“Pandora’s greatest danger is falling madly in love with it”. If these words are spoken by Jake Sully in the first seconds ofAvatar 2, difficult not to put them in the mouth of a James Cameron entirely devoted for more than fifteen years to the imaginary planet. Beyond the total control he exercises over this virtual universe and his painting, the demiurge director seems animated by the ardor of the first times, as during the slap that was his first escapade among the Na’vi.
The double feat of The Way of the Water lies in this paradox: nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed. The legacy of the first film is as strong as ever, and the feeling of being on familiar ground confirms how far the 2009 revolution was ahead of its time. Nevertheless, by a simple scar on the skin of Neytiri, by the subtlety of a facial expression and by the photorealistic richness of the least square centimeter of decoration, Avatar 2 redefines the notion of virtual cinema.
The majesty of Cameron’s cinema in one shot
Of course, the great Cameroonian spectacle is more impacted by it than ever (and it doesn’t drag on, as evidenced by this mind-blowing train attack from a western on steroids), but the director’s approach is elsewhere. It’s all in the detailalmost indistinguishable and sublime, which emerges from each image, to breathe life into the bodies of these digital aliens.
We could sum up Avatar 2 to this shot, seemingly innocuous, where Jake (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their children find themselves in a great family embrace, without ever questioning the tangibility of their physical proximity, and even less the emotion that can be read on each of the faces.
To tell the truth, all of Cameron’s cinema is concentrated in this moment, where technology, although flamboyant, gives way to what has always been the filmmaker’s priority: the clarity of its moving images, their sequence, and the narrative they serve. For this, he is supported by the magic of HFR (High Frame Rate), this increase in the scrolling of images which gives his shots a rare fluidity. Where Peter Jackson (The Hobbit) and Ang Lee (Gemini Man) suffered the indifference or rejection of spectators, Cameron cracked the code by alternating the traditional 24 frames per second with 48 frames per second, so as to acclimatize the eye of his public to this essential evolution of the seventh art.
When someone compares Avatar to Pocahontas
Oops, He Did It Again
Therefore, the world ofAvatar 2 seems to offer itself to us with a new readability, plunging us into the heart ofan extra-sensory experience that supports exemplary 3D. But it would be simplistic to see in the HFR only a technical affectation, so much the process magnifies the subject of this suite. If the first Avatar approached his ecological discourse with pedagogy and hope (which may explain the many taunts about him), The Way of the Water no longer has that luxury.
Jake’s headlong rush is a reflection of the political urgency captured by Cameron, which we feel as much in the sustained pace of the film as in the very contemporary despair it depicts. This time, humans are not back for a rare mineral, but because Earth is doomed. We have closed our eyes too long, and pushed back the deadline for our self-destruction. By filling the gaps in 24 frames per second, the HFR makes us understand that this apathy is no longer possible, that we can no longer refuse to see the ecological disaster at our doorstep.
I love water. In 20-30 years, it will only be in CGI
Until then, James Cameron’s career has depicted worlds on the verge of warof the Last Judgment of terminator at the risk of an apocalypseAbyss passing by the Titanic, this symbol of triumphant industrialization which does not see itself heading towards the iceberg that is the 20th century and its world wars.
With Avatar 2, Cameron crosses a barrier which alone should sound the alarm. Diplomacy and the preservation of the status quo are no longer an option, and the pacifism of the Na’vi finds itself called into question, so as to complicate what could be akin to a form of Manichaeism in the first part, where a single battle was enough to save the world, and to repel the invader.
We are already religiously awaiting Avatar 3
The madness of men (and of James Cameron)
From there, the filmmaker’s entire web of metaphors is revealed in the service of this postulate, especially when the Sully family takes refuge with the Metkayina, a people of the water who awaken in Cameron his passion for the ocean and its depths. Of course, it is worth focusing on the staggering beauty of underwater sequenceswhose quality of rendering is matched only by the richness of its fauna and flora.
But one scene in particular deserves attention: Lo’ak, one of Jake and Neytiri’s sons, befriends a Tulkun (a whale from Pandora) who invites him to enter his mouth, like a re-reading of the myth of Jonas. However, in the Bible, Jonah is swallowed by “a giant fish” because he fled the mission that God entrusted to him (to warn Nineveh, a decadent city, of its approaching end).
Cameron has always been brilliant for reinterpret and mix founding stories to reveal its universality, but Avatar 2 does so through a more disenchanted mosaic, making Jake, his descendants and the director himself harbingers of the apocalypse (like Jonas) who reject this responsibility, until they can no longer.
This is the end
It is not surprising that the author marks his big return to the big screen as the end of an era, symbolized by the nature of the maxi best of of a work which takes up the most important motifs of his filmography. The Way of the Water inevitably mobilizes the memory ofAbyssbut also calls titanic in its spectacular climax. As if history were repeating itself, a damaged boat once again becomes the scene of intimate issues, while encapsulating a world that is collapsing on itself.
This exciting rewrite especially allows Cameron to recall that he is an absolute master of the action, whose layout and situational ideas are always at the service of a space explored from every angle. From the depths to the sky passing through the surface of the water, his camera penetrates and connects these dimensions with a disconcerting fluidity, when it is not the gravity that is acting up to transform the whole into a total roller coaster.
Antoine during the last 40 minutes of the film
Kiri or not Kiri?
To tell the truth, the pessimism ofAvatar 2 does not prevent the film from retaining its relationship to the marvelous, and beyond the magnificence of Pandora and its holistic ecosystem, this sequel is above all a work of transmission, which takes into account the thirteen years spent between the two opuses. Therein lies the puzzling miracle of a feature film that accumulates new characters, while managing to give different and satisfying narrative arcs to each of them.
Certainly, we can deplore here and there some shortcomings (especially on the side of Ronal, interpreted by a Kate Winslet who we would have liked to be more present), but the entirely mythological generosity ofAvatar 2 gives the exhilarating (and all too rare now) sensation of embark on a saga, in the original sense of the term.
Some will limit (and caricature) this expansion to Fast & Furious-like focused on the importance of family, but in reality, The Way of the Water brilliantly perverts this theme, and accords it to the problematic of his universe, which he extends in the most beautiful way.
Kiri, the most beautiful character in the film
The transfer of the spirit into the body of an avatar is explicitly akin to the notion of reincarnation, especially with the two best characters in the film: Kiri (a Na’vi teenager played by Sigourney Weaver) and Miles Quaritchthe villain of the first film (still played by Stephen Lang), this time cloistered in an avatar. The family and identity heritage is suddenly no longer obvious, but rather a spiritual and biological mirror whose meaning we must choose. In a sublime Shakespearian momentum, Quaritch breaks the skull of his own corpse to better redefine his future. Here he is freed from the limit of the gene, this basic unit which no longer really has any meaning in this digital revolution.
These overwhelming existential crises (especially in the case of Kiri, whose ambiguous birth constitutes a fascinating issue) thus come full circle with the purpose of the technologies developed by Cameron and his teams. By allowing its actors to project their performances on digital beings, regardless of their physique or age, Avatar 2 goes beyond the achievements of the first opus, and opens up a new field of possibilities. If the seventh art has always been connected to the famous allegory of Plato’s cave, the Greek philosopher could be cited here for his myth of soul mates in Feast.
One-on-one with myself
According to him, human beings were originally androgynous beings, with four legs, four arms, separated in two by Zeus for fear of their power. We would have always been destined to seek love – or rather our half – as the missing part of our being. James Cameron makes this quest for completion, for the human essence like Na’vi, the emotional heart of its modern mythas its heroes discover their place as individuals in the larger Pandora system.
And isn’t that, after all, what the moviegoer is also looking for in escaping from the big screen? Isn’t this connection to the epic and the intimate, in which James Cameron excels, which justifies the success of his cinema? What does the 3D or the precision of the textures (although stunning) ultimately matter? Avatar 2 never forgets its primary mission: to make people forget their technical mastery in favor of immersion and emotion in this other universe which completes ours. And the connection with his world is such thatit’s hard to walk out of the movie theater in one piece.
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Avatar 2: The Way of the Water – review of a new revolution
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