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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ – Review

‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ – Review

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They say good things take time, and after more than 13 years, visionary filmmaker James Cameron is inviting audiences back to movie theatres for a one of kind cinematic event with Avatar: The Way of Water, his much-anticipated sequel to his 2009 blockbuster Avatar. And this is an experience of utter cinema mastery.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Ney’tiri (Zoe Saldana) have formed a family and are doing everything to stay together. However, they must leave their home and explore the regions of Pandora. When an ancient threat resurfaces, Jake must fight a difficult war against the humans.

When it comes to filmmakers James Cameron is without a doubt one of the greatest visionaries to ever work in the medium of cinema. Decade after decade he has continually pushed what the medium and the art of narrative storytelling is capable of into the future. Now Cameron returns to the world of Pandora to continue his ambitious generational story of the Sully family in Avatar: The Way of Water. And this film will blow your mind. While Cameron was the filmmaker who achieved the potential of 3D cinema technology with 2009’s Avatar, he now elevates it to an even higher pedigree and Cameron’s expanded artistic and technological reach produces a magical experience for the screen.

In terms of its visual and narrative experience, Avatar: The Way of Water is a bold and incredible vision to witness. Working with the geniuses at New Zealand’s Weta Digital, Cameron has elevated what CGI storytelling is capable of in Avatar: The Way of Water and he then turns the volume way up. The details and complexity of these characters are fully rendered in Avatar: The Way of Water, and the visuals are absolutely stunning. You see every line and feature of our characters, and the Na’vi and landscape of Pandora are fully realised to an even greater dimension. The scope and canvas of Avatar: The Way of Water are considerably larger and Cameron takes audiences into the deepest depths of the ocean of this alien world as we discover the incredible array of new creatures that make up this incredibly complex ecosystem.

Stepping back into the spotlight of Avatar: The Way of Water is Sam Worthington, and the Aussie actor once again commands the centre of this story as the human marine reborn as a Na’vi war chief Jake Sully. A decade has passed in the events of Jake Sully’s life as the War Chief of the Omaticaya, and he has grown into a dignified, respected and courageous leader who must now lead his own resistance to stop a new human threat. Worthington again brings the same naturalness to the part that he previously displayed in 2009’s Avatar, but there’s a new authority and sense of duty and responsibility to his performance as he is driven to protect his family at all costs and so begins a new chapter of his life on Pandora. Along with considerable dramatic depth, Worthington also jumps into the action and Cameron really puts him through the wringer with this performance.

Along with the return of Worthington, we also see Zoe Saldana return to the role of Jake’s wife, the Na’vi Neytiri and like her husband, her role in the story has expanded considerably. Saldana’s Neytiri must adapt quickly to a new geography and way of life on Pandora amongst the water people of the Metkayina, and hers is a very dramatic performance. We see Saldana as both mother and warrior in Avatar: The Way of Water and this juxtaposition between her two roles leads to much of the film’s intensity, particularly during the film’s explosive third act.

Introduced to the world of Avatar and Pandora in Avatar: The Way of Water are Cliff Curtis and Kate Winslet as Tonowari and Ronal, the leaders of the water people of the Metkayina and both bring a sense of grandeur to the picture. Where Tonowari is the stoic War Chief of the Metkayina and is portrayed with great dignity and strength in a true show of mana from Curtis, Winslet’s Ronal is a far more complex and conflicting character. A gifted shaman and spiritual leader with a deep connection to the oceans of Pandora, Winslet’s Ronal is character that will take audiences by surprise, and she brings great significance and strength to the character on screen.

And returning once more as the big bad is legendary actor Stephen Lang who returns as the deceased Quaritch, who is now returned to life as a Recombinant, an Avatar/Na’vi hybrid with human memories embedded into their DNA and he’s ready to finish what he started. With increased size, strength and speed, Lang’s Quaritch is considerably more dangerous this time in Avatar: The Way of Water, and he definitely means business. But while he’s ready to bring the intensity and action in the part, he also undergoes considerable dramatic evolution and it’s clear that he’s a far more complex character than just the pipe hitter we once thought him to be. Lang again makes for a great villain, and he certainly does evil good.

As a cinematic experience Avatar: The Way of Water is a full-on rush, and the pace moves fast. Where James Cameron focused on intricate world-building in the first film, he knows dials up the action in a big way and this film goes for it very quickly. I liken it to his work on Aliens where he brought a new tempo of speed to the action genre, and fans of science-fiction action will be very pleased with the intensity and pace of Avatar: The Way of Water. This film is primarily a ‘resistance film’ and Cameron takes examples of the Camanche and Maori warriors into his design with the combat and pace of this film. The film’s marine setting also leads to a new style of combat and keeps things interesting and its third act will have you wide-eyed with excitement.

But it’s not just the action and intensity of this film that will get audiences excited, but grand themes of family, fatherhood, acceptance, loyalty and the balance of the natural world find their place in the film and there’s a level of dramatic depth that has a big effect on the audience. James Cameron has expanded the scope of the world of Pandara in a very big way, and this family saga enters a very exciting new chapter in Avatar: The Way of Water.

As a cinematic experience Avatar: The Way of Water is an utter masterpiece of the cinematic craft. Beautifully rendered, packed full of explosive action and delivering a deep and meaningful narrative of a still-developing saga, it’s a story that will bring audiences back into the magic of the cinema and the joy that only movies can give. It’s an utterly marvellous piece of work to behold, and you’ll come out of this event movie absolutely floored by what the cinema experience still delivers, and it’s an utter must-watch on IMAX screens.

Image: 20th Century Studios