Avatar: The Way of Water Review: Visually Stunning, as Expected.

I can still remember going to see the first Avatar movie as a kid all those years ago in 2009.
At the time, I was awed by the insane visuals and adored the film.
In the 13 years since, my passion for Avatar has dulled.
I still think its a good film with great CGI, even now, yet the issues with the story became more apparent to me as I got older.
Well, now, after over a decade, James Cameron has finally released the sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. 

Does The Way of Water ascend or does it sink?

Going into the theatre, I was curious to see how I would feel about the film.
Oh, I had not doubt that I would once again be wowed by amazing CGI, but I wondered if I would love the story and characters line I did in 2009 or if I would be as jaded about it as I am now?
After seeing The Way of Water, I can say that it definitley needs to be seen in theatres.
The incredible visuals and CGI of the Na’vi and the world of Pandora make the film a spectacle to behold.
As for the story and characters, they hold the same quality of the original film, which is to say they are fairly generic yet not bad.
Honestly, The Way of Water retreads the structure of the first Avatar fairly often.
The film once again follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) who, in the many years since the events of the first movie, have started their own family.
This includes their three natural born children, Neteyam (James Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton), and Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) .
They have also adopted a Na’vi girl named Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who was born through unknown means by Grace’s Avatar, and a human boy named Spider (Jack Champion) who was left on Pandora by the fleeing humans.
It is these teenage characters who take up the majority of the screen time in The Way of Water so if they had been badly written or acted poorly then I think the film would have failed.
Thankfully, they all manage to be pretty likeable.
Although, I will say that it was quite jarring to have the 73-year-old Sigourney Weaver playing the teenage Kiri.
The fantastic CGI covered up this problem visually, yet Weaver’s voice sounded weird coming out of someone who is supposed to be a teenager.

Every time Kiri speaks she sounds way too old. You could make an argument that this is the point, to make her sound wiser beyond her years but I still found it off putting.

Along with the kids, the other main focus of the Way of Water is the Metkayina, a water tribe Na’Vi whose culture we spend the majority of the film exploring, after Jake and his family are forced to flee from their home when the humans come back with a vengance.
There was some pretty excellent world building with the Metkayina way of life, especially involving the whale species known as the Tulkan.
One of these Tulkan, Payakan, is a highlight in the film.

I’d be up for seeing more extremely intelligent alien whales in more Avatar films.

Despite fleeing their home, Jake and his family are still pursued by Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who returns as the main antagonist.
When I heard he would be returning, I dreaded a retcon, considering that Quaritch died at the end of the the first movie.
However, I actually really liked the way he was brought back and used in the film.
It was inventive and made a lot of sense. 
What did not make a lot of sense were some parts of the third act.
For example, an entire army just seems to vanish in the final battle just so the last fight can be more personal.
There is also a tense scene between Spider and Neytiri, which is never addressed afterwards, which was extremely weird because it felt like there should be some consequences from this event.
Maybe Cameron is saving the fallout for the next movie?

It will honestly be pretty bizarre if what happens to Spider at the end of The Way of Water is never addressed.

These problems aside, the third act is actually pretty great, with a lot of well shot action set pieces.
As a whole, the film works pretty cohesively, some plot holes aside.
It does run over three hours and that is mostly due to the long second act exploring the Metkayina culture but, as someone who enjoys good world building, I liked it.
All in all, The Way of Water is a good sequel to the original Avatar.
The visuals are, of course, incredible, and the story and characters are well done, although mostly nothing new.
It will definitely make for a better viewing experience in the threatres so, again, I would recommend watching it there.
I am also interested to hear about the future of this franchise and how far it will go, since the budget for each following movie will likely be extreme.
If James Cameron’s full vision for the Avatar story is realized, it will certainly make for stunning visual experience after stunning visual experience.
So, with my review out of the way, I only have one more thing to say.
Have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Alita: Battle Angel Review: A Fast Pace isn’t Always a Good Thing.

3 and a half stars
Live action anime adaptations do not have the best reputation.
They often end in failure by making so many changes to the story and characters that the film is almost unrecognizable from its source material.
Case and point, Dragonball: Evolution and Death Note. 
However, this does not appear to be the case with the latest anime adaptation Alita: Battle Angel. 
I cannot say that this film mostly adheres to the source material, because I have not read the manga or watched the anime, and some things obviously had to be changed for the film, but it still felt like I was watching an anime series in movie form.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and produced by James Cameron, Alita: Battle Angel follows the titular Alita (Rosa Salazar), a cyborg who sets out to uncover her past, while sinister forces attempt to kill her.
The film is a visual spectacle with many stunning shots.
Alita herself is completely CG and, while there is the occasional uncanny valley effect, it often looks incredible.
Her struggles and relationships with the other characters also does enough to get you to invest in the story and where it goes.

Battle Angel
Salazar does a great job as Alita and I did not find the CGI too distracting.

This is helped by a great cast, among them Christoph Waltz, Mahershala Ali, Jennifer Connely and Ed Skrein, as supporting characters.
As a result of these characters and the way scenes are shot, the action is especially thrilling, with my favourite scene of the movie being a battle between Alita and another cyborg Grewishka (Jackie Earl Haley).
However, even though I am throwing a heap of praise at Alita: Battle Angel, there are sadly a lot of problems.
I said that the film felt like it was adapting a lot from the manga and anime and this causes it to have a very fast pace.
As a result, storylines begin and end very quickly, without much time to take in the impact of it all.
All the story that gets thrown in also makes the film feel a bit too long, with the third act having so many action sequences that I am not sure which one of them is supposed to be the climax.
Another feature that suffers from this fast pace is the character arcs.
Specifically those of Connely and Keean Johnson’s characters.
These two have very similar arcs but, although they have a beginning and end, there is no middle.
Because of this, their characters just seem to quickly change with no build up.
It felt like there should have been a few more additional scenes to make these arcs flow better.
Along with this there, is a storyline line concerning Johnson’s character Hugo, which I found to be rather pointless, considering how it ends.

Hugo
Hugo, Alita’s love interest, is difficult to route for because of how his arc is cut down and a storyline that feels pointless after the film ends.

There are also negative effects to the positive I mentioned earlier that Alita: Battle Angel felt like an anime series in move format.
Because, while some things may work in an anime, this does not mean they will work in a film.
This caused many of the scenes and lines to produce quite a bit of cringe.
I found the line, “I do not stand by in the presence of evil”, to be particularly eye rolling.
Despite these problems though, I would still recommend Alita: Battle Angel.
Like I said, it is a visual spectacle, Alita is an interesting character, and the action scenes are thrilling.
Just do not expect this film to get a sequel because, even though it sets one up, I highly doubt it is going to make back the immense amount of money this movie cost so the studio will not want to risk it.
Alita: Battle Angel has its issues, but it is still one of the better live action anime adaptations.