Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Josh Friedman, and Shane Salerno
James Cameron has long been considered one of the film industry’s most innovative filmmakers. His first big success was The Terminator (1984) which went on to become a huge franchise with six films, TV series, and video games. He is essentially responsible for launching Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career as one of the biggest action stars of all time. In 2009, Cameron delivered Avatar. He introduced us to the world of Pandora in Avatar (2009) filled with large blue beings called Na-vi and it captivated the world by grossing 2.9 Billion dollars. People kept coming back to watch it again and again in theaters so much that it actually caused the “Avatar blues.” People were so engrossed in the world the film portrayed that when they left the theater, viewers experienced depression and suicidal thoughts. Needless to say, people have been waiting quite a long time for Cameron to deliver the sequel and allow us to return to Pandora once again.
Here comes the spoilers.
This film starts off more than a decade after the events of the first film. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is now chief of the Omaticaya and has two sons and two daughters (one of which is the adopted daughter of Grace Augustine Na’vi avatar). Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and Jake, along with their family, bring us back into the world of Pandora and how happy their family life is. It isn’t long before humans, aka Sky People, show up in masses to colonize the entire planet by force.
Jake leads raids to disrupt their supply lines and try to fight against the expansion. Yet to his and Neytiri’s surprise, Quaritch (Stephen Lang), is back but cloned into a Na’vi body with his former memories. Quaritch is tasked with hunting down Sully as a way to stop the resistance against the colonization efforts. Quaritch ends up capturing several of Jake’s kids and although Jake and Neytiri free them, Jake knows that Quaritch won’t stop until they find him and his family and kill them. In order to protect his family, Jake gives up his position as chief and takes his family far away to the islands of the Metkayina reef Na’vi. Reluctantly the chief of the Metkayina and his wife, Ronal (Kate Winslet), take in the Sully family on the condition they prove themselves useful. The family struggles at first to adapt to the ways of the reef people, but soon they start to embrace the ways of water.
Quaritch and his team had previously captured his son, whom he had forgotten about and now has been long living amongst the Na’vi. They use him to show them the Na’vi ways and language. Here is a huge missed opportunity for the film to add depth to the villains. As they learn about Pandora and its life and culture of the Na’vi, it would make so much sense to have at least some of Quaritch’s team begin to change their resolve in the mission to colonize the planet. Creating a crisis of conscience amongst his team would have added some internal doubt and trust in the loyalty of his men. Ultimately this could have made Quaritch possibly rethink the colonization mission himself and would have made for an interesting reversal of conviction for his character and perhaps something the writers can incorporate in the next film (The franchise has five films planned).
Another wasted opportunity is with the Tulkuns (whales) and their way of nonviolence. There are scenes with an outcast Tulkun, Payakan, that set up sequences for the climax of the film. Here they should have had all of the Tulkun come to defend one of their own. That would have been a powerful sequence to see and show the might of Mother Nature. Alas, a huge missed opportunity on the writers’ part.
I believe this film will not have the success as the first Avatar film. If it grosses more than 500 million globally I will be very surprised. But, with little to no competition until February for new releases, it just may reach that mark simply due to lack of competition. Visually the film is amazing, but it lacks real character development and the plot is oversimplified.
Avatar: Way of the Water tries to push the theme of family and connection, but this is lost across the three-plus hours of runtime when one of the sons is killed you honestly don’t feel the need to shed a tear. That is a huge issue the writers should have done more work on to make his death have a much larger impact, yet they chose a throwaway character. That is simply weak writing there. I think at least ten minutes could be used to show what earth has become and the driving forces to colonize be shown so more complexity can be added to the struggle both races face to survive.
The complex world of Pandora demands equally complex character development.
Thanks for reading Writing Movie “WRONGS.”
Writing Movie Wrongs (MovieWrongs.com) was created by Author Jim West to show how great storytelling is built on strong writing. In each review, he aims to highlight points in film that capture what the medium is capable of, or provide feedback on small improvements that would make a huge difference to the story’s plot. Read more about Jim West at JimWestAuthor.com.