Review: Avatar 2 was blue and boring


Photo from IMDb.

Remarkable CGI can only carry a movie for so long and “Avatar: The Way of Water” is three hours too long to be carried.

The sequel takes place about a decade after the events of the first movie. Protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), chief of the forest Na’vi, and wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) now have children. Some scenes of Pandora’s spidery blue trees and glowing vines later, Sully and Neytiri see an abnormality in the sky, which, to their horror, marks the return of human spaceships. Over the course of a montage, the humans build a city on the planet, motivating Sully and his people to engage in a kind of guerrilla warfare to thwart the humans’ colonization plan, making his family targets. Sully and his family leave the forest to seek safety with the water Na’vi.

Oh, and the dead colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the primary antagonist of the first movie, has his consciousness implanted into the body of a Na’vi. Now that he’s up and running (again), he’s ordered to kill Sully. So, the sequel begins with the same cast of heroes and villains as the first movie. Just, now, it all takes place in the presence of a couple of emotive whales. How exciting.

The majority of this elephant-sized movie consists of the Sully family fumbling around in the home of the water Na’vi. While this exploration of Pandorian culture is exciting, it gets tiring. I mean, hot pink seaweed and odd-looking fish are only interesting for so many minutes. As my high hopes for the movie quickly dwindled, I consoled myself with the only conflict present: tense interactions between Sully’s children and the children of the water Na’vi that seem to have been cut and paste from the latest eye-roll teen drama.

Despite that, the movie earned a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 92% which speaks to the excellence of its CGI. The visuals breathe life into the planet of Pandora and the events of the movie, boring as they might be. The movie is a visual marvel.

Still, it is disheartening how the franchise slipped into a poorly woven patchwork plot. The first movie follows Sully’s emotional turmoil as a human growing close to the inhabitants of the planet his people are invading. By contrast, the sequel is a plot formula preceded by an hour of computer-generated water. Moreover, director James Cameron clumsily tells the audience that Quaritch and the humans are the bad guys, the swimming blue people are not. There is no room for the moral ambiguity present in the first movie.

For interested viewers who have yet to see the 2009 film, the connection to the first movie is loose and relevant events are explained in the sequel. I would also advise interested viewers to sleep through the first hours and wake up for the finale. If you miss anything important, you’ll probably have another 12 years to watch it again before the release of the next one.