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James Cameron is betting the farm and the clothes on the backs of everyone over at 20th Century Studios with the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, and with almost five years of production, a massive special effects budget, and an extreme level of patience, fans are finally getting the chance to return to the world of Pandora to discover for themselves if this “flight of passage” will be worth the price of admission, time, and waiting.
Avatar: The Way of Water comes in at a hefty three hours and ten minutes, at a time where cinema is lagging and the box office is hurting. A runtime of this scale, especially for a visually challenging science fiction fantasy film is a huge risk. Even after almost a year of recovery from the pandemic, the movie going experience has taken some major hits, with many viewers and studios headed to the couch in favor of streaming debuts and short form series over sequels and silver screen releases.
It doesn’t matter the IP, the marketing budget, or what superstars come onto a project. It has been increasingly difficult to succeed. DC’s Black Adam is a pillar of example, which had all three powerhouse forces and still failed to capture the success Hollywood was hoping for.
For tested cinema veterans like Cameron, The Way of Water is a challenge that is as intriguing as it is sobering, bringing forward the question on what the fate of cinema will be moving forward and if Hollywood is willing to invest in bigger budget productions versus smaller scaled concepts that are safer with returns.
Fortunately for Cameron, this long awaited sequel has not only met the expectations set, but has surpassed them tremendously. Avatar: The Way of Water is a triumph and one that scores a win for moviegoers everywhere in a time where Hollywood needs a firm reminder of the magic that only silver screen spectacle can provide.
The Way of Water makes leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor on all counts, with visuals that are so clear, crisp, and real, you actually believe Nicole Kidman’s AMC Theatres commercial whole heartedly. That indescribable feeling hits with every second of on screen visual, cutting the boundaries even thinner for what’s possible and making every cent of the film’s behemoth budget go to work ten times over.
With the original Avatar being so famously praised for its state of the art special effects and 3D prowess, it’s not exactly a surprise that The Way of Water follows in its footsteps, but all the same, it is truly remarkable how far computer graphics and special effects have come.
Straight from the halls of Industrial Light and Magic with the legendary works of films like Jurassic Park, Willow, and Terminator 2, this film once again takes risks and is a giant leap ahead for a medium that never ceases to amaze us again and again and again. The end result is a visually captivating kaleidoscope that tells its own story unapologetically while setting up a fun, but emotional ride that will keep you intrigued from start to finish.
It accomplishes by not making the visuals the primary drive of the film, and instead, uses them along with its two primary stories to paint a narrative that is cohesive, engaging, and worthy of the runtime. Both stories also contrast in pacing, creating an interesting flow and dynamic that is carefully crafted to keep the audience fully immersed in the world of Avatar.
The faster paced storyline focuses the ongoing battle between the “Sky People” and the native Na’Vi, with plenty of unsettled scores from the original Avatar finding their way back into the spotlight.
The second story vein dives deep into the family bonds of Sully and his family, bringing the pacing to an interesting rhythm, exploring the rich world of Pandora and its connections to the Na’Vi in ways that mirror the world building pacing that is very reminiscent of stories like Lord of the Rings.
It all blends together perfectly, giving fans a chance to get the epic CG battles sci-fi flicks are well known for with action packed fighting and high stakes moments, while at the same time, taking the time to focus on the more intimate moments that viewers can resonate with and connect to. It creates a genuine sense of reality in what otherwise would be pure fantasy, and that’s the key factor at what makes this film succeed.
It also uses the runtime to its advantage, bringing the story together in a way that gives viewers a chance to be fully introduced to every new element, character, and idea without feeling lost or bogged down and overloaded.
No one element overpowers, and each is carefully curated into a larger objective, which is what brings us all into the movie theater, excited and ready to see what comes next. There’s magic at the movies, and a future that still can be just as bright and gleaming as what’s come before.