Unlike most people I don’t remember the first Avatar merely for its astonishing visuals. No, my experience was more unique because it was actually the first movie I ever got evacuated from the theater in the middle of watching it. I was in California visiting my family, who lived there at the time, and went with my brother to see Avatar. In the middle of the movie the fire alarm went off and we were asked to evacuate the building. I think there was an actual fire in the kitchen area because they gave us a coupon to come back and see the rest of the movie, which I eventually did, and we left the theater.
I mention this experience only to say I have a nostalgia for the first film that most don’t have. It was a very memorable time at the theater! Anyway, as far as the actual movie Avatar goes I think it’s fine. It’s one of those movies that has been called overrated so much it’s actually become a little underrated. The visuals are outstanding and the story is serviceable. My main problem with it is it is too long for the love story it services. It’s often compared to Pocahontas and Fern Gully but both of those movies are under 90 minutes! This one stretches out to 162 minutes, which exposes its story problems and other weaknesses.
Now after 13 years of waiting James Cameron has finally given us a sequel with Avatar: The Way of Water. Like the original it is too long and bloated but its story resonated with me so much more this time. It still has the amazing visuals (and you all know I’m a sucker for the ocean so I loved all the water scenes!) but instead of a trite romance we have a beautiful story about family and surprisingly the refugee experience.
The sequel starts with Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) raising their family of 4 kids in Pandora. Their paradise is interrupted when the “sky people” attack and Jake and his family are forced to take refuge with the Metkayina or water clan led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet).
As we experience the astonishing visuals (truly astonishing) we also grow to love and care for this family and watch as they attempt to fit in with the Metkayina, defend their new home and get to know the beautiful whale creatures that are also under attack. I found the whole thing to be powerful and moving.
Like I said, Avatar: the Way of Water is too long and particularly the fight sequences start to drag. Anytime they go back to the ”sky people” with Edie Falco and Stephen Lang it begins to lose me.
Fortunately those moments didn’t last long and they would quickly come back to the family I cared about.
For the most part I’ve found the Oscar contenders this year to be underwhelming. So I was as surprised as anyone with how much I liked Avatar: the Way of Water. It truly was an astonishing cinematic experience I won’t soon forget.
9 out of 10
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