Nada Mucho

Avatar: The Way of Water – Drowning in Money

Posted by January 7th, 2023 1 Comment »

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang

OK, here we go.

Is Avatar: The Way of Water as groundbreaking as the first Avatar (2009), in a technical sense? Yes. But don’t forget that the equally groundbreaking Avatar, which came out more than a decade ago, led to a 3D resurgence that made many bearable films unbearable and unbearable films unwatchable.

Thankfully, the 3D trend started by James Cameron’s epic 2009 sci-fi film slowed down relatively quicky, giving theatergoers a chance to see the films in all their flat, 2D glory at an industry standard cinematic frame rate of 24 frames per second (fps).

Have there been outliers? Sure, Peter Jackson rolled out his Hobbit Trilogy at 48fps, though most theaters at the time could only project at 24fps. Many who saw it at its doubled frame rate said that it looked so real it was unreal. Some went as far as to claim it looked like a soap opera or local TV news broadcast, all smoothed out and uncinematic. This pretty much halted experimentation with higher frame rates, except for a pair of Ang Lee critical and box office disasters – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016) and Gemini Man (2019), both shot at a preposterous 120fps.

That said, NO ONE tells James Cameron what to do. The Hollywood trades declared Titanic and Avatar dead in the water early on, but both went on to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. So it’s not surprising that the director ignored the public aversion to higher frame rates. In fact, he took 13 years to perfect the technology and the accompanying “story” for his Avatar sequel, released last month.

Unfortunately for filmgoers, Cameron’s approach led to a bloated, yet visually stunning mess of a film. If Avatar: The Way of Water would have been a documentary about the flora, fauna and tribes of Pandora (“Pandora” meaning the home world of the Navi people, not Spotify’s grampa) I would have been able to enjoy the wide shots of a beautifully fluorescent world for about an hour. Throw in David Attenborough’s voice over and sign me up for a “Planet Pandora” series on streaming. Instead, I got over three hours of jittery camera work and smoothed out images of largely indistinguishable characters running around yelling each other’s names.

The Way of Water’s thin plot is as follows: recap the first film, bad guy comes back to kill good guy, good guy loses kids in the forest, good guy gets kids back, good guy leaves the forest and goes to the water, then loses kids in water five or six times. Then, one of the more than 10 characters we’re assumedly supposed to care about dies, there is a big fight between a good guy and bad guy, and we’re left with a trite set up for Avatar 3, 4 and 5.

Perhaps we won’t have to endure more entries in this franchise, though. Cameron has said he’ll only make the three additional films if Way of Water makes 2 billion dollars. For those following along at home, only five films have ever done it:

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) $2,048,359,754

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) $2,069,521,700

3. Titanic (1997) $2,201,647,264

2. Avengers: Endgame (2019) $2,797,501,328

1. Avatar (2009) $2,847,397,339

You heard that right: with the huge budget and ego connected to the Avatar franchise, James Cameron said that unless Way of Water makes 2 billion dollars, he doesn’t think he will release the next three films, much of which have already been shot. As of last week, the film had grossed $1.37B, so I’m hoping I can convince the rest of you to say “no” to Avatar: The Way of Water. We might still be able to stop the guy who already has two films that made more than 2 billion dollars, or at least make him slow down and rethink his approach.

“And over there we will put a shrine to my greatness”

So now it’s time for you to do your part – say “no” to a higher frame rate that smooths out images and removes the beauty and allure of filmmaking. Say “no” to 3D films that have you wear ridiculously uncomfortable glasses (I have to wear them over my own, which makes it extra annoying) that make images seem too dark and become a mere novelty after the opening shots. Say “no” to James Cameron until he uses his incredible skills as an innovator and technician to actualize stories from IPs that already have a fan base. And say “no” to James Cameron until he gives us a film with characters audiences care about, from writers who can tell a story at more than a high school drama teacher level.

With the money you save by skipping Avatar: Way of Water, you can go see real films shot 24fps. The kind of films that move you, like cinema is supposed to. May I suggest The Whale by Darren Aronofsky, Empire of Light by Sam Mendez, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever by Ryan Coogler or even Violent Night starring everyone’s favorite Stranger Things Dad David Harbour? Save the High Frame rates for your PS5 and XBOX Series X as you play your first person shooter this year. But remember: when you headshot the online player it’s only their avatar.

One thought on “Avatar: The Way of Water – Drowning in Money

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Copyright © 2024 Nada Mucho