–Arts and letters for the modern age–

Cathode Ray Zone

–Arts and Letters for the Modern Age–

Cameron’s Way

by | Dec 16, 2022

“Avatar: The Way of Water” felt like it lasted an hour. Such is the pure visionary touch that writer/director James Cameron brings to the action.

In 3D, the process is complete immersion into the frame. So whether you say the new Avatar is three-hours-and-eight-minutes or 188-minutes, you are not accurately defining the joy in watching the film by reducing a timeless visual concept to the perceived calibration of a personal agenda.

The progression of the film’s central battle flows with purity in pacing plus a sense of place that renders the viewer lost in the film. Cameron utilizes HFR (high frame rate), a process that reduces blur in action scenes with fast movement like running or explosions.

Avatar: The Way of Water literally looks like no film you’ve ever seen. Yet, outstanding battle sequences conceal the fact that Cameron’s seeming swan song as an auteur has some of the least interesting character development and subsequent emotional involvement with the story of any of his films. Cameron has vowed three more films for the Avatar franchise, so he’s unlikely to toss out another Titanic or True Lies.

Sam Worthington returns as Jake Sully, although we only see his Na’vi avatar. Cameron finds a way to bring back Steven Lang and Sigourney Weaver, both of whom were killed in the first installment. They are cloned and brought back as avatars, or in Weaver’s case, her avatar had a baby, which is her character as a teenager. Lang’s Quaritch is a homicidal, crew-cut Na’vi with an unquenchable desire to hunt down Sully.

It’s hard to recognize Kate Winslet or Cliff Curtis, although I guessed which character Winslet was by elimination. In fact, this film could easily be considered animation as the majority of scenes are set in environments that while fully photorealistic are obviously generated-imagery of the finest kind, and the relationship of actor to character are reduced in terms of recognition factor.

There’s another sect of Na’vi who are more teal than blue, and they live in the seas of Pandora.

In Avatar, colonist from Earth are seeking the element unobtanium. In Avatar: The Way of Water, humans from Earth have upped the ante of their exploitation of foreign planets and are giving spinal taps to Pandora’s whales. The serum is valued at hundreds of millions per vial and the animal does not survive the transfusion. The liquid literally stops the aging process. 

The theme of the self-entitled rape of “third-world” planets by unprincipled capitalism is Cameron’s mantra, and he’s sticking to it.

All things being equal, Avatar: The Way of Water is must-see-in-theaters filmmaking of the highest order. The other side of the frame is that must-see events in a pristine format, like IMAX with its contractually defined standards of projection and sound, are not the same kind of stimulus that drives consumption in home settings.

You go to an amusement park to ride a roller coaster, because that’s not something you do in your living room. Avatar: The Way of Water was born to be enjoyed in theatrical settings. You won’t get the same buzz trying to put this amazing film on high rotation through your home set-up no matter how high-tech.