More than Spectacle
Yesterday I did something that I once did regularly but haven't done in a long while: I went to a teenager appropriate movie in the cinema without the boys. I didn't really have any plans to see the new Avatar, but after a Peloton session and a walk in the park I decided I needed to get out of the house and get to the cinema on my own. Plus, late December is a stressful time for clergy types, so anything we can do to recharge before the coming surge of worship experiences is a good thing!
No one in the family has seen the first one, even though it is readily available on Disney+ (Christy doesn't like 3D movies and the boyos really only jump on Disney if it's a Star Wars or Marvel experience). They haven't even mentioned seeing this movie, despite its opening weekend box office of more than $130 million. Anyway, I liked the first one, which came out 13 years ago, but mostly for the spectacle; the story is.. well, there are a 1000 movies out there with similar themes. But the technology, the vision, the ambition-- those were the big sellers for me.
For years, director James Cameron has promised sequels, and every year they were delayed. But now The Way of Water is here, and... wow.
On its own, just as a movie, Avatar 2 is brilliant. Throw in the things that made Avatar great, and it's even better.
Again, the spectacle: 100%. Even with my 3D glasses constantly fogged up while trying to breathe through my mask (not an issue in 2009), I was astounded at what I was watching, hearing, and feeling. This is an emotional movie. The first was as well, but this one is centered on family, primarily focuses on the children, and really gives them the voice to lead the story. So yeah, as a parent of kiddos roughly the same age as those on the screen, I was involved emotionally. I cried more than once!
The Way of Water is greater than the sum of its parts. Beyond the story and spectacle, it's a movie that can only be fully realized in a cinema. Sure, Avatar is available to stream on Disney+ , but it just won't have the impact. And it's not just about the film's pricetag, which had to be in the 100s of millions. This is 2022's 2nd best film, behind Everything Everywhere All At Once, which didn't have anywhere near the budget of Avatar 2. But we go to the movies to escape- to be transported to worlds or realities different from our own. It's hard to escape when you are watching a movie from the same place you watch the news or your football team. So see this film on screen in a cinema to appreciate the art form that for more than a century has dazzled and amazed audiences.