The prequel to James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water (the 2009 science fiction epic) begins with the same promise of a new world, a new family, and a new life. Sam Worthington plays paraplegic US Marine officer Jake Sully, who arrived to the planet Pandora in search of the most elusive element—love—instead of the rich substance unobtanium. He saw the colonising tendencies of humans, opposed their invasion, and fell in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldaa), a member of the native Na’vi race. After more than ten years, Jake and Neytiri have brought up four kids. The quality of life seems good. But the “sky people,” or people, again cause their joy to be disturbed.
Avatar and its follow-up, which were both released 13 years apart, are from distinct eras. Both cinema cultures and viewers have evolved over such a long time. When I was a graduate student back then, I was anxiously awaiting the release of Avatar. I currently struggle with my gnawing pessimism as a jaded critic. Avatar felt like an event even if it weren’t because the movie industry was fundamentally changed. The innumerable superhero tent-pole spectacles had not dulled our interest or our sense of wonder, and 3-D movies still had their allure and novelty.
Time itself is Avatar: The Way of Water’s first obstacle in a number of ways. because of its 192-minute runtime, which is comparable to certain web series’ length. As I entered this movie, I also thought back to my contradictory feelings toward Avatar. I had adored it in 2009, but I never went back or even thought about it. Was the marketing blitzkrieg effective in deceiving me, or had I actually watched good science fiction?
It’s not made simple by the opening scene of the sequel, which is set in Pandora. The younger Na’vis, who are Jake and Neytiri’s kids, use dated (and false-ringing) language with a lot of “bro.” I reasoned, “Why not just have them speak in Na’vi and let us read the subtitles or compose their conversation in a way that portrays an uncanny youthful vitality”
There is yet more to it. Jake and his family escape the sky people and take up residence with the Metkayina clan, who inhabit an island with water that is as clear as glass and vegetation that glows with bioluminescence. I also assumed that the movie would follow a formula there: the Metkayina people would initially despise the “outsiders,” then make friends with them, and finally band together to combat the shared foe. We’ll hear the usual Hollywood banter along the way, followed by a protracted, intense finale. I watched the same movie 13 years ago, right?
I was both right and… incorrect. Because Avatar: The Way of Water is honest and committed to the stories it wants to portray, particularly those encased in summer or winter blockbusters that are fading from our screens. The Avatar franchise, unlike the Marvel extravaganzas, does not subtly support the status quo. In reality, it contests the American military-industrial complex, which is one of its basic tenets. Or, put another way, it reveals the classic “heroes” for what they truly are: villains. The US military is still as avaricious, heartless, and ruthless in this instance as it was in the precursor. They don’t appear to be wearing the cloaks of rescue and freedom, unlike many Hollywood films, making their colonisation operations seem stark and frightening.