“Avatar: The Way of Water” is the long-awaited sequel to the 2009 blockbuster hit “Avatar” by James Cameron. While it is just as spectacular as the first movie, if not, even more, its plot is a rehash of the first film and lacks character development.
Same plot, different characters
I was quite sad to realise that the main plot of the movie was a rehash of the first film, which can be condensed into “(most) Humans bad, Na’vi good”.
The movie opens with a summary of what happened to Pandora more than a decade after the humans were repelled from the planet. We see that Jake is the leader of the Omaticaya, and he has created a family with Neytiri. They are raising two sons, and two daughters, one of which was adopted, and a human child, Spider, who was left by the humans on Pandora since he could not be transported back to earth via cryostasis, due to his young age. He is the son of Colonel Miles Quaritch.
The humans have once again invaded Pandora, and an avatar with Colonel Quaritch’s memories has been sent to hunt down and kill Jake Sully.
So we see the military once again hunting down Jake Sully, but also his family, and when Quaritch manages to capture Spider, Jake decides that to protect the Omaticaya they have to leave their village and head east to the Metkayina reef people clan, who choose to shelter them.
The daughter of the clan leader of the Metkayina, Tsireya, is now given instructions to teach the Sully family, and here we see the family learning, just like Jake did in the first movie.
Kiri, an interesting character and a missed opportunity
One of the most interesting characters in the film is Kiri, Jake and Neytiri’s daughter who is biologically Doctor Grace Augustine’s daughter, and was weirdly born after the doctor’s “cerebral” death, from her inert avatar. There is quite a bit of mystery surrounding her, she has a particularly profound relationship with Eywa, the deity of Pandora that connects every living being but also connects the Na’vi to their ancestors.
There are a few scenes in the movie that focus on her, showing us her deep spirituality and her longing to find out more about her biological parents. Her character could have been made the centre of the movie, this way we could have found out more about the world of Pandora, Eywa and the Na’vi. Instead, we only got a few scenes of her inexplicably using some weird powers that no one else seems to have.
The Metkayina are deeply inspired by the Polynesian culture, in particular by the Māori.
We see this in the case of the clan chief Tonowari, with his face being tattooed in a way that looks like a tā moko (the tattoo traditionally practised by the Māori). We also see it when the clan rallies up to fight and the people perform a sort of pūkana, a facial expression that the Maori use to symbolize ferocity and passion during the performance of the haka, a ceremonial performance art.
It is fascinating to notice how different they are from the Omaticaya, the forest Na’vi, in their anatomy, having a body made to swim, in their language, having a sign language for underwater, and in general the slight variations in all of their customs.
Spectacular but not entertaining
Sadly the attention and care that was given to the overall design and background were not given to the plot and characters’ development, the characters don’t grow throughout the movie, even after their life has completely changed.
In general, the movie had spectacular cinematography, decent acting and amazing special effects, but it should have been condensed into a shorter runtime, as the story does not justify the film’s length.