Avatar: The Way of Water is a 2022 American epic science fiction film directed and produced by James Cameron. Distributed by 20th Century Studios, it is the sequel to Avatar (2009) and the second installment in the Avatar film series. Despite the eleven year gap between the two movies, this sequel has proven to be almost as successful as the original, grossing over $2.3 billion. To be blunt, the sequel is badly written and overlong, so why has it worked with worldwide audiences? Let’s discuss.
S P O I L E R S
Wash, rinse, repeat
Avatar: The Way of Water is basically a re-hash of the original movie, with familiar tropes. Instead of Jake Sully being introduced to the ways of the Na’vi and the Omatikaya clan, we now get Sully’s family re-locating to Pandora’s eastern seaboard, where the Metkayina clan gives them refuge. Thus, the second act is a very long sequence of the same introduction scenes as the original but in a different setting. The familiarity works for general audiences.
Of the course, the main draw of the movie is the special effects, which look spectacular in iMax 3D. This ballooned the production budget to almost $4.5 million but definitely worth the cost when you consider how much money the movie has made at the box office. Certainly, that is a strong selling point for mass audiences.
With much of the focus on the Sully children, Avatar: The Way of Water is directly targeting families and this tactic always increases number of tickets and visits to the multiplex. Fact of the matter is that the movie does not spend too much time on Jake and Neytiri, but mostly on the teenage misfits that make up the Sully family and this a movie that parents want to watch with their kids, especially during the festive period.
Progressive but in small doses
With its themes re-focused on colonialism and ecological damage, there is enough of a progressive message to appeal to the liberals but very little virtue signalling – no diversity and representation being stressed here – so that conservatives are not turned off. In other words, very old school story telling, which was the strength of Top Gun: Maverick as well.
Avatar: The Way of Water demonstrates that old school movie values continue to succeed with the mass audiences. These are the lessons the major studios need to learn in order to revitalise the movie industry.
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