Water wonderful world

Avatar: The Way Of Water (12A, 194 minutes)

James Cameron only knows how to think big. If the kit doesn’t exist for him to fully realise his vision, he’ll just go and invent it.

It’s certainly paid off. Two of the top three most successful films in history are his with Avatar reclaiming top spot from Avengers: Endgame after its re release into cinemas right after lockdown.

But even by his painstaking standards, 13 years is one hell of a long time to spend on creating a follow up, or to be more accurate, two sequels as a third film is already said to have been shot with the screenplay for a fourth just about ready and hopes for a fifth.

And there lies a sticking point, critically if not commercially. While Cameron is undeniably a director who knows how to captivate through creating a spectacle, when it comes to plots he’s certainly no Tarantino or Nolan. He goes for route one: Titanic – the boat sinks; Avatar – save the rainforests and with Avatar: The Way Of Water it’s save the oceans. Of course, both Avatar films have the added reference to how explorers throughout history have subjugated indigenous civilizations.

So while it’s all very pretty to look at (and long. Let’s not forget that), you’re not going to find much substance beneath the style. In fact, the over riding feel is that it’s a huge backslapping exercise with Cameron saying look how clever I am.

However, look at the five films that have broken the $2bn mark at the box office, or even the 51 movies to gross more than $1bn and it’s all super heroes, Star Wars, dinosaurs and Pixar so spectacle sells.

And this second Avatar film certainly provides that with a stark reminder of how immersive an experience 3D can be when it’s used properly.

Audiences don’t go to a James Cameron film for its storyline. They go to see what had previously not been possible and don’t particularly care that it’s a mash up of Ferngully and Free Willy.

Even the reintroduction of villain Stephen Lang as an avatar with some of the late Col Quaritch’s memories can be forgiven despite the glaring question of how a 10ft avatar can exist when the colonel is long dead and the sacred tree wasn’t to hand.

Former paraplegic marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has adapted to life on Pandora as one of the Naa’vi with his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and their children.

But their happiness is brought to a sudden end with the return of, well us, determined to mine the planet of its natural resources and to extract revenge on Sully.

Rather than make a stand, Jake decides that to protect the tribe, and his family, he will renounce his leadership and flee the forest with Neytiri and the kids, seeking sanctuary in the ocean region.

The middle section of this marathon three hours plus is taken up with the family’s protracted efforts to integrate with their lighter blue, flipper tailed swimming cousins, whose queen you would never in a million years recognise as Kate Winslet.

Then it’s relentless action for the last hour with some handy set ups for part three which is due in cinemas for Christmas 2024, although considering the original release date for this film was 2014, who knows?

The other big question mark is whether in the midst of a cost of living crisis people will go in enough numbers to recoup the massive budget required to create this other world or if the novelty wore off 13 years ago.

RATING: 7/10

Mick Ferris

Editor Email: mickferris@yellowad.co.uk