I caught the latest Avatar movie a few days ago — The Way of Water.
As expected, the visual effects were amazing (I rewatched the 2009 film beforehand to make sure I could tell the difference), although I’m looking forward to rewatching it at home without 3D because I felt like I was missing the detail with the glasses on.
The story is a little more sophisticated than the original, but only moderately. As before, the Na’vi are perfectly morally virtuous and humans are so morally reprehensible that it borders on comedic. Cameron doesn’t want us to forget that these guys are bad, so we’re reminded of it every two minutes – a scene where GIs walked around smashing puppies with hammers would’ve fit in perfectly. I’m not sure what message Cameron’s trying to send, but the one received is that the uncritical romanticization of pre-agriculture societies is a trap to which elite coastal filmmakers (who have a larger CO2/environmental footprint than practically anyone else on Earth) fall easy prey.
The strength of the Avatar franchise is world building. As the title suggests, there’s a lot of scenery involving oceans and water, and seeing the imaginary marine habitat of an alien world in full cinematic glory is a real treat.
Also great is the human tech, which aside from FTL and brain uploads feels decidedly near future (they even talk about how they’re shooting with ARs) – crab mechs, giant marine flying boat, single-person shark submersibles – as a kid I would’ve absolutely crazy about this stuff. We need a remake of Aliens immediately so that we can see a showdown between the queen and Ripley in one of Way of Water’s incredible ultra-mobile V2 exoskeletons.