As a bit of backstory behind this review—I loved the original Avatar and would have given it a 5-star review back in 2009. I watched it at least twice in the cinema in 3D, and I’ve been patiently waiting since.
For homework, I rewatched the original a couple of nights before seeing Avatar 2. It was a mixed bag in terms of how well it had aged. The special effects sometimes felt a little flat, but its close-up animation and camera work still feel cutting-edge in 2022.
I remember Avatar got a lot of flack for its dialogue at the time. I thought it was bad too, but its excellent pacing and technology made it easy to overlook.
With (exactly) the same story and even worse dialogue, Avatar 2 is much harder to accept thirteen years later.
Back in Kansas
Halfway through Avatar 2: The Way of Water, I started counting the times a character said, “I got this”. At no less than four times, you might begin to understand just how bad the dialogue is. The number of quips put James Bond to shame. Everyone calls each other “bro”, and it’s so try-hard “down with the kids” that no amount of special effects can save it.
Then you have the random trite slogans. “The way of water has no beginning and no end.” seems to be the initial takeaway. Then “Sullys stick together” is thrown into the mix halfway through. I think more accurately, “Somebody shoot something”—another awful line—is how I feel about everything. The dialogue is so bad that it’s outright distracting.
Hot off the cheesy dialogue, one of the things I truly despise about lazy sequels is mirroring. Mirroring is where movies try to “throwback” to the original to create a theme.
I understand the desire to do this, but it never creates a better movie. Instead, it’s like listening to someone with Alzheimer’s repeat themselves—mildly irritating but mostly sad.
I cannot believe the extent to which Way of The Water is a mirror of the thirteen-year-old original. Not only have they brought back the same villain—a basic-bitch marine cutout—but all the plot points are the same. Jake (’s son) travels to a new land (water instead of the forest) and there just so happens to be a beguiling shy blue woman that flirts and falls in love with him, despite the onlooking tribe’s disapproval. They catch each other’s eyes and copulate by riding creatures together. The whole family must slowly gain the trust and earn their place in the new world while defending against Colonel Twat again.
It’s. Exactly. The. Same. They even brought back Grace’s Sigourney Weaver and tried to make her more interesting with mysterious abilities. And it’s hardly a spoiler to say they finish the film with the same sequence of a character’s eyes suddenly opening to the sound of a drum. Yawn.
3D is Dead
I remember enjoying Avatar in 3D a decade ago, so I insisted on seeing Avatar 2 in IMAX 3D. I was surprised, however—to feel contempt for it this time. I’m not sure if it’s an age thing, but just like Dolby Atmos is for audio, I found visual 3D a mixture of distracting perspective and nausea, and I wish I’d seen it in plain IMAX instead. Nothing has happened in the 3D space since 2009’s Avatar, and it’s no surprise. Whereas I can easily see IMAX as the future, 3D is left dead in the water, pun unintended.
For all my criticism, though, I would say Avatar 2 is worth seeing for its (2D) special effects, especially in its spectacular second half. Just don’t pay top dollar to see it in the cinema.
Overall my sentiment is—if Avatar’s special effects are ten years ahead of anything else, then its dialogue is forty years behind, floundering in the worst of 80s Hollywood.
While the Sullies might stick together, Jay George is leaving this franchise.
Technical wizardry ruined by atrocious dialogue and a lazy mirroring story. Hisssssss [that’s me making the same sound as an angry Avatar].