There are things for which I have never felt particularly keen impatience: the monthly declaration to Pôle Emploi, the switch to winter time, the exit fromAvatar 2. A few weeks ago, I would have told you that the only “tar” that found favor in my eyes was Todd Field’s.
I’m one of the few losers who missed the first part directed by James Cameron when it was released in theaters – it was 2009, I must have been too busy cutting my bangs while listening to Cœur de pirate. When I finally caught up Avatar a little later, on a computer in an open space like Christopher Nolan would have liked, I didn’t know if my mixed opinion was due to the viewing conditions or to the film itself. As much to say thatAvatar 2surname Avatar: The Way of the Waterin theaters December 14, 2022, was definitely not on my radar.
I was even less enthusiastic when I discovered that the film lasts 3h13. Thirteen past three! One hundred and ninety-three minutes! It’s longer than a round trip Paris-Poitiers! You will tell me: “Who would go for a Paris-Poitiers round trip rather than going to the cinema?” I don’t know, I don’t judge other people’s choices. But above all, you will also tell me: “3:13? No thanks. I actually have things to do. I have children to feed, a loan to repay, baseboards to clean, I have absolutely no time to spend 3:13 in the company of blue people with tails. Well you are wrong.
Whether or not we care about the problems of a group of blue humanoids decked out in magical braids and captioned in Papyrus font (much to the dismay of Ryan Gosling), Avatar is an undeniable spectacle. It’s an unreal scuba diving excursion at 15 euros instead. “Ushuaia» on ketamine. A breath of hope in 3D, an escape in High Frame Rate which immediately joins the club of the best second parts in history, with Evil Dead 2, The Godfather 2, Paddington 2 and 2 Fast 2 Furious. In other words, it is Avatare (sorry).
I had never seen anything so clear in my life
A very intelligent person (the editor Walter Murch) said that television is a screen that we look at (look at), and the one-screen cinema in which we look (look into). Avatar 2 demonstrates it squared.
From the first minutes, an adjustment is necessary: even with perfect vision, you still have the impression of coming out of a Lasik operation. It’s simple, I had never seen anything so clear in my life apart from my personal failures. Eyes wide open, we begin to admire the streaks of each nail, the relief of each eyelash, the texture of each down hair on the lip of a character. If cinema is the seventh art, the dermatological details in Avatar are undoubtedly the eighth. But beware, like a raclette after skiing, it has to be earned.
The first hour, sometimes laborious, resituates the issues for those who have forgotten the events of the previous film – released at a time when Nicolas Sarkozy was still a relevant political figure, the most popular virus was called H1N1, and packs of cigarettes cost only 5 euros. If you made the mistake of hydrating before the session, those first sixty minutes are your opportunity to go to the bathroom – ironic to call his movie The way of the water when the best way to enjoy it is to completely dry out for twelve hours before viewing.
So that you can urinate with peace of mind, let’s try to summarize the story as simply as possible: while Jake Sully, the hero of the first installment, takes it easy with his blue family (Na’vi for nerds), the Colonel Quaritch, a military villain killed by Jake, is resurrected and decides to take his revenge. So as not to bring trouble to their tribe, Jake, his wife and his four children must then move: goodbye to the forest of Pandora and its suspended mountains, hello to the beach and the sun at the Metkayina clan (a word that I obviously copy and paste). In this new environment, the Na’vi are no longer quite blue but green, and spend most of their time chilling in the sea with hyper-intelligent fish. The dream.
This is when the film takes on a new dimension.
Overwhelmed by the beauty of the landscapes and the fluidity of the images
James Cameron, of whom one can certainly say after Abyss Where titanic that he is always happiest when he is a fish in water, unfolds an underwater dream on the big screen. As soon as the water scenes started, I forgot I had a body, a bladder, a job, and bills, and was completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery and the fluidity of the images. I was as amazed as Stéphane Rotenberg in front of a cromesquis.
Every branch of coral, every starfish, and underwater creature has been granted endless affection, and though the film may last three hours, we could spend three more in this jaw-dropping universe. In fact, I need to know everything about every fish in this movie. I want a seashell spin-off. A Real Housewives of Pandora. A White Lotus in 3D located on the shores of Metkayina.
Me in front of this movie.
And luckily we get a real eyeful: it’s as if all the money had gone into the special effects, and that in the end, there was no budget left for the dialogues (that’s how cinema works, right?). Some characters, especially the military, communicate entirely in clichés. “Respect my sister”is indignant one of the Na’vi heroes when his sister is insulted by the young greens of the corner. “I’m going to give you a beating”grumbles the father to one of his recalcitrant teenagers.
Avatar 2 Although set in the distant future, the gender roles are rather retrograde: the mother cries while the father clenches his jaw in the face of adversity. The teenage characters are called “bro” so often it feels like a Billy Eichner parody of toxic masculinity. There’s also a white teenager with dreads who thinks he’s a Na’vi, but the less said about him the better.
Cameron, master of action cinema
So much for the flaws. But deep down, we don’t care. Because the most important thing is obviously the fish. Or rather: fish. Giants. Who steal. The middle of the film, the best part, is notably dedicated to a assembly training (THE best cinema convention) where Jake Sully’s children practice surfing on the backs of flying fish-dolphin-turtles. Or are they flying duck-sharks? No idea, but in any case in terms of transport, it’s much better than what the RATP claims to offer us at the moment.
Better than line 4.
And then there are the whales. Don’t get me started on the whales. Or rather: whales. Giantess. Who are crying. In this universe, they are called “tulkuns”, and they are perhaps the best mammals in the history of fiction: intelligent, sensitive, affectionate, capable of sinking warships. Not super practical as a pet, since they are the size and circumference of two Montparnasse towers – but that’s precisely the point: the wilderness should remain so.
In the final part of the film, James Cameron, who gets excited about nothing more than sinking boats, openly quotes his own masterpiece (titanic) with heart-pounding submerged action sequences. This is when you’ll feel your whole body tense up—and not just because your bladder is about to burst. Clumsy dialogue or not, Cameron is a master of action cinema, and has been able to breathe into this second part the emotion necessary to create unforgettable entertainment.
Beyond the stunning visuals, there is also something poignant, after recent summers punctuated by drought and natural disasters, to be enveloped in such a blue, fertile and lush world. The way of the water is not just a huge cinema spectacle, it is a superb manifesto on the need to treat nature with reverence.
Even if we are not going to lie to each other: the best moment of the film is still when we can finally go to the bathroom after the end credits.
Avatar: The Way of the Water
by James Cameron
starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Released on December 14, 2022