It’s been thirteen years since James Cameron first invited us into the world of Pandora, and a lot has happened in that time between. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) remained in Pandora after protecting its people against his own. He is now the chief of the Omaticaya tribe (I had to google that) with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and their four children by his side. It has been a time of peace since the humans were banished from Pandora, but it seems the human’s war with the Na’vi isn’t yet over.
With the Earth still in tatters, the humans strike Pandora again, but this time they’re looking for more than just its materials. With one member of Jake’s past returning to seek retribution, he must fight again, but this time to protect the life he’s built.
Firstly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Cameron’s first entry into the Avatar franchise, and a recent revisit reminded me as to why that was the case. It was hard to see past its visual allure. A stodgy and perhaps all too familiar style of storytelling which lacked the same artistry and ambition as its ground-breaking CGI. Sadly, my opinions aren’t too dissimilar to how I feel about this sequel.
One thing that stays the same is the impact of its visual prominence. Once again Cameron and his team have found a way to distance themselves from the rest with yet another stunning display of stretching technical possibilities. BUT, Cameron again surrenders to simple storytelling beats with the overcompensation of its visually led sheen. What looks lavish on the outside appears hollow on the inside.
After the brief rundown of what’s happened in the time we’ve missed, the film trudges through its lethargic and similarly spiritless script which caries through at least two of its three acts. The recycled and reckless plot is still tremendously tiring with much of its silly sub-plotting not receiving any resolve.
Every act is littered with poor decisions whether that be in character or story. The movie spends so much time looking like a screensaver slideshow that it forgets to be engaging and for a film that exceeds the three hour mark (my God, that length) it tells a story that could easily be wrapped up in a couple of hours.
The Na’vi and the creatures that inhabit the world of Pandora are interesting enough, but for the most part we are given the dampest of dilemmas and most frustratingly lacklustre character progressions that Cameron fails to do anything exciting with them. Then we have the cliched riddled marine reprobates with zero personalities still spurting ‘hoorah’ and ‘semper fi’ like its the most exciting piece of dialogue they’re given for the whole three hours.
The third act is where things really (and should say finally) kick into gear. We spend the first two acts being reacquainted with the world whilst new scenery and inhabitants are introduced. But much of its middle act feels like something straight out of a David Attenborough documentary. This portion of the movie is sensationally slow.
With an astronomical budget and a ruthlessly long runtime, there should really be more to it than just stunning imagery, but when you strip that away there really isn’t much of note. Once you look past the pop culture appeal and when perhaps you view this on a screen less grand as one at a cinema, it’ll likely lose its magical touch. A soggy spectacle that chooses to explore outdated themes more than creating new and far more interesting ones.
I was sceptical with my approach to this sequel due to my reaction to its predecessor, but I find myself now more uninterested with what Cameron chooses to do with this franchise even more so this time around.