Opening in theatres today from director James Cameron and 20th Century Studios is the continuing adventure with AVATAR: The Way of Water.
Things have been quiet for the Na’vi since expelling the sky people with the help of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who is now chief. Now, he and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have an ever expanding family they are raising. Sons Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and daughters Kiri (Sigourney Weaver) and Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). In addition to their family is a teenage human boy names Spider (Jack Champion) who is fluent in the ways of the Na’vi and spends all his time with the Sully family.
As the attacks against the forest people continue, the sky people are expanding their base and taking more resources than ever before. Knowing his family is being hunted, Jake decides it is time for them to go in order to save the Omaticaya people. Planning to get as far away as possible, they seek refuge with the Metkayina sea people. Chief Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) listens to the plea for help but it is his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet) who see’s pain and heartache in their future.
Trying to embrace this new culture, the boys finds themselves constantly in trouble, Tuk is enjoying the water and all the creatures and Kiri begins to understand that although different, she easily embraces the sea life. Lo’ak, trying to make friends with the chiefs son Aonung (Filip Geljo), finds himself once again in trouble but is helped by a Tulkun names Payakan. Looking on at the encounter is the chiefs lovely daughter Tsireya (Bailey Bass) who realizes there is something special happening.
Now, for the hard part, As Pandora becomes more and more colonized, the company RDA has found a way to create Na’vi people without needing a human host but yet transferring their essence. One of these is Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who has a score to settle with Sully. Having no conscience previously, he makes it clear that he has no qualms about killing the Sully family and anyone that gets in his way.
The battle is on once again for the world Jake has come to love and the people in it. The Na’vi may be different tribes but one thing is clear, when you attack one, you attack all! As Quaritch comes closer and closer, it is clear that he and those with him are out for destruction.
Worthington as Sully returns and now is a father of quite a brood. He has trained his sons to be warriors but they have his disregard for orders and rules. Trying to find saftey for his family, Sully packs up and tries to find the farthest place anyone would look for them. Like life, problems have radar and will always find you. Sully has become a respected member of the Omaticaya people and they look to him for guidance during their time of peace. When it becomes clear that peace is over, he knows what has to be done and does so with a broken heart. Worthington picks up right where he left off without a misstep in his character portrayal of the blue Na’vi Sully. Saldana is now a mother lioness who is not about to let anyone hurt her children (too bad she needs to worry more about what they are doing than others are doing). She is not happy to be joining the sea tribe but makes the best of it and remains supportive of Sully. Like other mother lioness’, Saldana’s Neytiri does a lot of hissing in this film and when her angry rears its very tall head, stand back because the rage is on.
Curtis as Chief Tonowari is unsure from the beginning about the Sully clan hanging around but knows that they are Na’vi and that means something. Curtis gives his character a quieter leadership than Sully but that changes when the sky people decide it’s time to do their damage. Winslet as Ronal is also a mother lioness and pitted against Saldana’s Neytiri get a little tense at times. She wants the best for her family which includes son Aonung and beautiful daughter Tsireya and once her belief system is on the verge of destruction, Winslet sets her vocal Ronal loose.
Dalton as son Lo’ak is trying to fit in as the youngest boy in the family. Ready to fight, he makes mistakes and does not listen to his father’s orders and that continually gets him in trouble. Dalton gives us a fierce warrior kid who also has a softer side for whale-like creatures and feels a kinship with their plight. Flatters as Neyeuam is the older son who sees the wisdom of his father’s orders but does make a mistake here and there. Once he is in fighting mode, it is easy to look at Flatters portrayal and think ‘yep, he acts like the son of Jake Sully!’. Bliss as young Tuk is nothing short of adorable and loves adventure in any shape and form. She understands what is at stake with the family and comes very close a time or two of becoming a sad story in this tale but she is fiery and I love it. Weaver as daughter Kiri feels like the outsider of the Sully group (although I associate that with being a moody teenager) but discovers with the sea people that she has a gift. There is a story here that Weaver is trying to tell and I am sure there will be more answers in the next AVATAR installment.
Lang as Quaritch is back to his old tricks again. Trying to be a warrior for the sky people and the military, let’s face it, the guy is just nuts. There are a few surprises in this film for him as well. Bass as Tsireya does not see a reason to be unsure about the Sully clan, in fact she embraces and teaches them quickly and with a smile. She fights with the Sully clan with heart, soul and wisdom and that’s quite beautiful. Champion as Spider is a human boy who has lived with the Na’vi since he was born. Accepting their ways and being a part of the Sully clan is a bit confusing for him but he knows what’s wrong and makes it clear he is not that person. Geljo as Aonung is a chiefs son and he behaves with all the problems that can come with that. Hey, Na’vi will be Na’vi!
Cast also includes Joel David Moore as Norm, Jermaine Clement as Dr. Gavin, CCH Pounder as Mo’at, Brendan Cowell as Scoresby, Dileep Rao as Dr. Max Patel, Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge, and Edie Falco as General Ardmore.
AVATAR: The Way of Water comes flooding into theatres at almost three hours and thirteen years after the original AVATAR. That being said, you could easily cut out an hour and the film would be fine. There is a mish-mash of storytelling here and that began to lose my interest a bit. There are scenes that are just too darn long because personally, I don’t need to watch 10-15 minutes of people torturing a sea animal, don’t need to see 10 minutes of playing with sea creatures followed by a few minutes of soldiers making threats and then back to 10 more minutes of playing with sea creatures. I looked around at the audience and they were not comfortable sitting for that length of time in very uncomfortable seats AND it’s not like you can stop the film to run to the facilities. Should have saved this long version for Bluray, just a suggestion.
Cameron’s reasoning behind the almost three hours is, “The goal is to tell an extremely compelling story on an emotional basis, I would say the emphasis in the new film is more on character, more on story, more on relationships, more on emotion. We didn’t spend as much time on relationships and emotion in the first film as we do in the second film, and it’s a longer film, because there’s more characters to service. There is more story to service.”
All the scenes underwater are really pretty but the length is just unnecessary and I saw it in 3D. Not sure what Cameron is trying to prove with the time, other than spending an obscene amount of money totally around $400 million – that’s M. Does he realize he could give 350 people a million dollars and still have 50 million left over to make a film? Just checking. The good news is that the characters returning to their original roles offered something comforting about seeing the film. I think Worthington, Saldana, Weaver and Lang are the films safety net although I do not think Weaver and Lang’s story lines have a lot to offer other than a way to get butts in the seats at the next installment.
It will do alright simply because there is not a lot in theatres right now so choices are limited and it’s colorful. People are still wanting an escape and Cameron gives it to them while throwing in lessons about hurting sea creatures, bad guys do bad things and misunderstood teenagers who out of control (unfortunately that’s my pet peeve in films, mouthy and whiny teenagers). This is a family film for sure but not for the small ones and only because of the time issue. It is a BIG tub of popcorn type of film that does not hold to many surprises but instead plants seeds for the next film. Hopefully not in 13 years.
In the end – they are a family!