Avatar The Way of Water Review
Don’t worry, no spoilers!
The original Avatar is one of my favorite movies of all-time. The Na’Vi’ peoples’ love of and literal connection to the planet Pandora, reflects my own love for Mother Earth. And, though difficult, it’s important that the movie portrays humanity’s willingness and ability to destroy sacred nature in a deeply disturbing manner. Watching it in theater the first time, during the scene of bombing home tree, I was so shocked and heartsick, that, unable to hold in my emotions, I burst out a half sobbing, “That’s just what we do!” at the very moment the bombing stopped and the theater went silent. Beside me, my partner cringed a little bit, but there was a smattering of applause by others who must have been having a similar visceral reaction.
I had been greatly anticipating the sequel and in many ways it didn’t disappoint, but it took me several days to sort out the feelings it triggered. The film is tremendously violent and some scenes are very hard to watch. Again, the heaviness is triggered by the knowing that we are doing essentially the same thing to our fellow species, and indigenous people, right here on Earth. Even with the spectacular special effects, futuristic and alien concepts, The Way of Water paints a painfully accurate image of our own western industrial-military complex and mindset, and of unchecked capitalism. There’s an arrogance and sense of manifest destiny and might-makes-right in how the humans interact with the other species, including the Na’Vi. There’s a reliance on destructive, loud, extractive technologies. There’s blatant willingness to inflict great agony and suffering in pursuit of “resources”. There are even environmentalists acting against their own values in an effort to secure corporate funding for their project.
I am still torn about the overall violence in the film. On the one hand, I am weary of violence in general, tired of the pain I feel witnessing the damage we are doing. On the other, pop culture often reflects and foreshadows collective cultural consciousness. Perhaps films like this can indeed be useful to moving society to face the violence we are doing to Earth.
As for the more beautiful aspects of the movie, the team has, once again, created a magical and beautiful world, navigated and enriched by interspecies communication. There are also interesting and unexpected developments with some of the original characters and the addition of several compelling new ones, human and non-human. There are some compelling studies in human psychology and a very interesting “messianic” potential. I’d love to share more about a couple elements of this, but as noted above, don’t want to provide any spoilers.
I really couldn’t see how they were going to take the storyline from the forests of Pandora to the water world, but that was handled brilliantly. Unlike with the first film, I think I have a very good idea where the next sequel is going to pick up even though Way of Water did end with several intriguing unanswered questions and potential plot twists. I just hope they don’t do too many of these movies and that somehow, in the end, they demonstrate a restoration of sanity to humanity in a way that offers a glimmer of hope it could happen right here on our planet.
Pandora and all her glorious, magnificent creatures are indescribably beautiful and awe-inspiring but no more so than the myriad of life on our stunning, one-of-a-kind Earth.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2023 bring health and vitality to each of you and to this amazing planet we call home.
P.S. I hatched an idea that at some point in the story, maybe the Na’Vi travel to Earth and show the humans how to revive their own Mother. What do you think?
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