Cameron’s blockbusters started to most of my generation with «Titanic». This mega hit about the sinking of a historical cruise ship on the Atlantic made us cry, laugh, dream of sunken ships and precious necklaces. In 2009 Cameron broke records with “Avatar”, a 3D-science-fiction film, which after «Titanic» was the most successful film worldwide and in Film History. This being said, «Avatar – The Way of Water» follows a very similar recipe for success: use of state-of-the-art 3D-technology, first motions captures under water, incredible set design and special effects. This winning cocktail will not only please wide audiences but may also make Cameron and his crew win some Oscars.
As someone, who is slowly understanding the difficulty of producing films in Europe and especially in a multilingual, small country like Switzerland, my guess concerning the budget (I said about half a billion) was approximately right: “With an estimated budget of $350–460 million, it is one of the most expensive films ever made” (Wikipedia). The most expensive Swiss animation movie, as I recall, cost about 30 Mio. Swiss Francs and was a commercial flop. Anyway: You can’t compare Hollywood blockbusters with public funded, Swiss films. Nevertheless I was surprised to see how much you get charged to watch the film. And in retrospect, of course the cinema operators can charge you nearly every “extra” available: extra money for the 3D glasses and maybe the fact it was shown in an IMAX theater, extra money for the long running time etc. in total for two, with glasses, drinks and a large pop corn bag Bluecinema (former Kitag-chain, now owned by Swisscom) charged us 80 CHF. Wow!
Was the spectacle worth all that money? Yes, I admit, it was breathtaking. Especially the lush underwater world of the Metkayina clan of Pandora. Amazing wale-like “Tukums”, who live in harmony with the villagers and some surprising little details, I won’t tell you about because they’re better seen than retold. The storyline is as banal as in the fist film but some slight changes made me like it more. I did like the fact that it’s focused on the Sully family, a kind of modern family because Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who is being searched after by the badass Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), isn’t the father of all his kids: Kiri, who lives with him and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) is the daughter of Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and there’s also a human boy, called Spider (Jack Champion), who lives with them. Seaking refuge in a Caribbean-like village of the Metkayina, a water clan, the Sullys have to learn diving and swimming with strange creatures, a bit like the dragonflies they fly on at home in the woods. Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), Jake Sully’s second born son seems to best embrace this unknown environment, even though the clan leader’s children make fun of him and his older brother Neteyam (Jamie Flatters). Clan leader Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife Ronal (Kate Winslet), first reluctant to welcome warrior Jake Sully and his family, slowly accept the foreigners from the woods and teach them their methods. Interesting side fact: both fathers seem to have a taste for very strict disciplinary measures, when their sons become violent.
Enough spoilers! Here are some general thoughts I had after seeing the movie:
- Indians-against-white-colonialists-narrative: Being an American film, the founding narrative of the United States can only be repeated in outer space, on Pandora. It’s the story of white conquerers or colonialists, who come searching for valuable minerals etc. on a so far untouched and harmonious planet, inhabited by First Nations, the Na’vi.
- The future of (American) warfare: Interestingly enough in times of war (Russia-Ukraine-conflict) and the fear of a worldwide escalation, the military equipment demonstrated in the movie, exoskeletons, crab- and dolphin-like-submarines, drones and huge boats and helicopters are programmatic of the US weapon-industry, even though some of them aren’t totally realistic it makes us think about the dangers of some technologies and how they can be used for bad intentions.
- The ecological disaster and how human(oids) can live in harmony with their environment: We don’t see planet earth in Avatar 2. It’s said to be widely polluted and at war, if I’m not mistaken. Anyway, Pandora is instead quite lush and still full of natural resources. The Na’vi people seem to live in peace and harmony with the flora and fauna of their planet until the conquistadores and their Na’vi-like-Avatars arrive and start exploiting the mines and other treasures of Pandora. Humans seem to have learned nothing and they simply repeat what they did on planet Earth. Even though their science has reached impressive levels (mind-reading, avatar-technology etc.) they don’t use it to do good, or most of them don’t.
But let’s cut to the core: «Avatar 2» is mainly the story of a family, who tries to stick together in difficult times. Even though some kids are adopted they face problems that all teenagers have. Who am I? Am I a freak or just different to the others? (Kiri) Am I worth less than my brother? (Lo’ak) Why do I have to always set an example and protect my siblings? (Neteyam) etc. Jake Sully’s kids are touching because they are struggling with normal problems. Maybe the only aspect of a modern family that I wished would also be represented in a blockbuster: same-sex-marriage or relationships. But there seems still way to go for a mainstream-recognition of this aspect of our modern societies.
Soooo, if you haven’t already: Run to your local 3D-commercial-cinema and watch «Avatar – The Way of Water», if you liked «Dune» or «Star Wars», I promise, you won’t be disappointed.