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Visual Effects, Special Features Save ‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’

When 20th Century Studios’ AvatarThe Way of Water made its theatrical debut late last year, it was one of the most anticipated movies in many years, and audiences showed their reaction in a big way.  The movie set a new record for ticket sales and went on to earn multiple awards, earning more than $2 billion in ticket sales globally.  While the movie did earn multiple awards, the awards that it earned were by and large in categories related to visual effects and cinematography.  There were wins for voice acting, soundtrack and directing from various organizations, but its only “Best Picture” win came from the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, which is Australia’s version of “The Academy” here in the United States.  It did not even get nominated in that category at the BAFTAs, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards, which is the United Kingdom’s version of the Oscars.  The wins and lack thereof should come as no surprise even as the movie made its way to home streaming late last month and as a release date for a physical release is considered. That is because while the movie is a spectacular visual and musical presentation, its story, which will be discussed a little later, actually falls quite short of expectations.  The visual and musical aspects of the movie will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home release rounds out its most important elements and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of AvatarThe Way of Water.  All things considered they make the movie worth watching at least once, but sadly not much more than that.

AvatarThe Way of Water was one of the most anticipated movies in years when it made its theatrical debut last year, more than a dozen years after the debut of its predecessor.  The movie made its home streaming premiere late last month, only months after making its theatrical debut.  A release date for its home physical release is under consideration.  The movie is far from perfect, though the awards that it has won for its visual effects are justified.  The movie’s visual effects are stunning.  That is due to director James Cameron’s dedication to bringing audiences the best possible presentation, visually.  From the expansive underwater world that he and his crew crafted to the lush forest setting that opens the story, the worlds that Cameron and company built for this movie were absolutely stunning in their look right down to the finest detail.  The whale- and shark-like creatures that swim through Pandora’s waters and the smaller fish and other sea-dwelling creatures that call those waters home, and even the plants are incredible to behold.  For those who might have not yet seen Cameron’s 2014 documentary Deepsea Challenge, the attention to detail of the undersea world makes sense.  That is because Cameron reveals his love of all things nautical in this documentary.  It really generates a new respect for Cameron considering the emphasis he places on taking care of the planet’s waters.

On a related note, the music that helps set the mood throughout the movie, and the general sound effects that accompany the visuals, are just as impressive.  The scores that were composed for each scene add so much emotion, what with the string arrangements and the rich keyboards and other elements.  The pairing of these aesthetic elements with the overall visual effects presentation creates a solid foundation for the movie and gives audiences at least some reason to watch the movie.

As much as the visual (and audio) effects do to make AvatarThe Way of Water worth watching the movie’s story detracts from its presentation.  That is because it is so simplistic and lacking in originality.  Where Avatar was essentially a rip-off of Dances With Wolves, this movie’s story is essentially a sequel to that rip-off.  That is because instead of doing anything original, the story simply brings back the “sky people” (the Marines) to try to wipe out Pandora’s indigenous people again.  In other words, it’s a rehashing of the first movie.  This time out, the Marines — especially Quaritch (Stephen Lang – AvatarManhunterDon’t Breathe) have an added focus.  That focus is a vendetta against Jake Sully, the former Marine who turned Naavi in Avatar much how Kevin Costner joined the Native Americans in Dances With Wolves.  This whole secondary plot is, in reality quite trite.  The bad guy has it in for the good guy and will stop at nothing to kill him.  It has been done so many times in so many movies.  What’s more, audiences don’t know what happens after the Marines are defeated.  Do the “sky people” leave Pandora again or stay there?  That is never revealed, though considering at least two more sequels are in the works, odds are they stayed around.  It is just another of the problematic secondary story lines written into the story.

The majority of the story focuses on Jake’s teen children. This is another secondary storyline.  Their coming-of-age story is also anything but original and really comes across as little more than an attempt to bring in younger viewers.  The whole of all of this content is tied together seamlessly.  That should be appreciated perhaps to a point.  The problem is that even with that in mind, not one bit of the story is original.  It has all been done before.  To that end, it detracts greatly from the movie’s presentation, but thankfully is not enough to completely doom the movie’s presentation.  The expansive bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home release pairs with the visual effects to give it at least a little more reason to be watched.

The bonus content that accompanies the movie’s home release totals more than two hours and is so immersive.  Viewers learn through the bonus content, some interesting information, such as how the cast, even using motion capture again for the movie, had to learn to free dive.  This is due to the fact that Cameron wanted to make the movie as visually realistic as possible.  Staying on that note, viewers also lean that Cameron’s dedication to keeping the movie’s look as real as possible went so far as to have the crew travel to the Hawaiian rain forest to learn how to forage and how to shoot arrows.  He even had the crew travel to the Bahamas to best learn how the undersea creatures would move in the movie.  It is even revealed through the bonus content, that Cameron and company took the creation of the Na’vi language so seriously that they hired an expert linguist to develop a sign language system among the Na’vi.  This discussion, while brief, further shows the lengths to which Cameron and company went to ensure the movie’s believability.

As if all of this is not enough, there is even a discussion on how Cameron reached all the way back to his hit 1989 movie The Abyss to help make the visuals more believable in this movie as part of the bonus content.  That discussion in itself will put a smile on plenty of viewers’ faces.  Between everything noted here and so much more, the bonus content featured with the home streaming release of AvatarWay of Water makes for its own reason to give the movie a chance.  This even despite, again, the less than original story line at the movie’s center.  When the bonus content and the visual effects incorporated into this movie are considered together, they make AvatarThe Way of Water hardly one of the year’s best home movie releases, but a movie worth watching at least once, just sadly not much more.

Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to Avatar, is a wonderful visual cinematic presentation.  It is a display of a master at work in terms of visual effects.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new home streaming release makes that just as clear as the visual effects presented throughout the movie.  The movie’s story is anything but original and definitely detracts from its engagement and entertainment.  The lack of any engagement and entertainment from the movie’s story is not enough to doom the presentation, but still does take away from that overall positive from the visual effects and bonus content.  All things considered AvatarThe Way of Water deserved all of the awards it has earned and being watched at least once, but sadly no more than that.

AvatarThe Way of Water is available to stream at home now. More information on this and other titles from 20th Century Studios is available at: