Quick Synopsis: Many years after the first film (which this really could do a better job of reminding you what happened in it btw), Jake Sully continues to live on Pandora, but is forced to move for his families safety as humans continue to try to colonize the planet.
I know this is going to start weird, but don’t worry, I am going somewhere with it.
January 26, 2014, a day that will live in wrestling infamy. It was the 2014 edition of the Royal Rumble event and the fans were hyped for Daniel Bryan to win the main event and go to Wrestlemania. But that didn’t happen, and if you watch that event live it’s fascinating to hear the audience’s reaction. Once they realise that Bryan is not even going to be in the match, let alone win, they openly revolt. You can feel the air get sucked out of the arena, and all goodwill has left. No matter how good things were before that, it was that moment that stuck with everyone there. That moment reminded me of this film. The audience were into this throughout. They were entranced by the visuals, sold on the story, and completely sold on the world and characters that had been created. But it felt like at that moment the audience kind of tapped out and gave up on it. It’s the first time I’ve seen a cinema audience seem to get restless at the same point. People started checking the time on their phone, or talking to the person next to them. Ordinarily, this would get them a good hard stare from everybody, and if they continued making a scene, they’d receive a tut of disapproval, possibly even a headshake. On this occasion, the general reaction seemed to be more “yeah, fair enough mate. Makes sense”. It’s just too long. It’s over 3 hours long, and it feels it. I know not every film can be short, some films have too much story to fit into 90 minutes. But this feels unnaturally long. It’s not helped by the fact that it has an extended sequence which film language tells us is the third-act showdown, involving all the characters, and some glorious action set-pieces. But then there’s another scene. They have another scene which is similar, just in a darker location and with fewer characters. It’s that scene which lost the audience btw.
It’s a shame that happens, as before that, it is an enjoyable film. Considering how much of it is CGI, it looks INCREDIBLE. There are zero moments where the visuals don’t look real. Animating water is always difficult, especially in 3D animation, not just due to the physics of it (each part of water affects the rest of it, but also moves independently so you have to try and take that into account with the way it moves), but also the colour, it’s transparent (kind of), but also reflective, and it refracts when things enter it. So a film set almost entirely in water could end up looking terrible. The only time the visuals don’t really work for me is when there’s a fight between characters who are light blue, in an ocean, in front of a blue sky. That’s far too much blue, and is one of the few moments where the film isn’t visually compelling.
The story? It’s kind of basic. There are long periods where you can zone out and not miss anything important. But you don’t go into this for the plot, and it’s not as though the plot is bad enough that it harms the film. Yes, it could be better, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. The biggest issues plot-wise all relate to one character; Spider. His entire arc makes no sense. He goes from hating his dad, to trying to impress him, to be annoyed with him for attempting genocide, to saving his life (for sequel reasons). It does not work at all, and is one of the biggest missteps it makes.
For a lot of people, that won’t matter though. The film is beautiful enough that you won’t care. The performances are all great, especially Sigourney Weaver as a teenage girl. It is a simply stunning piece of cinema to watch. Just, you know, be fully aware that you can take a pee break at almost any point and it won’t matter.