Avatar 2: Way of... Wasting 3 Hours?
Production Company: 20th Century Studios, Lightstorm Entertainment, TSG Entertainment
Release Date: December 16, 2022
Director: James Cameron
Avatar 2 was arguably one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Considering its predecessor came out over a decade ago, fans were eager to catch up with our favorite blue people on Pandora. To prepare myself, I sat through the 2 hour and 42 minute long original Avatar. I ended up being very grateful for this decision, because if I had not I would have been incredibly lost.
Before I divulge into the review, I want it to be known that I did not dislike Avatar 2. I really enjoyed the introduction of a new clan of Na'vi, their culture, and their animals. It allowed us to see more of Pandora, which was really neat. The graphics were pretty stunning, but this is to be expected from Avatar. I think where my review starts to divulge from positivity is when it comes to what was delivered, versus what was expected. My expectations were very high going in for a few reasons. The first being it has been about 13 years since the last movie, the second being that the first movie is still one of the highest grossing movies of all time, and the third being how much I enjoyed the story of the first movie. However, Avatar: Way of Water ultimately felt more like 3 hours of set up for the next film.
To begin, the storyline for Way of Water was already weaker. I feel conflicted over the use of the Colonel as a villain again because although it was nice to have hatred towards the same villain from the first movie, it also felt lazy. It did not make much sense to me that the Colonel would want to become an avatar. It really seemed to not align with the original character. On that note, a lot of the returning characters did not feel like they did before. It did not make sense to me how they made Jake more like a military father. I hated the whole "be back by 0800" type of act. It did not make sense in the context of his character before. I was also very disappointed that Ney'tiri's role felt much smaller in this film. If it were not for her, the entire plot of the second movie would not even exist. I feel that many of the newer characters also felt very one-note. Considering the length of the movie, I was hoping we would get to see more of the individual characters, especially the children. The whole movie centers around them, but we only get to know more about two, Kiri and Lo'ak. Even then, we never find out who Kiri's father is and Lo'ak follows the "loner teen" act. I would have much rather liked to see more of Neteyam, especially considering he dies at the end (a point that will be touched on later). I feel that more was put into the visuals, than the characters.
The visuals were beautiful. Although, and maybe it is because the first movie already used advanced CGI, it felt that there was not that much of a difference in visuals between the first and the second movie. I really liked the bioluminescence in the first film, so of course there was already a bias there. However, my issue is more that it felt the visuals were used in a show off way, rather than to move along the story. There were many times in the movie that were purely visual scenes, no dialogue or plot happening at all. This would have been nice a few times and for short sequences, but many of them went on for too long. There were so many new characters and potential directions for the story, it was disappointing just watching the characters swim around for 10 minutes.
The plot line was already weaker and the pacing was strange. It seems that we get caught up very quickly, with the introduction of the children and how Jake has adapted to speaking Na'vi. After this happened, I was really curious where the rest of the movie was going to go. After the introductions and explanations are done, we already have questions. For example, when did Spider come to be? We know he is the Colonel's son, but there is no explanation on how that could have happened and the same problem is for Kiri. Side note on Kiri, I did not like that she was voiced by Sigourney Weaver, it felt so off considering Sigourney is much older than Kiri is supposed to be. Then, there is this quick jump to the Colonel and the base that is on Pandora. Then there is another jump where we see the sky people as enemies once again, forcing the Omitakaya clan to move. All the battles and conflicts in the beginning are completely breezed through. Going back to characters, the ability for Ney'tiri to move felt out of character to me. I understand it is different because they have a family they want to protect, but it never made sense. Why would the Colonel just stop looking in the forest because they were not there? It logically followed that he would go after them, and in the process of leaving, they put all the reef people in trouble. Also, the fact that the main conflict was simply that the Colonel wanted revenge felt very lazy. As well, the sub plot that there were people harvesting the brain liquid from the tulkun to create an anti aging serum was just randomly opened up. I feel like the set-up for that was just thrown into the movie and not explored enough.
It makes sense that with the introduction of so many new characters we were not going to get to know them all in depth. However, I wish certain actions from the characters made sense. For example, Spider saving the Colonel. The whole time he was with the Colonel, there was barely any bonding that occurred. Spider owes nothing to the Colonel and should have spent his time saving his real family. This just felt like it was done to set up the next movie, even though it makes no sense for the character to do that. As well, is the Colonel seriously going to be the villain in the next movie too? There are so many directions they can go, even with the general enemy being the sky people. Focusing on the children, Neteyam's death felt completely unnecessary. It makes sense that someone had to die before the three hours were over, but in my opinion, Lo'ak or Kiri dying would have made more sense.
I feel like the ending could have gone in a different direction. Something mentioned in the movie is that Kiri has seizures. This proves to be particularly dangerous if she is underwater during an episode. Now, at the end of the movie Kiri utilizes her connection to the planet to find Tuk and Ney’tiri. She does what she did earlier in the movie that caused a seizure. Yet, this time she is perfectly fine. I think it would have made more sense for Kiri to have a seizure in the process of saving her family and die, than Neteyam dying. We did not get enough time with Neteyam as a character, so his death, although it was sad, did not hit as hard for me. I was more disappointed that he would no longer be a character in the series.
Ultimately, Avatar 2 had many redeeming qualities. It was entertaining and the visuals were great. However, there were also many aspects that I did not like when I thought more about the movie. It just left me feeling like I watched three hours of set up for the next film. I am sure my opinions will change when the new movies are released and different details or plot holes begin to be fixed.
Reviewer Name: Therese Peralta
Date of Review: January 30, 2023