[Critique] “Avatar: The Way of Water”: a movie that takes on water

They are back, Neytiri and Jack, the blue lovers. The latter was once a man who lived by proxy in the skin of an avatar designed in the image of the Na’vis, a people living on the planet Pandora, exploited by humans for precious mineral. It was in 2154, when the Earth had been emptied of its resources. Ten years have passed since the revolt led by Neytiri and Jack, who is now and forever a Na’vi. Despite yesterday’s victory, the threat looms over Pandora again: damn humans! Here are the spouses and their numerous offspring welcomed, far from the forest, by the Na’vis who live in harmony with the ocean. Thirteen years after the megahit ofAvatar, Has James Cameron managed to outdo himself?

Visually, without a doubt: in IMAX 3D, Avatar: The Path of Water (Avatar. the path of water) unfolds a universe valued at about $400 million that is even more immersive than it was in 2009.

In essence, this second part obeys the unspoken rule of sequels, namely: more of everything. Thus we have the right to more action, more characters, more subplots, more locations and, of course, more special effects, effects that surpass those, already innovative, of the first film.

At the heart of the film is the same environmental message as before. In this sense, James Cameron has been a convinced activist for years, just like one of his idols, the brilliant animation filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, The castle in the sky), whose influence was very —too much for the taste of many— notorious in the early Avatar.

I’m already on it terminatortackled the question of humanity’s end through these visions of a devastated future dominated by once man-made war robots. terminator 2 For the account, it is an eloquent example of a suite that offers the public “more of everything”. It could even be added to the lot, although Cameron hadn’t directed the first, aliensthat multiplies monsters, trepidations and explosions in a context of intergalactic colonization gone wrong, a bit like in Avatarhere.

Again here as a recurring motif, the director, who in most of his films has designed or contributed to many technical advances, presents technology as a double-edged sword capable of losing as much as saving people. The sequel toAvatar continues in this line, but suggests a rejection of the science of humans in favor of a science of the elements: according to the scientist Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), whom we briefly review, the planet Pandora would form a “whole” that would think, feel and act in concert.

It is a safe bet that this hypothesis will be further explored in later sections.

Spectacular special effects

As in 2009, the spectacular special effects are the main reason to see the film. Omnipresent, yet seem invisible: the vast background panoramas, the plant and underwater textures (the aquatic scenes are truly magnificent), the grain of the Na’vi skin… Everything is a palpable reality.

As for the Na’vis, the performers once again freely lent themselves to the exercise of capturing movements to confer a hyper-authentic fluidity of gestures and expressions.

The story in all this? After being criticized for the somewhat simplistic (and borrowed) plot from his first work, it’s as if James Cameron wanted to go in the opposite direction by increasing the side stories and the stakes, hence the impression of scattering. Soldiers on the warpath, Na’vi parents, children and teenagers (very archetypal) – they all seem to be playing in their own movie. One of the children seems to be playing in a Redo na’vi of Set Willy free (my friend willy)!

Finally, with a delay, there will be convergence in the result. The worst part is that despite the general side of the scenario, it turns out to be very predictable.

Cameron also borrows many narrative elements from his previous films, aliens and to titanic in particular (in the end, it’s embarrassing). Huge coincidences, like those two occasions where the children of Neytiri and Jack end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, just as the vile Colonel Miles Quaritch (back, and still cartoonish) is there to capture them, roll his eyes. .to heaven. Oh, and there’s this character whose identity we’ll keep quiet who, without warning, develops and masters providential superpowers.

More talkative, more cheesy

The movie is also chattier than usual for Cameron, who, here and there, succumbs to preaching. He insists, he stands out, he overexplains the message through the mouth of his characters, he narrates in off-screen through Jack… There is a lot of talk and there are redundant episodes: the conflict between the perfect older son and the rebellious younger one, the tension between the latter and his Dad, Jack (Sam Worthington): Seen it, all right.

And the fearsome Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña)? Her prodigious archery skills are called upon at the beginning and end, period. In the meantime, she has become a good mother and wife who listens to her man: the film deals with many themes such as family honor, father is right and the head (not head) of the clan: puzzling and old-fashioned, coming . from a champion filmmaker of emancipated, badass female characters. To make sure we’ve got it right, Cameron has Jack state, in conclusion: “A father’s role is to protect the family from him. What does it matter if, in this case, it is the mother who is the best warrior.

As for the three plus hours, seriously, all things being said, a two hour movie would have sufficed.

Since James Cameron had announced that there would be four sequels to Avatar, we might have feared a fishtail ending. However, the director offers a work that closes satisfactorily.

Avatar. The Path of Water (Avatar: The Path of Water)

★★ 1/2

Science fiction by James Cameron. With Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet, Edie Falco. United States, 2022, 192 minutes. In theaters from December 16.

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