‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Review: Big Blue Marvel | Popgen Tech


With a running time of more than three hours — about 10 minutes shorter than “Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles,” according to the recent acclamation the greatest film of all time — “The Way of Water ” is overloaded with character and incident. The final stretch, which feels longer than the rest, veers into action movie bombast, and suggests that even a pop auteur as inventive and resourceful as Cameron might have run out of ideas when it came to climactic fight sequences. There are many of them, in the air and under water, passionate and fiery, sad and provocative, almost every one will remind you of things you have seen a dozen times.

That’s too bad, because much of the heart of “The Way of Water” restores the latent promise of the new — no small feat in an era of tiresome franchise overkill. Fearing that Quaritch and his men will bring carnage to the forest, Jake and Neytiri seek protection from Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), leaders of a reef-dwelling clan of Na’ vi.

The differences between the Na’vi — physical as well as cultural — add an interesting new dimension to the anthropology of Pandora, and to the film’s aesthetic palette. The viewer discovers this variety in the company of the younger characters, especially Kiri and Lo’ak. Their adaptation to the new environment — teased for their spindly tails and clumsy arms, fighting and making new friends — gives the film the lively, energetic sincerity of young-adult fiction.

Cameron’s embrace of the idealism of adolescence, of the capacity for moral outrage as well as wonder, is the film’s emotional heart. You can feel it in a gruesome killing spree scene that aspires to the gruesome, haunting grandeur of the final chapters of “Moby-Dick,” and also in the anxiety of Lo’ak, Spider and Kiri as they try to figure out their duties. . Later sequels, I suspect, will give them more time for that, but may also weigh them down with more baggage.

I wonder, and am inclined — like in 2009 — to give this grand, messy project the benefit of the doubt. Cameron’s ambitions are as sincere as they are self-contradictory. He wants to conquer the world in the name of the underdog, to celebrate nature with the most intelligence, and to make everything new old again.

Avatar: The Way of Water
Rated PG-13. Almost blue. Running time: 3 hours 12 minutes. In theaters.


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