Felt like homework: essential viewing, and not always pleasurable.
A dear friend on Facebook recently wrote:
"Avatar 2 is like if you asked AI to write a movie script about colonialism, blue people, and things teenagers struggle with in 2022."
He took the words right out of my mouth.
I equate these films to space exploration: Even if you have ZERO interest in 'anything space,' you gotta appreciate the resulting technological advancements that trickle throughout our world as a result.
For example, supercomputers! Tang! Microchips! Or whatever ;-)
So, while I personally did not enjoy either Avatar installment, I respect them both — not because of what they can or did do for me personally during either flick's three hours, but because they pioneer, break new ground, and establish exciting frontiers and technological beachheads that will eventually lift the future of filmmaking itself.
I am glad, therefore, that James Cameron does what he does... even if I don't personally enjoy his Avatar productions.
Three final thoughts now before I forget:
First, just in terms of content/subject matter/approach, I feel The Way of Water is missing heart and soul. I could not summon any feelings whatsoever for any of the characters, and that's a sad statement that speaks to 'technical filmmaking prowess' but characters who are, despite their height, emotional pygmies. Or elves. Or whatever 'person of a diminutive stature' term offends you the least. They are less loveable than the whale-like thingy.
Second, I thought the film was unnecessarily brutish and bullying in Act III. I know Cameron's intention is to diss and dissuade a great number of tragedies (exploitation, colonialism, violence, war, and climate destruction chief among them), but I felt triggered by his depictions of precisely these throughout Act III, and a bit by the landing in Act I. Call me too tender-hearted, but I found myself having to look away. It's like when someone means to discourage a bad behavior but takes such license (or sadistic delight) describing it through agonizing, painstaking, excruciating detail that their 'lesson' does more harm than good.
Third and finally, to my way of thinking, Christopher Nolan is as close to Cameron technically as any director working today. Nolan eschews special effects whenever possible, opting instead to produce real effects captured "in camera," as he puts it, so in this regard, they are miles apart, of course. But Nolan has advanced IMAX technology (further than Tarantino), and I love how ambitious his visions remain. He's as meticulous a filmmaker cinematography-wise as Iñárritu, and that's saying something. But what Nolan has (and Tarantino, and Iñárritu, and Guillermo del Toro, and Peter Jackson, and Denis Villeneuve, and certainly Spielberg) that Cameron rarely displays is that 'Je ne sais quoi' of warmth. I haven't felt it in his work since Titanic, and that was 25 years ago! All this to say, my hope is that Avatars 3, 4 & 5 might show as much emotional and spiritual growth as they do technological growth. Should THAT be the case, not only will people remember and respect Cameron for what he was able to do mechanically, but they'll return to his work again and again and again... not because they have to, like homework, but because they want to, choose to, love to.