Avatar: The Way of Water: I went out to see at the IMAX 3D theatre on Friday the $350M James Cameron sequel to his ground breaking sci fi story, thirteen years in the making. Apparently the word is that this movie must make $2B before in breaks even. Recognizing that my ticket in Imax was about $25, this means that filling theatres around the globe should make this easier to attain, than what that scary number would mean before this time. It seems James Cameron is ALWAYS breaking expense records when he makes his films, as Titanic was also a record cost of $200M back in 1997. It made $3.4B from the theatre and DVD sales. The real question everyone wants to know, and my primary question going in was “Did it suck?” Followed by “is it worth the money?” In short, it didn’t suck and it was worth the money to see it in the biggest screen I could find.
I had been very careful to avoid all trailers and any preview information before seeing this. So I went in cold with only me memories of the original as a starting point. I hadn’t even recently re-watched the original in preparation so some of my memories had faded a bit. So let’s talk about the Pros and Cons of this epic.
The Pros: This movie is visually stunning from beginning to end. Pandora is a character in the film. The scenes throughout take the viewer to a new world, with all new characters accompanied by creatures that however fictional still seem very much part of this place. I give full credit too all the artists who create the characters large and small. This from both the forest to the ocean.
Then there are the people who inhabit these different worlds. Pandora believes in Darwinian adapting to one’s surrounding environment and the Sea-People are very different than the Forest-People. There is an underlying physiology that is the same but they are different.
The movie is escapism in its purist form. For 3 hours and 10 mins (yes!) it whisks you away to another world which can capitivate your imagination. It sticks with you as well. After a busy weekend I am still thinking through many aspects of it, that I don’t think is fully attributable to me looking to write about it. It likely needs a second viewing for me to have me catch more of the subtleties that it brings. Cameron has attention to detail if nothing else. So I think it is a success in hopefully attracting people back to the theatre through a busy holiday season where the lulls can be for the family to experience something together.
The Cons: For all the stunning visuals, the story isn’t anywhere near as strong as one would hope. In any science fiction/fantasy film, of course one has to check reality at the door. But beyond that, there are many aspects of the storyline that don’t make a lot of sense.
Alison had asked me to get back to her about how a human, who merges into being a Navee can father a child, let alone multiple children. A good question. Presumably sperm is sperm to put it simply, and the children are not pure Navee in that they have more fingers on their hands. It remains a good question, as the whole experiment if you think through it could go horribly wrong, from the size discrepancy alone.
The villain for me is a convoluted storyline that wasn’t necessary. It didn’t have to go that way, because in truth in the first Avatar humans ARE the villain, and we have plenty of those to go around! Even as the movie progresses (and if you choose to buy into this villain) what happens later didn’t make a lot of sense either. I will leave it at that without over-sharing too much about the plot.
The transition from the forest world to the sea is a clunky one for me. I can understand of course looking to protect one’s family. However as things unfolded, it actually delayed the inevitable, which Jake should have clearly seen and it becomes just an excuse to bring in this whole different world with challenges that Swiss Family Robinson had to take on and then some! I am not so clear too how in a manner of weeks/months that skills which have been acquired over generations can be so quickly learned. I don’t care how long I have to practise, I won’t be holding my breath while holding onto a sea creature for the length of time required (or be able to equalize my ears during that time!). But nevermind.
I struggle with the overall cost in equipment, lives and money in order for the human hoard to be seeking out one guy. One could argue I suppose that the American effort to take down Osama Bin Laden was comparable, and in many ways Jake Sully is a terrorist leader for the humans but still! Further, I am not convinced about the need to address fatherhood throughout this film, and notably with the Grace character which was a real stretch for me. Apparently beyond Dory in Finding Nemo we learn that there are other characters than can speak whale! Who knew? But it is a skillset that on first blush shouldn’t be apparent, nor needed. I see the parallels throughout to previous human history, but I am not also clear why the human hoard should be re-directing their efforts away from the mining of the Unobtainium (cool name!) into something far more offensive. So all in all there are plenty of laughable “Yea Right” moments to remind you that this is a Hollywood production.
I didn’t feel the length of the movie and wasn’t shifting in my seat. I will note that before my film even began there were 30 minutes of previews! Including a sneak peak into a stunt for the new Mission Impossible movie. Add to that the new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, and a couple silly superhero movies that I won’t see and that makes a long movie even longer for the audience. In the end, this is a worthy sequel to Avatar. It should be filling theatres over the Christmas holiday, and if you are a movie fan, it should be you too. Updated that Avatar made $435M globally over this past weekend.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover: Netflix has released this re-telling of the D.H. Lawrence book, not read by me with Emma Corrin who starred as Lady Diana in The Crown Season 4. It is a period piece set around the time of WWI, in the English countryside. Newly married Connie is part of a wealthy, established, land-owning household, not dissimilar to Downton Abbey and the Crawleys, with her husband Clifford. He is about to head off to war. He comes back a man in a wheelchair and the challenges of life become readily apparent to the young couple. Clifford is painfully aware of his situation, as a husband and lover, but also importantly as the head of a name and household that needs an heir. He approaches his wife with a proposition that she can, without telling him any details, take on a lover and find a way to produce an heir. She had wanted children, but initially pushed back on his suggestion.
On the estate there is a gamekeeper, Oliver, who attracts her attention. The story unfolds with these two at her insistence engaging in an affair that becomes deeper than either had expected. I am sympathetic to all three involved in this triangle. None of whom had asked for this to take place and are doing what they can to maintain the current state. Certainly Clifford never wanted any of this, and he is trying to assist in keeping his bloodline. Connie has her place but wants a family and some love and affection from her husband which just isn’t happening. The most sympathetic for me is the innocent Oliver whose heart is overlooked as Connie initially looks for a transaction to take place. It never was taken into consideration that he may develop feelings for Connie. He calls this out directly. Over time, Clifford has trouble with this arrangement and acts out against it and others. He is less likeable and more cruel.
The acting was good, and Connie and Oliver have no difficulty with the nudity required in this film, which has been remade time and again in series and movies over the years. I haven’t read the book, but a part of me thinks that the resolution in it can’t be as it is here. I was thinking more along the lines of unrequited love, and money and power overcoming feelings of emotion with a woman and an employee. But watching some of these previous versions may inform that knowledge into the story a bit more. This is a rare occurence where Netflix becomes a littele more racey with nudity. If you like a period piece, then this could be for you.
Golden Globes: The nominations came out and I was surprised that Avatar was nominated for Best Picture. I don’t think that it is. Joining it is Top Gun: Maverick, Tar, The Fabelmans, and Elvis. The only one that I haven’t seen yet is The Fabelmans, which should be remedied over the holidays. It is a lean year. Much is being made about the snub of Tom Cruise as well as Will Smith. I guess they don’t need any more slapping incidents at this year’s awards ceremony. I am pleased that Ana De Armas was nominated for Blonde. I am surprised that Banshees of Inisherin gets all this love, for Best Picture Musical or Comedy, as well as acting nominations. I think those that run off to see this may have expectations set too high in what they are going to get. Either that or I missed the point entirely! Del Toro’s Pinnochio was nominated as Best Animated. The Awards take place on January 10th.