It must be Christmas, as Outposter contributions are flowing in. You know that nothing fills us with the joys of the season, and makes our chestnuts roast on an open fire, quite like an Outposter contribution. If you want to tell the world about something to do with movies, television, streaming and entertainment then please let us know at [email protected], just like Jobiwan82 here. He’s one of our beloved Outposters and is on the advanced ticket roster in the Dallas, TX area. He, too, has seen Avatar: The Way Of Water.
Yesterday, one of our OG Outposters got his first look at Avatar: The Way Of Water and he liked it, despite some clear issues with the movie. What does a second set of eyes think? Here’s Jobiwan82.
Avatar: The Way Of Water
Greetings Outposters! As Americans line up in droves in the middle of a nose-diving economy to hand over sweaty handfuls of cash to James Cameron, I thought it might be helpful to refresh everyone’s memory of the broad strokes from the first Avatar movie.
-Humans want to take over Pandora.
-Jake has an avatar body. “A marine in a Na’vi body, that’s a potent mix.”
-Mean Military Man manipulates someone to get intel on the forest tribe.
-Jake is reluctantly tolerated by the forest tribe. “You’re like a baby.”
-Jake learns the ways of the forest tribe and learns how to ride the forest creatures.
-Jake is accepted as a member of the forest tribe.
-Jake’s actions lead to mean humans desecrating the forest environment.
-Mean humans want a rare substance that can only be found here. “See this Doc? This is why we’re here. This is what pays for all your research.”
-Jake convinces the forest tribe to save the forest by fighting the humans.
-The human fleet attacks the forest.
-Mrs. Jake is overcome with grief after the death of a family member.
-The forest creatures help fight the humans.
-Mean Military Man has a vendetta against Jake because he feels betrayed.
-Mean Military Man is defeated by Jake with the help of Mrs. Jake.
-Jake struggles to breathe, but survives with the help of family.
-“I see you.”
We all caught up now? Great!
When Avatar was released (for the first time), it was another life where I was working as a general manager at a modest 10 screen multiplex. I got to witness first hand the repeat customers that would come back to see the movie 10+ times. I can’t justify its success then, I don’t understand it now.
Back in 2009, I could understand the appeal of ground breaking visual effects: beautifully rendered all-CGI scenes, and a well-executed 3D experience. However but I was/am still baffled by how many people kept coming back to a movie that had nothing else going for it. From day one, I’ve fallen squarely in the “Avatar is Dances With Wolves in space” camp.
When it comes to visual effects, I will give a movie some extra leeway on the story if the look/style/visuals offer something we’ve not seen before. The movie that comes to mind for me is 2010’s Tron: Legacy, I love that movie. Some people (not me) dismiss the story as just another retelling of the hero’s journey, but you can’t deny that the aesthetics of The Grid and the modern interpretation and execution of 1982s Tron designs weren’t amazing.
I can’t give the same leeway to Avatar as Tron: Legacy because, to me, the story in Avatar (2009) is such a tired cliché of plots that have been better executed in previous movies. It’s a visual effects endeavor first, and the story is in service to that endeavor.
All that said, when I heard that Cameron was making more Avatar movies, I was mildly interested. While I didn’t care for the original, I was willing to give it a pass if the lackluster story was just the gateway to get us into a new universe of stories to tell. Sure Mr. Cameron, make more blue space cat people movies. Why not?
I had the chance to see Avatar: The Way of Water at an advance screening with some buddies this past Tuesday night. Holy crap is this a frustrating movie if you’re watching it with any kind of critical thinking. If you’re going for pure entertainment and leave your brain at the concession stand, you’ll probably have an ok time. I will tell you that if you liked the first Avatar movie, you’ll most likely enjoy this one, because…
…IT. IS. THE. SAME. MOVIE… just told in a different setting.
As far as the visuals go, I’d have to see a side-by-side comparison of the first and second movie.
