Avatar: An atmospheric journey

By Robert Richmond

I probably haven’t done 3D in a decade but for this film I say with my mouth agape from the first five minutes and continued through the rest of the runtime the rain scene especially blowing me away. This is the most visually groundbreaking thing I think I’ve ever seen in a cinema? I genuinely don’t know how they did it, the blending of the human and Na’vi characters in the same scene… It’s uncanny. Pandora hasn’t felt so alive and you genuinely forget you’re watching visual effects. No more excuses for big budget films to have poor greenscreen, this is the new gold standard.

James Cameron knows the key to a good sequel is to throw in some kids. He did it with Aliens, he did it with Terminator 2 and he does it here. Sigourney Weaver as Kiri is a galaxy brain casting move, Sam Worthington is really good in this, Quaritch is just a great villain, a man who comes back to life via sheer hatred. Neytiri gets a lil sidelined which is the only downside of the ensemble cast, though her third act scenes elevate her to Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley levels, two of Cameron’s most iconic female characters.

The first two acts are incredibly atmospheric. Its first helps you settle back into the world of Pandora, looking prettier than ever, while catching up with all the original characters. Second act introduces us to the Water Tribe and they are something else. I like their chill aura, their cool colours and the slight variations in their designs. Not content with that, Cameron goes balls to the wall with an absolutely stellar third act, a culmination of his entire filmography and a masterclass in satisfying setup and payoff.

I love all the scenes with whales and the sea creatures, you feel a strong bond with them so when the villains do some absolutely despicable things to kick off act three, you want nothing more than to see them suffer and get what’s something to them… and Cameron absolutely delivers.

There’s also just zero pretension here, no cynicism. It’s a completely earnest movie: one so wholly sincere that it’s refreshing. I rewatched the original Avatar in preparation for this and was struck by how earnest it was as well, but the sequel continues that trend. It wears its heart on its sleeve and there’s no snark. All of the jokes are character based and that’s why most of them land: “How’s the other guy look?” got such a big laugh at my screening along with “I can’t believe I’m tied up again!”

A technicolour marvel in a sea of drab greys, a sincere blockbuster in an age of snark, a groundbreaking achievement in an era of rehashes, Avatar: The Way of Water shows James Cameron hasn’t missed a beat and that spectacle isn’t dead. The king of the blockbusters is back and he ain’t messing around.

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