3.5/10 I really want to like James Cameron. After watching his entire filmography, including his documentaries that no average movie goer saw, I did see many bright spots in the 1980s and 1990s. “The Terminator”, “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” are all fantastic action films that helped define their respective decades and pushed technology forward. Speaking of which, when Cameron is dead and gone perhaps his biggest contribution to cinema will be the technological advancements that he has pushed with each passing movie he has made. One of the biggest reasons there was a 12 year gap from “Titanic” to “Avatar” and then a 13 year gap from “Avatar” to this follow up was just so Cameron could wait for the technology to catch up to his vision. So while he created an entire science fiction franchise with “The Terminator” and became one of the rare film makers who could make decent sequels all while breaking new technological ground, Cameron has sadly devolved into a sentimental, boomer film maker with more ego than talent. Between labeling all masculinity as “toxic” (when in fact it is the lack of masculinity which is toxic), removing 10 minutes of gun related action in this movie because he doesn’t want to fetishize guns (bro, your entire career has already done that and no mass shooter will stop their plans because this movie has a little less gun fire in it) and forcing almost all of the cast and crew of this movie to go vegan during the production (I can see him joining up with the World Economic Forum and exclusively serving crickets for meals on the set of the upcoming sequels), Cameron has turned into a joke. While I still admire what he has done to push technology forward, he has also added to the negative Hollywood trend of overspending money on films. This movie is the most expensive movie of all time with a budget around $460-$480 million and that is before marketing so when all is said and done this movie cost about a billion dollars. As for the movie itself, I will start off with the positives but then get to the negatives which unfortunately, are the brunt of this review. The greatest strength this movie has going for it is the visual effects. Cameron made great strides in the motion capture technology and filming motion capture underwater, which is even trickier, is made to look easy. I saw this movie a few times in IMAX 3D and it is the best looking movie I have ever seen in my life. Even re-watching the first 2009 film and then this one, you can see how far the technology has come in the decade since. Movies like “Aquaman” and even the recent “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” have lots of underwater scenes but they all ill in comparison to this movie’s visuals. After the initial 15 minutes, the impressive visuals become ordinary since our eyes become accustomed to them but that shouldn’t take away from how truly impressive this spectacle and world building is. Several actors give great performances, which we also tend to not realize since they are motion capture but if you truly study each performer you can see who is giving it their all. I liked that there was a lot less narration in this movie than in the first film. The action scenes are shot incredibly well and are highly entertaining and the cinematography/lighting is some of the best of 2022. However, like a super model with no personality, “Avatar: The Way of Water” sure is nice to look at but ultimately disappoints with how repetitive, hollow and weak the screenplay is, despite having two more people working on it than the first time around. Repetition being one of the biggest problems doesn’t just relate to the first “Avatar” but Cameron’s entire career. Upon watching every theatrical release he has done, it is easy to see patterns emerge. Cameron has a hard on for three things (two of which are related). The ocean/underwater life, sinking ships and the Marines. These three elements can be found throughout all of Cameron’s filmography, going all the way back to his 1981 debut “Piranha II: The Spawning” which has underwater scenes and a sunken ship. “Aliens” has Marines and then we fast forward to “The Abyss” where we get all three of Cameron’s favorite aspects. “True Lies” features Marines while “Titanic” has the ocean and a sinking ship (obviously). Then between “Titanic” and “Avatar” we get two documentaries, one of which is about the Titanic and the other of which is exploring life in the ocean so both of those cover multiple passions for Cameron. “Avatar” brought in more Marines and now this sequel brings us all three yet again. So with his career, we begin to see the same things over and over and over again and I haven’t seen a single critic call out how repetitive and predictable it has all become besides myself. Add in the fact that the plot to this movie is almost identical to the original, despite having had 13 years to come up with something better and you are in for some real disappointment, plot wise. The first film was basically bad military colonizers coming to steal the indigenous people’s land but one Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) falls in love with not only a native woman but also the culture and nature of the planet Pandora. It was “Dances with Wolves” meets “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” meets “The Last Samurai” meets “Pocahontas” with I’m sure a few more films sprinkled in. In this follow up we