‘AVATAR’ Sequel Makes A Splash

‘AVATAR’ Sequel Makes A Splash

By Victoria White

A&E Editor

Released on Dec. 16, “Avatar: The Way of Water” is the long-awaited sequel to the 2009 movie “Avatar.”

Set over a decade after the events of the original, Jake Sully and Neytiri now have a family of their own, and Sully has been named the chief of the Omatikaya tribe.

However, their comfort does not last, and old foes return to attempt colonization of Pandora once again.

Sully and his family must try to save their home and when things don’t go according to plan, they seek refuge with the oceanic Metkayina tribe.

Director James Cameron’s decision to move the story to the water was a brilliant choice.

For all the splendor of the forest in the first movie, the ocean provided for even more breathtaking visuals.

To not mention the beauty of this movie would be a disservice to the 13 years of work put into it. The imagery was so stunning, it provided the ultimate escapism.

During my second viewing, I noticed subtle details I did not pick up on the first time around because I was fixated on the aesthetic.

As with the first “Avatar” movie, Cameron applied revolutionized technology for “The Way of Water.”

Through performance capture, all of the movie’s underwater scenes were actually shot underwater, a feat never before accomplished.

The actors were all trained in freediving, and new motion capture technology had to be created to film the shots.

The development of these technologies is the predominant reason for the extensive lapse in time between the two movies.

“We’ve thrown a lot of horsepower, innovation, imagination and new technology at the problem,” Cameron said in 2017. “It’s taken us about a year and a half now to work out how we’re going to do it.”

One technological feat of the original was the revolutionizing of 3D filming technology. While Cameron intended to further these advances with glasses-free 3D (or autostereoscopy) for the sequel, this did not come to fruition for “The Way of Water.”

As a person with glasses, I have never enjoyed seeing movies in 3D. The 3D glasses are often too big and cumbersome to wear over my own.

That being said, I was not dissapointed to see this movie in 3D. The visuals, coupled with the lifelike framerate of 48 frames per second, made for an entirely immersive viewing experience.

The Avatar franchise is rooted in themes of personal adaptability and the journey of discovering harmony with nature.

Many of the same elements from the first movie made their way into “The Way of Water.” Though inspiring, those elements felt a bit stale the second time around.

A common complaint of the first movie was its clunky dialogue. Though by no means worthy of a Best Screenplay nomination at the Academy Awards, “The Way of Water’’ is an improvement, likely thanks to the addition of co-writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

There are some moving moments of exposition, such as a line from Tsireya, a daughter of the Metkayina tribe.

“The way of water has no beginning and no end,” Tsireya said. “Our hearts beat in the womb of the world. Water connects all things, life to death, darkness to light. The sea gives and the sea takes.”

Where the plot is lacking, Cameron makes up for it with character development. The story feels primarily character-driven with plot coming second.

The character of Kiri (whose interesting origins will likely be explored throughout the franchise) and Sully’s youngest son Lo’ak are first introduced at the beginning of the movie and experience astonishing growth throughout the runtime.

Another prevalent theme is that of family, both blood and chosen.

Kiri and a new human character Spider are not directly part of the Sully family, but they have all developed a strong bond with each other. The members of the Metkayina tribe are exciting new additions to the dynamic as well.

While “The Way of Water ‘’ improved upon elements from the original, one character criminally underused compared to the original is Neytiri.

Though she and Sully both take a backseat to their children’s stories and development, Neytiri is even more so underutilized.

She is relegated from fierce warrior to a sideline character who is only utilized when an action scene or emotional levity is needed.

Given that this is a franchise, it is more forgiving, and hopefully she will play a larger role in the upcoming sequels.

The underrecognized beauty of franchises is that they allow for life to imitate art in an interesting way.

As the stories play out over the years, the audience watches characters grow, while also growing themselves. In the unique case of this sequel, 13 years have passed since the original.

In the film’s prologue, we see the growth the characters have undergone in our time away from Pandora, and anyone who saw the first movie in 2009 can also reflect on their growth during that time.

The same can be said for the six years between now and the release date for “Avatar 5.”

Rating: 4.5 / 5

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