water. The Way of Water combines all of Cameron's cultural obsessions into a crescendo of action-based thrills reminiscent of the many works in his established film canon.

This is such a wildly ambitious continuation of the successful action-adventure world-building of a fully-realized alien world. It goes far beyond the 2009 original in fully visualizing not only what is Pandora but also the total majesty of the sea. At over three hours, the extraordinary film fully immerses audiences into a vividly real experience into another exciting universe made of pure imagination. Avatar: The Way of Water feels impossible.

More | YVArcade / Indiewire / Inverse / ScreenCrush

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