Back in 2009, director James Cameron released the most groundbreaking movie spectacle Avatar, the likes of which the world had not seen. None of us can forget that immersive experience of the wondrous world of Pandora that he created with its bioluminescent flora, fantastical fauna, and blue colored Navi inhabitants, coupled with an emotional story of mankind and its relationship with Nature. The entire world watched agape, and gladly forked over nearly $3 billion to make it the number one box office hit of all time, a record which it still retains. (It's one of those standard travesties by the AMPAS that the Best Picture Oscar that year went to the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker and Best Director to its director Kathryn Bigelow). In the 13 years since, an entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been spawned, with more technology at its disposal, (only the first Iron Man (2008) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) pre-dates it) but none of the 30 movies in it so far have come close to replicating its cinematic impact or box office, except Avengers: Endgame (2019).
A sequel to such a landmark, one of a kind movie was always going to be fraught with outsize expectations. The ability to capture lightning in a bottle more than once is no mean task. There's a reason that only 2 sequels have ever won Best Picture Oscars - The Godfather Part II (1974) and The Lord of the Rings : The Return of the King (2003), and of those 2, only the original The Godfather (1972) also won Best Picture. But this is James Cameron we are talking about here, not Sajid Khan. The man has given us classics such as The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), and Terminator 2 : Judgment Day (1992). Oh sorry, did I forget the other tiny movie that he made about a ship in 1912 hitting an iceberg, that everyone knew how it ended before watching, but still made it the biggest ever box office hit before his own Avatar dethroned it? You may have heard of it - it was called Titanic (1997). Cameron takes up the challenge with gusto. One of the main reasons for the large gap between the movies was the development of the technological ability to use the performance capture technique underwater. All the actors also had to learn to hold their breath underwater for minutes at a stretch. In fact, Kate Winslet at 7 minutes 47 seconds broke the previous record held by Tom Cruise of 6 minutes for Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015).
The story picks up more than a decade from where the original left off with Jake (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) having a family with 5 kids - 3 sons and 2 daughters, of which 1 son and 1 daughter are adopted. (Revealing their biological parents would be a spoiler.) The Sky People aka humans (why are the humans always US citizens only? 😀) return to shatter their idyllic Omaticaya clan's forest home and they are forced to flee. They seek refuge on a different part of Pandora in a sea world ruled by the Metkayina clan. Reluctant to accept them first in order to not invite the war to their doorstep, the Metkayina finally relent. Jake and his family begin to learn their ways. This part of the movie is slower paced and focused more on the kids, but the sumptuous visuals make up for it. And the final hour is a power packed adrenaline rush. Yes, some editing could have been done from each sequence to trim about 30 mins that would have shortened the overall 3 hr 12 min duration to make it equal to the original, but who am I to quibble with a genius. As the Metkayina say, "The way of water has no beginning and no end". With at least 3 more sequels planned, I am not looking for them to end any time soon, even if I have to be reborn as an avatar.
December 28, 2022