A couple of quick reminders. Given it has been more than a decade since ‘Avatar’ (2009) here is a very brief refresher.

Pandora is a planet of great exotic beauty inhabited by nine-foot-tall, blue creatures called the Na’vi who do not appreciate men in their home. Man is there to mine the planet and clear forests for humans to inhabit later. Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) was a soldier with paralyzed legs offered a chance to walk again if he helped the military. He allows himself to be transported into the body of an Avatar Na’vi to permit him to become one of them. He falls in love with one of them, and rather than return to the vile military, he joins forces with Nav’vi becoming one of them and one with the planet.

Movie miracles still happen and ‘Avatar – The Way of the Water’, the long-awaited sequel to the highest money maker is finally with us, and a miraculous film leaving one thoroughly entertained and in awe.

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Though I cannot claim to be a fan of the work of director James Cameron, neither can I deny as a film director he is an absolute visionary who has given audiences images we could have dreamed of seeing. Cameron might struggle with narrative in his writing but certainly not the visual element of his films, which have always been remarkable. I emerged from ‘Avatar’ (2009) stunned by the visuals of the film, but with ‘Avatar – The Wat of the Water’, his new film, he went a step further, as this film is a towering achievement filled with awe-inspiring visuals that take one’s breath away. Through his filmography, Cameron has excelled at giving audiences one hell of a ride, from ‘The Terminator’ (1984), ‘Aliens’ (1986), ‘The Abyss’ (1989), ‘Terminator 2 – Judgement Day’ (1991), ‘True Lies’ (1994), his Oscar-winning triumph ‘Titanic’ (1997) and ‘Avatar’ (2009), now more than a decade since first screened. Despite weaknesses in the narrative, audiences and critics, including myself include emerged from screening stunned by the staggering beauty and scope of the film’s visuals.

Now with this long waited sequel, we plunge back into Cameron’s immersive world of Avatar, for a film greater than the first, and among the best of the year. Whereas ‘Avatar’ (2009) tore its narrative from ‘Dances with Wolves’ (1990), a man finding new meaning and peace with another “tribe connected deeply to the land, ‘The Way of the Water’, is a chase movie and the most beautiful I have ever seen.

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Having forsaken his human self to become Na’vi, one of the people, he has mated with Ney’tiri, portrayed by Zoe Saldana with a great soul, and the couple has four children together. As they try to rebuild the shattered forest around them, destroyed by the humans aka “Sky people” a blend of corporate goons and military maniacs clearing the planet for more humans to live Jake and his family are again sent running when the military, led by the dangerous, Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang) come looking for him. Yes, I too thought he died in the first film, but they explain it here. They seek not the Na’vi but specifically Jake.

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Jake and his family flee deeper into Pandora, finding another tribe similar to the Na’vi but more connected to the vast oceans. They agree to help Jake, grudgingly, and their alliance is not strong. While with these people, Jake sees their extraordinary connection to the aquatic life near them, just as the Na’vi were so connected to the forest creatures. The underwater scenes seem to glow from within, and the creatures under the sea are magnificent creations, both dangerous and spectacular to behold. Jake learns to master the creatures and rides one, gliding through the water with masterly confidence.

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The narrative does not do much else but my God the beauty of this film!! I must have gasped out loud a dozen or more times unable to believe quite what I was seeing. It is filled with wonders you must see to truly believe them. The visual effects are arguably the greatest ever put on film, the dizzying cinematography is nothing short of a miracle, the sights and sounds astonishing and the score wonderful. Expect the film to sweep most of the craft Oscars this year, and to be in the running for Best Picture and Best Director. The cast does their jobs well, aware I suppose that the effects and action are the primary force of the film. Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang and Sigourney Weaver are all back, with Kate Winslet and Cliff Curtis being the new additions to the cast.

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The question about James Cameron has been posed again, is he a great director? In the fifties, Cecil B. Demille made huge spectacle films that audiences love, ‘Samson and Delilah’ (1950) and ‘The Ten Commandments’ (1956) among them his Oscar-winning Best Picture ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ (1952) between them. No one thought Demille was a great director but he could put on a helluva show. I think the same is true of Cameron. Only once in ‘Titanic’ (1997) have I cared about his characters, a director’s flaw, so while he creates astounding sequences, he is limited in exploring emotions among his characters. I do not think he understands actors, but that is just me.

Still, this is a hell of a film that reminds you of the miracles movies can give us. Sit back and let it wash over you for three hours, it feels like two.

Breathtaking!

The Cinemawala Rating: 4/5

About The Author: 

John H. Foote is among the best known film critics in Canada, and has been active as a critic for thirty years. His career began as co-host, co-producer of the popular movie talk and review program Reel to Real. He left the show after ten years for his first love, print criticism, he longed to write about movies. For two years he wrote for Toronto Life and Fashion Magazine, his work quote in the LA and New York Times, as well as major papers across North America. He was offered a position writing for the internet and has since wrote for incontention.com, thewrap.com, screenrant.com, awardscircuit.com and most recently thecinemaholic.com. In May, 2018 he started his own site https://Footeandfriendsonfilm.com, which has enjoyed great success its first few months. Foote was also involved in film education teaching film history and film genre at Trebas Institute before leaving to be Dean of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history and continued his work as a critic. Foote has written two books, Clint Eastwood : Evolution of a Filmmaker, and Spielberg: American Film Visionary. His third, American Cinema in the Seventies is due for release in 2020. 

Through his career he has interviewed everyone in the business except Jack Nicholson. 

 

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