Avatar 2: James Cameron succeeds once more
Avatar 2: James Cameron succeeds once more
Updated on December 16, 2022 10:19 AM by Anna P
To say that I had my doubts about Avatar 2 is an understatement. Like many others, I found the first movie as entertaining as a science fiction film. Still, overall I felt the intended trilogy was a fairly cynical attempt to make money. Even after the release of the first Avatar 2 trailer, I still had to change my mind on whether James Cameron's return to Pandora would be good or bad.
You can send me to the areas of Hell designated for movie critics who cast doubt on Cameron because Avatar 2 is a good movie—possibly an excellent one. Now, I purposefully use the word "movie" because I believe that Avatar 2 is one of the best big-budget movies I've seen this year, akin to Top Gun 2 in terms of extravagant bombast. However, I must qualify this compliment by pointing out that not every component of the movie is excellent.
Imagine Avatar 2 as a stylish Christmas sweater; from a distance, it appears to be the coziest thing you've ever seen, and when you hold it, the wool is so soft that it will likely cause you to cry. However, if you started to separate the threads that make up the jumper, you would soon discover that there was a lot more combustible polyester than there was cashmere.
We'll start by discussing the story, the characters, and the polyester in Cameron's film. Some suggestions have been that the plot is a little flimsy, and those claims are accurate. In all honesty, the plot of Avatar 2 is no more compelling than dollar-store garbage bags. Essentially, it is a tale of good vs. evil that promotes some rather uncontroversial environmental problems.
It's alright. It's okay for stories to be extremely complex, but it becomes problematic when a weak script is coupled with bland characters. And there were more than a few occasions while watching where I was perplexed by character motivation or where inadequate character development left me baffled as to why people were responding in particular ways.
Since spoilers are strictly forbidden, the closest I can come to describing this is to state that one supposedly decent character decides to aid someone early in the film, but the movie doesn't bother to show or explain why.
The Na'vi in Cameron's film are not characters; they are archetypes, which is why I found myself growing quite connected to their essentially one-dimensional personalities. The characters don't require personalities for the story Cameron presents because he is too busy exploring the deep water.
This isn't some convoluted, ethically dubious thriller. It's a straightforward tale of good vs. evil. The Na'vi are on the side of angels, Jake is a hero, Quaritch is a villain, and humans are (for the most part) evil with a capital "E."
Cameron's Avatar characters succeed because they are so generic, similar to the player character in a first-person shooter. As blank canvases, they can be whatever the audience wants them to be.
Now I don't want people to believe this means the acting is awful; it's not. It is little for the younger cast to work with, so it isn't easy to single out anything particularly amazing. Still, everyone did a terrific job with the material, and I was really delighted. Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana, is the exception.
Only Neytiri, a ferocious Na'vi, experiences true alienation. She can be downright terrifying at times, and Saldana lends her an otherworldliness that other Na'vi (even those who are not from the Avatar) lack. She deserved more screen time in this movie, and I hope the sequels will give her that chance.
Now, it's clear to anyone versed in the blockbuster movie lingo that these storylines will continue in Avatar 3, 4. However, we fault the MCU for spending too much time planning out sequels. Therefore Cameron cannot get away with it too.
Most of Avatar 2's plot is an attempt to retroactively create material for the subsequent movies as if the writer hastily realized they wouldn't have enough to work with if they stuck to the first movie alone. As a result, a few beats feel like retcons but aren't quite retcons.
Right, let's get to the parts I appreciate. Cameron's eye for spectacle is something we can never fault him for. Let's face it, Cameron has produced some of the best action films ever, and he may be one of the greatest filmmakers to have ever worked in the genre. He is the "thinking man's" Michael Bay.
As a result, it should be no surprise that Avatar 2 is packed to the gills with thrilling chases, bloody knife battles, and a general level of furious action that would make Arnold Schwarzenegger wince.
Though Avatar 2 relies on graphics, a wonderful combination of practical effects is added in as well, and the two interact flawlessly. This makes it even more remarkable.
The odd whale-like Tulkuns, which have a tight relationship with the ocean tribes, were my favourite species. In fact, I cared so much about the Tulkuns that I really cried when one of them was injured. Yes, I shed a tear when the CGI whale monster was hurt.
That's the magic of film, and it was at that very time I realized how captivated I'd been by Avatar 2. It actually moved me deeply, and because of its capacity to do so, I'm not overly worried by the script's relative weakness. If it moved me this deeply, it was obviously working on some level.
Avatar 2 functions well when taken as a whole, as I have already stated in this review. If you dissect it into its component components, there is much to criticize, but cinema is more than just acting, VFX, and scriptwriting; it is a synthesis of all these distinct arts (as well as editing, scoring, etc.), and when you put all the parts that makeup Avatar 2 together, it just works.
James Cameron is to blame. This doesn't feel like a movie developed by a committee; rather, it feels like a movie made by someone with a clear vision, rather like Top Gun 2. As a result, you can't help but respect it while viewing it because you rarely see these movies these days.
In conclusion, Avatar 2 is a visual feast that should be viewed on a large screen and features amazing action scenes. Despite its weak plot, you'll find yourself surprisingly affected by the entire experience. Avatar 2 "blued" me away, which won't be for everyone—yes, that's the joke I'm going to conclude on.