basically get the same thing (bad military colonizers want to rape the land/wild life of its/their minerals/resources, get rid of the indigenous and make money) but instead of the love story, since that was already established in the first movie, we deal with the children of Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). A big problem with all of the kids in this movie is that their subplot with trying to fit into a new group, one possibly falling in love and dealing with bullying, was nothing original and slowed the movie down, which could have easily trimmed 15 minutes of its run time. There was even more repetition here. Not once, not twice but three different times Jake’s kids disobey/misbehave, Jake scolds them and tells them not to do something stupid again and then they go and do the exact opposite. It got old pretty quickly. The same thing happens near the end when our villain Quaritch (Stephen Lang) has some of the Sully kids held captive. He warns that if Jake tries anything, he will kill his kid(s). Jake makes his move and fights yet Quaritch doesn’t follow through on his threats and this happens multiple times within the span of just half an hour. All of the sea/reef Na’vi people also disappear near the end of the movie when they could have greatly been used to fight. There is a moment where members of the Sully family are leaving a sinking ship but a fire lights on the ocean water from spilled oil/gasoline. Having been trained in how to hold their breaths for extended time periods, everyone could have easily swam underneath the water to the other side of the fire and fled to safety. Instead they act like this is an impossibility and go back to the sinking ship so more danger can befall them, which was incredibly stupid. In the first film our evil colonizers were hunting for unobtanium but here, it isn’t even mentioned and has been replaced by the (apparently) much more valuable amrita, a yellow substance found in the tulkun (whale like creatures) which stops aging in humans. How was it even discovered that a liquid in the tulkun brain stopped aging in humans? No idea. This scenario is made all the more ridiculous since it takes a great deal to kill the tulkun, get their mouths open with heavy equipment and then drill into their brains from the roof of the mouth. Who was the first person to go to all that trouble on a hunch that they might find some magical substance in the brain? The screenwriters will never tell you. While the score was decent, it wasn’t nearly as epic or memorable as James Horner’s Oscar nominated original score from the first film. Since Horner tragically passed away in 2015, he has been replaced by Simon Franglen who has composed nothing of merit or acclaim, making him an odd choice to replace Horner. We also get a few miscast actors with the worst case being Edie Falco as General Ardmore. Jemaine Clement also feels miscast as Dr. Garvin and if anything just reminded me of his role in “Moana”. Sigourney Weaver who is 73 years old voices a 14 year old girl (her daughter in the movie) and it is awkward to say the least. Considering Weaver has a daughter in real life, it would have made much more sense to have her daughter voice the role. Quaritch, who never had a wife, girlfriend or romantic interest in the first film now suddenly has a son called Spider in this movie, despite us having no idea who the mother is. Repeating the same villain, who died in the first film, felt repetitive as a new villain could have been brought in for some fresh blood. I highly doubt that the military would select the man who failed his mission years ago to lead the newest one. Jack Champion, the weakest actor in the movie plays the most annoying character as Spider’s motivations flipped on a dime and I couldn’t wait for him to get off screen every time he came on it. There are many cringe one liners that made me roll my eyes as Cameron has always been better known for his directing than his writing (for good reason). I could go into nitpicks involving a killer fish abandoning a bigger, injured prey to go for a much smaller, uninjured target or the fact that General Ardmore’s introduction has her punching a punching bag which is oddly located in an aircraft hangar, instead of a gym. It would be like randomly having an elliptical inside of the chow hall. There are more examples but since this is one of the longest, most detailed reviews I have written (justified considering this is one of the highest grossing films of all time), I will wrap things up. My final complaint would be that Cameron and the other screenwriters so broadly and lazily generalize all Na’vi as good and innocent, yet almost all humans (with only a handful of exceptions) as evil, heartless colonizers. The broad generalization was shallow and ridiculous. In the end, the repetition of Cameron’s career, the first film and even repeated actions in this movie, paired with a weak screenplay, some annoying characters, miscasting, a forgettable score and an unoriginal plot bring down the incredible visuals, production design, costume design, sound editing/mixing and impressive action sequences. Since we get at least three more of these movies, let’s pray that Cameron and company cooked up something more original for the plot moving forward.
#MusicByBlueManGroup / #ActionSeaquences / #DreamWeaver / #Avaretarded / #BlueLies / #OceanCaptureTechnology

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