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.

Mortal Engines: A Spectacle… but one with Little Substance.

two-and-a-half-stars
Despite what the trailers would have you believe, Mortal Engines is not directed by Peter Jackson but rather produced by him.
It is clear his name was used for recognition to try and get people into theaters because, given how badly this film has bombed, there was not much else that would draw an audience in.
Mortal Engines is actually directed by Christian Rivers and, I will admit, when I first saw the trailers I was intrigued.
The whole concept of the film was a bit ridiculous and, like most, I was fooled into believing Peter Jackson was the director but I still thought it looked like a spectacle.
And it was a spectacle… but one with little substance.
The film takes place in a dystopian future where large cities like London have been made mobile and capture other cities for their supplies to keep going.
This concept does require a large suspension of disbelief going in but the film could have still succeeded by going for a Mad Max type of movie.
This is evident by the exciting opening scene, which features London chasing down and capturing a smaller city in a thrilling action sequence with great CGI.

London chase
The opening scene of London chasing down a smaller city was genuinely exciting. If only the rest of the movie was like this.

However, after this Mortal Engines unfortunately delves into the realm of a young adult story that we have all seen a thousand times.
Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is the typical female protagonist out for revenge against a dictatorial government leader and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) is her bland love interest.
Their love for one another grows throughout the film, only for it to completely fall apart when you realise they have almost nothing in common and have known each other for a few days at the most.
As for Hugo Weaving’s Thaddeus Valentine, he is the typically evil government figure out for power that we have seen in all of these types of films.
Almost every character in Mortal Engines is incredibly bland or a character we have already seen in every single young adult more ever.
The one exception to this is Shrike (Stephen Lang) a character who, despite only having a small amount of screen time, is surprisingly sympathetic and a multi-dimensional character.

Shrike.jpg
Shrike is a surprisingly relatable character in a large cast of bland and cliche ones.  

With the exception of him though, every other character is bland or cliche, and this is not helped by the story these characters inhabit.
Full of plot holes and eye rolling moments, the writing makes it very difficult to care about what is happening most of the time.
The worst moment of Mortal Engines has to be right at the beginning when a historian declares that the Minions from Despicable Me are valuable ancient relics.
This alone shows how cringe inducing this film can get at times.
Like I said though, there are a few moments in the film when it is a spectacle to behold.
The opening action sequence is great and the other ones across the film are also fairly enjoyable, even if you do not really care about what is happening.
I just wish the excitement of this first action scene was carried along across the film because then it would have been a much better experience.