Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Avatar: The Way Of Water

Title: Avatar: The Way of Water

Describe This Movie In One Yellow Submarine Quote:
JOHN: Hello, there, blue people! Won't you join us? Hook up, and otherwise co-mingle? What do you say?
Brief Plot Synopsis: There is trouble in the forest/There is unrest with the Na'vi

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2 Tobias Fünkes out of 5.
Tagline: N/A

Better Tagline: "Remember Alf Quaritch? He's back, in pog Na'vi form!"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: It seems like just yesterday that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) abandoned his human body to become one of the Na'vi alongside his beloved Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). In reality, it's been more than ten years and the couple has five children (two of which are adopted). When the humans return to further exploit Pandora's resources — led by the Avatar of deceased Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang) — Jake decides to take his family and seek safety among the ocean-dwelling Metkayina.
"Critical" Analysis: Thirteen years is a long time between the first and second entries in a film franchise, especially one with four planned sequels. The Way of Water drops this weekend, and director James Cameron has essentially wagered the rest of his career on the Avatar movies (he's 68 now), for better or worse.

Not that the guy with two of the three top grossing movies of all time under his belt really needs to worry. Cameron's worst movie is probably Piranha II: The Spawning, a movie released 40 years ago. He's said that if The Way of Water and the yet-untitled third movie bomb, he won't bother with the last two. A scenario that, to put it mildly, seems unlikely.

This movie reportedly cost almost $400 million to make, and going strictly by the visuals, that isn't hard to  believe. The special effects are like nothing you've ever seen, with the best 3D rendering since, well, the first Avatar. The attention to even the tiniest detail is so meticulous you start to understand why it took as long as it did.

Which is why it's just as well you aren't seeing these movies for the plot or dialogue, because both are just as rudimentary as they were in the first time around. Cameron and co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver do get us up to speed adequately, although they could just as easily have let the new events play out, because there's a lot here we already saw in the first movie.

And if you're tired of comparing Avatar to the likes of Dances With Wolves or Ferngully, fear not: Cameron poaches not only from his own movies (one whole scene is lifted from Aliens, for example), but from Earth  religion, bringing immaculate conception and rosary beads into the Na'vi culture as well.
Jake's "plan" — abandoning his guerrilla campaign against the RDA when Quaritch captures someone with knowledge of the Na'vi's location — is a bit out of character, but at least it gives Cameron an excuse to introduce some bitchin' underwater effects along with the Metkayina (reef people), led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (an almost unidentifiable Kate Winslet).

The second act, which finds Jake's family struggling to adapt to life among the water folk, really drags, though hopefully you'll be distracted enough by the seascapes and ocean creatures that you won't roll your eyes at things like the bonding moment between young Lo'ak and a tulkun (Pandora whale) with a tragic past. Luckily for Cameron, it's hard to check your watch while wearing 3D glasses.

And the reef people themselves try to warn us. As they're fond of saying: "The way of water has no beginning and no end."

Things mercifully pick back up in the final hour, as Cameron gets to show his action chops. The climactic battle is indeed thrilling, if familiar. It's also mostly meaningless, since we're already guaranteed at least one more of these, with Jake and Netyiri ending up pretty much where they started.

Any way you slice it, the visuals in Pandora Boogaloo are legitimately fantastic, which Cameron and 20th Century Studios are apparently satisfied will be enough to make you overlook the redundant story, laughable dialogue, and simplistic spirituality. That said, it's probably foolish to bet against the guy who's already delivered two multi-billion dollar movies against all conventional cinematic wisdom.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters today. Don't forget your catheter.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar