Throughout the history of film, there have been numerous "waiting periods" for things we knew were bound to eventually happen. 'Freddy vs Jason' was a huge kerfuffle in the making, 'Ghostbusters 3' took forever to get going, and of course, 'Avatar' was planning a slew of sequels to its original story. I won't go into boring details about what happened, but as we all know, the wait has been since the original 'Avatar', 2009. A lot of this had to do with the technology, which I'll get to later, but the big question is, was it worth the wait?
My first admittance here is that I didn't bother to re-watch the original before heading into this. I also hadn't watched it in a number of years, but nevertheless felt I didn't really need to. I still think that (as there's a quick but solid recap here), but I kind of wish I did, if only to get a bit more out of this. Kind of like marathoning all of the 'Spider-Man' films before 'No Way Home', or the way one will listen to a band's albums just before seeing them in concert; it just amps you up a bit more for what you're about to see. Not to mention, of course, there were probably a few details here and there that I didn't remember that lent themselves to this. But I digress.
Taking place fourteen years after the original film (so, I guess, essentially in real-time), Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has since become chief of the Omaticaya Clan and has a family with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana); our love interest from the last film. Among them, sons Neteyam (Jamie Flatters) and Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), daughter, Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) and adopted daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), who was born from Grace Augustine's (also Weaver, from the last film) immobile Avatar. Yeah, that bit was a little confusing to me too, but maybe I just don't get how it all works (another reason to have checked out the first film first). Anyway, together, they live as one big happy family until the humans drive them out of their home once again (quicker than three hours, this time).
The children also hang out with a human boy, going by the name of Spider (Jack Champion), who happens to be the Pandora-born son of Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The film works around his death (spoiler alert) by way of Na'vi Avatars that contain the memories of deceased human soldiers, allowing them to live on as Avatars (aka the blue guys). Quaritch leads the rest of the RDA (Resources and Development Administration) back to Pandora to begin colonization, and once again becomes the film's big baddie - but with a bit of an upgrade. And with the tech given in the 'Avatar' movies, it all feels pretty plausible, at least if you can buy into the fantasy world that resides in these movies.
LONG story shorter Jake and his family head for safety, retreating to the Metkayina - a race not unlike themselves, but have adapted to the water. Here, the family is to learn the "Way of Water" if they are to live among their people. In the meantime, Lo'ak develops a quick love interest in Tsireya (Bailey Bass), daughter of Chief Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and his wife, Ronal (Kate Winslet). But perhaps more importantly, we see Kiri (remembering she has human DNA) sort of becoming one with nature, and essentially mastering everything she's taught while everyone else has a bit of trouble. There's a lot going on here, but eventually, Quaritch does begin the hunt for Jake Sully, and will go to some extremes to find him.
'Avatar' was an interesting film when it came out. I personally loved it, and don't deny going to experience it no less than three times with that new 3D tech (which has since become pretty standard). But even I couldn't deny that story-wise, that film had been done many times before. For me, it was much more about the experience at the time. And I have to give this sequel some kudos for new tech that hasn't been used until now - blending real underwater filming with performance capture. To the film's credit, the underwater scenes DO look rather amazing. I think I also enjoyed the overall story here more than last time. This felt a little less familiar. But Cameron definitely pulls from his previous works like 'Titanic' and 'The Abyss'.
Unfortunately for me, this just plain feels late. It's hard to criticize it for that, as it's my understanding that Cameron wanted the right technology for filming it. And I will say that at least visually speaking, the film was probably worth the wait. But there's that part of me that, even without this fancy new tech, thinks there would have been a much more positive response if Cameron gave us something else a bit sooner. At the same time though, I can't really deny that that's what's so good about Cameron - he's like a king of using new filming technology, and it's worked out for him pretty well so far. Anyway, it's a well-filmed movie, and I really enjoyed it. But I can't say I have the hype to go see it a bunch more times like the last one. This is a hard one to hype up for people, and I think a lot of people are gonna come away from this feeling similar.