The first Avatar came out in 2009 and made box office history with a global taking of $2.9 BILLION DOLLARS. Utterly insane. With that, obviously we’d get a sequel. But, contrary to Hollywood’s usual trope of shoving out a follow up with nary a care for quality, James Cameron’s highly anticipated sequel has been 13 years in the making. Not doing things by halves, though, Cameron is releasing another (rumoured) THREE of these CGI extravanganzas, bringing the total to five. Its hardly a rival to the likes of The Fast and Furious franchise or James Bond, but its certainly more than we expected.
Avatar (2009) is a hippie high budget metaphor for the value of nature and Humanity’s mindless aim to eradicate our world’s rainforests in the search for rare wealth. It could have been dismissed as a load of nonsence with an awful script and in-your-face environmentalism – but somehow the world was captivated. Perhaps it was the spectacle; the ground breaking realism of the computer generated moon of Pandora was mindblowing. Enough to dwarf the wooden performance from its lead, Sam Worthington.
Avatar 2 exceeds my expectations. Read on.
We are treated to a wonderful introductory sequence that covers what has happened since the events of the first movie. This feels right, seeing as we have waited 13 years for the film, it fits that the events are set a similar number of years later. In the intervening years Sully (sam) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have given birth to three kids (two boys and a wee girl) and have adopted a female girl who is the child of Sigourney Weaver from the first film. Interestingly, Sigourney also voices the teenage child. And her parentage is…well, i’ll leave that to your theories. Oh, and theres a young boy on the base “Spider” whose father is stupidly obvious but who is brought up Na’vi-friendly.
The film then delivers a nasty gut-punch. The humans return to Pandora and on landing, devastate the World Tree and half the rainforest. fast forward a year…
the Na’vi are raiders, let militaristically by Sully to upset the human supply lines.
The villain of the piece is Quaritch (Stephen Lang) – but he was killed in the first film!! Yes – this time we have a Na’vi “recombinant”, a clone bred from Quaritch’s DNA and embedded with the memories before he died. A terrific sci-fi idea and one that is not wasted.
Quaritch retains his death-grudge with Sully, and vows to kill him. So Sully and his cliched family up sticks and head to the oceans of Pandora, seeking asylum with the turquoise water Na’vi.
And there we have. The next two hours are a mix of family drama, children fighting and bullying, outcast cliches and beautiful underwater imagery. Oh. And did i mention a massively upsetting moment when a f*cking hovercraft butchers a huge Pandoran whale in order to drain its brain fluid. I was close to tears. Its a powerful message about the evil of the whaling industry.
Its by no means perfect. The script is dire; cliched, textbook dialogue. The plot is cookie-cutter and almost identical to the first film: characters arrive in new place, become friendly with the intitially unhappy locals, then get attacked by a battalion of humans searching for some rare material (this time age-stopping whale brains).
Its shockingly beautiful. The underwater scenes, the pandoran creatures, the rousing music, the explosions…amazing. Cameron knows he has a very very high standard of special effect on show here – so he sets whole action scenes in rain, underwater and gleaming with lightshows from sunrise to sunset, and even through the night.
And the best thing… i forgot the Na’vi were fake. They are astoundingly realistic. From the minutest of facial ticks, ear twitches and nose-scrunching to their ridiculous height and alien movement. Its only when you see them next to humans you go, “oh shit they’re not real!”
The occasional moment of humour shines too. Sam Worthington proves that despite a face as beige as a vauxhall corsa, his alterego Na’vi is oscar worthy.
A tremendous achievement in cinema. Don’t wait till DVD or stream. See it now on the big screen. The biggest you can find.