To me, I just don’t see a breakthrough that warrants the 13 year gap between these two movies. Maybe Cameron was hoping audiences would forget the plot of Avatar and wouldn’t notice that he served a reheated version of it. I noticed that the overall textures within the renders looked better, particularly the execution of hair. Sure, the stuff in water looked good, but that was pretty much mandatory right? Didn’t James Cameron invent a new camera system for this movie?
Full disclosure, I’m a full-time video editor, but I’m not going to claim to be a VFX expert who can point out all the intricacies of fluid simulations or how light back-scattering was improved. It looked good, but it’s nothing that will make you re-evaluate your place in this universe, like others have claimed.
What serves as a major hinderance to all these visuals is the confusing decision to incorporate high frame rate filming into the movie. I missed any reporting with regard to HFR being used in the movie leading up to the release, so it caught me completely off guard. I was under the impression that HFR was a failed experiment, and The Hobbit trilogy was the lab rat that died?
So when the opening shots came into view during my Dolby 3D viewing and I thought I was looking at a video game, I was unpleasantly surprised. Thankfully the movie doesn’t feature HFR throughout, the shots that were presented in standard frame rate looked so much better in this reviewer’s opinion. However Cameron is constantly switching back and forth between HFR and standard, many times switching from shot to shot within the same sequence, which I found to be jarring and frustrating.
I’m going to be covering more of the story moving forward, so spoiler warning….although like I said earlier, it’s the same story.
Ok, go back to the top of this write up and re-read the bullet points, except this time replace “forest” with “water” and you’ve got the story for Avatar: The Way of Water.
The humans are back… because.
Somehow… Col. Quaritch returned.
Yes, Col. Quaritch is back with an avatar body (cloning…err…memory/personality backup) which is explained to the audience with as much subtlety as Giovani Ribisi knocking on the camera lens and shouting to the back row.
However, this opens a plot hole for the first movie. Why couldn’t they use a backup of Jake’s brother (which they must have had on-hand since he was so crucial to the program, right?) instead of roping in the completely unprepared Jake for this whole project?
Quaritch and his avatar squad is again tasked with clearing out the indigenous population to make room for the evil colonizers who are fleeing their dying world… but he’s got a score to settle with Jake.
Upon witnessing the return of the humans, Jake sees his presence as a threat to his forest tribe. He takes his family to seek refuge with the coastal Na’vi tribe, who seem a little (OK… a lot!) inspired by the Maori culture. Then you’ve got an extended period of the Sulley’s learning The Way of Water and bonding with sea critters.
We then find out that instead of mining for unobtainium, which funded everything in the first movie, the humans are killing the space whales to extract the whale brain juice. This liquid platinum is explained as a kind of “elixir of life”, and NOW is funding everything, including a self-loathing marine biologist’s salary. We’ve got some scenes evoking some obvious parallels to the evil whaling industry mixed with the evil white man slaughtering the buffalo (“You’re only taking the juice and leaving everything else?”).
All this leads to the big climactic showdown with Jake and the water tribe versus Quaritch and the fleet of big bad humans. During this fight, Cameron takes the opportunity to remind us of his OTHER big money maker and we get to see another giant boat sinking and our heroes trying to survive while trapped inside.
End Of Spoilers
At the end of the day, the story of Avatar: The Way of Water is a rinse and repeat of Avatar, which itself is a rehash of Dances With Wolves or Fern Gully (take your pick), mixed with a save the whales message and Titanic.
It boasts some beautifully rendered visuals, an over-indulgent runtime, as well as some big Hollywood blockbuster action, all of which are sullied by the random switching back and forth of high and standard frame rates.
A good movie cannot rely on visuals alone, and sequel should strive to tell a better story than the original. If this movie had chosen to tell a story on Pandora other than “humans bad!” I could’ve gotten on board with it more.
Maybe the different clans going on a quest to save the sacred life force, or some kind of war between the different clans? Maybe there are other species besides Na’vi on Pandora that would make good antagonists? But maybe those are just the thoughts of a testosterone-poisoned dude.