- nicholas barber
- BBC Culture
It’s been 13 years since Avatar by James Cameron broke the box office record that he himself had set with titanic, the highest grossing film in history at the time. But now, after more than a decade of waiting, Cameron has returned to the jungle moon of Pandora..
Jake Sully’s (Sam Worthington) mind has been permanently installed in the blue body of an alien Na’avi. He is now the head of the clan and has four children with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña).
They spend their time lounging around in their underwear, thinking about how happy they are.
Inevitably, their Edenic tranquility and somewhat daring comes to an end when spaceships from planet Earth come roaring from the skies.
Invaders destroy miles of jungle in apocalyptic fires, much like those at the beginning of Terminator 2. Then, they stomp what they find with massive robotic exoskeletons, much like those of Aliens.
It soon becomes clear that “Avatar: The Waterway” is a medley of James Cameron greatest hits: as its title suggests, some sequences come straight from The Abyss or of titanic.
In Avatar We weren’t told much about Jake, but it was made clear that he was an over-energized soldier, so running away instead of going to fight Quaritch seemed pathetically cowardly, and out of character.
But more importantly, it robs the narrative of the urgency that the seriousness of the consequences gave it when it was leading its troops against the bad guys.
Cameron asks the viewer to forget about the genocidal conquerors burning the jungles of Pandora while we enjoy the Sully family’s beach vacation.
Scene after scene, Jake, Neytiri and their brood walk across the sand and swim in the radiant sea. The younger Sullys flirt and have fights with the mermaid children through rudimentary dialogue made mostly of the anglicisms “bro” (contraction for brother) and “cuz” (contraction for cousin).
One of Jake’s sons connects with a lone whale. And they all share “new age” hippie clichés, while giving solemn lectures on the history and geography of Pandora.
It’s like a “Return of the Jedi” reissue where Luke, Han, and Leia hang out in the Ewok village for hours.
They promise you an allegory of the Vietnam War with hints of the exciting science fiction of Philip K. Dick. What they offer you is the tender and insipid story of a boy and a whale swimming together through the waters.
Of course it’s cute and scenic, and you can clearly see all of James Cameron’s technological obsessions.
There’s cutting-edge computer graphics, digital 3D, hyper-real clarity, and so on, but these tools tend to take you out of the action, rather than into it: as impressive as the graphics are, the action never feels real because it’s halfway through. the path between a cartoon and a real life movie.
And it’s not like “The Way of Water” looks much better than Avatar, a movie that was seriously shocking in 2009. And when it comes to designs, they’re never quite as magical as those Roger Dean-inspired landscapes we saw when we first landed. in Pandora.
One of the problems is the shift from forests to the ocean. Earth’s oceans are already so full of incredible creatures that the ones Cameron and his team came up with aren’t all that surprising. It’s fun, in the same way as in “The Little Mermaid” to see a group of tattooed whales with four eyes, doing an aquatic ballet; but it’s not as amazing as seeing pictures of a real whale.
Those spectacular interludes also contribute to the soporific pace of the film. “El Camino del Agua” lasts about 192 minutes, half an hour more than the Avatar original, but, after the opening scenes where humans land on Pandora, the plot has barely moved forward.
For the three hours, the plot is just about the Sullys going on their family vacation, Qaritch finding them, and all of them facing off in a climactic, but small battle at sea. And that’s it. There are no complicated military strategies, or deep conversations, or nuanced characters: Terminator he had more personality than anyone in “El Camino del Agua”.
And any type of plots that are not related to whales are left unfinished. One of Jake’s daughters, for example, for some reason ends up being the biological daughter of Grace (Sigourney Weaver), who died in the last installment. But who is her biological father? And how can she telepathically communicate with the wildlife of Pandora?
You won’t find out in this movie because “The Way of Water” is now officially part of a “Lord of the Rings”-type franchise that doesn’t bother to stand on its own.
Yes, we’ve had to wait 13 years for a sequel to Avatarbut apparently there are three more scheduled to be released in 2024, 2026 and 2028.
If “El Camino del Agua” is the example to follow, it’s not a rosy future, but let’s hope Cameron uses those sequels to make at least one key point: how can humans in the 22nd century travel to Alpha Centauri? , in ships loaded with robots and clones but have not been able to develop glass strong enough to withstand the impact of a wooden arrow?
Remember that you can receive notifications from BBC News World. Download the new version of our app and activate them so you don’t miss out on our best content.