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Avatar The Way of Water First Impression Movie Review: James Cameron- Cinema express

Avatar: The Way of Water First Impressions: Mesmerising visuals gloss over more than a few frays

A quick mini spoiler-free write-up of James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water, starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, and Kate Winslet

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Published: 16th December 2022
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Stepping out of the office at 7.30-8 pm on Thursday,  a tweet popped up on my phone announcing that a 12 am show for Avatar: The Way of Water was added across the city on a few screens.

The city premiere was to start in just four hours, and the seats were predominantly available at that time. Taking a calculated guess, I bought dinner for home and checked my phone. The city premiere was to start in just three hours. The seats were gradually filling up, and my favourite seats were getting picked one after the other, and I randomly booked my seat for a 12.05 am show. 

Four hours since the announcement, three hours after I booked the tickets, and two hours after I finished my dinner, I reached the theatre that was jam-packed with people who were talking about anything and everything about James Cameron's magnum opus that hit the screens this Friday. 

Avatar 2 wastes no time in introducing the movers and shakers of Pandora, and we are thrown right into the narrative that begins with Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) being fully indicted into the Na'vi race, and raising a family with his fiery wife Neythiri (Zoe Saldana). They have four kids, and a feral human who hangs out with them. It is in these portions that we revisit Pandora and the world of the Na'vis is beautifully explored in this 180-plus minute runtime of the film. However, restlessness was prevalent in not just the Na'vis but the audience members too who were fidgety considering the first hour or so feels more like an extension of the Avatar 1 final act. It almost felt like a prologue that overstayed its welcome, especially when there was a collective sigh of relief when Sully and his family go to an island... the island that we have all seen in the magnificent promos, which promised a deep dive into the marine world of Pandora. 

One of Sully's kids, Kiri, an adopted girl, is awestruck by the marine life around her when she first takes a dive into the ocean floor. There is complete silence as she just waddles in the depths as the fishes in different shapes and sizes dance around her. It was almost like Kiri was taking her time to take in the beauty of the world around her. For people dwelling in the greenery of the forests, the effervescence of turquoise must surely be overwhelming. And for the longest time in Avatar: The Way of Water, where we are introduced to bigger creatures, fascinatingly beautiful surroundings, and picture-perfect environments, we too feel like Kiri. We are just in awe of the world James Cameron and Co have created for us. The strength of Avatar: The Way of Water lies in doling out these spectacular visuals in regular intervals. Imagine a whale-sized creature and a young adult holding hands in the water and swimming towards the setting sun. Even writing about this gives me goosebumps because the image is forever etched in my head. Many such images are there for the taking in the film, where the focus has been more on how the film looks rather than how it feels. We also have social commentary on the refugee crisis, forced relocation of people in the name of commercialisation, whale killing, and a beautiful overarching theme about water's nature being connected to our life and death. Despite touching upon so many different topics, the rather template nature of the film never really evokes any emotion other than complete awe at how things are unfolding visually. 

Of course, the climactic showdown is one for the ages. Again, it is a trope that we have seen films from across the globe, including ones closer home like a Karnan. Pardon my comparisons, but there is a bit of Radhe Shyam and Titanic too. Again, none of these is to belittle the kind of grand vision that James Cameron had for the Avatar films. Just that, it is clear where the focus was. There are very few filmmakers who can make audiences across the world collectively gasp at the same things, and the experience of watching Avatar: The Way of Water is so immersive that we don't mind the cliches and conveniences. 

Coming back to the climactic showdown that is one for the ages... it definitely is one for the ages. It is visual mastery at its finest, and emotion-driven stunt sequences at its best. Each kick, each arrow, each bullet, each wallop, and each surprise attack from the Na'vi against the Sky people were met with thunderous response from an audience, who were craving for this big action set pieces for a bit too long, and every moment was worth it. 

Post the Marvelisation of the cinema-watching experience, the habit of waiting for the post-credits or mid-credits sequence was inculcated in the audience. But it is rare to make an entire theatre, who made sudden plans to be here after a long day, and forgot the concept of rest and sleep, actually stay back knowing there were no mid-credits or post-credits scenes waiting for them. They were just strapped onto their seats to see the visuals of the aquamarine-coloured world that drew them in for the past 180-odd minutes. They were just mesmerised by the sheer massiveness of some of the beings, the inventiveness of some of their strengths, the beauty of their uniqueness, and basically... all of them just became Kiri from Avatar: The Way of Water. We might have liked the film, not liked the film, or even flippant about its impact, but there is no doubt that the maverick James 'Pied Piper' Cameron still holds the strength to sway his audience according to his tunes, and the world will continue to be enchanted for whatever is waiting to come out of his fascinating mind, and... Pandora. 

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