It has been a long time since I last watched Avatar. In fact, given the movie's phenomenal gross (still the world's highest, despite briefly being beaten by Avengers: Endgame), I am probably a statistical outlier, in that I have watched the movie only once, and not in the cinema. In fact, I watched it on a 2007-era laptop over a 2010-era internet connection, which is not the ideal way to consume such a visual feast. I've largely been lukewarm on the film ever since, and the upcoming sequel this December held no interest for me. None, at least, until I saw the trailer.
Avatar has become a popular film to hate. We have sportified blockbusters and begun rooting for our favourite team, so when Endgame beat Avatar, it was like we won. We saw no share of the profits, but we were Marvel fans, and Marvel just won. Then Avatar re-released and reclaimed the top spot, and we all cried foul. Those dirty blue cheaters cheated! This is, frankly, a moronic way to engage with movies. How much money a movie makes should not be your concern, especially with titles that are less movies than they are legal licences to print money.
I don't hate Avatar. I nothing it, as I do with many movies I see. I like a lot, love a few, and hate them rarely. Frequently I nothing them. I saw it, it was fine, out of my brain it goes. I do recall the white saviour angle being quite obvious, and Unobtainium is just undeniably silly and should have been changed to literally anything else. It frequently gets called out as 'blue FernGully/blue Pocahontas/blue Dances With Wolves' (delete as your age dictates), but I'm not entirely sure I remember making those connections, and it's odd that people who claim to have forgotten everything about the movie can also argue with certainty that it's just Pocahontas. I will need to rewatch it before The Way of Water, and now, impossibly, I'm starting to feel excited for it.
I go to the movies regularly, so in order to keep seeing the same trailers over and over again from being boring, my wife and I try to guess which trailers we'll see based on the flick we're there for. I know, we're such characters. For Doctor Strange, we correctly guessed Thor, Top Gun, and Jurassic World, and were surprised that Everything Everywhere All At Once (which opens in the UK this week) did not make an appearance, while we were blindsided by Elvis and The Railway Children Return. This fascinating story is going somewhere, I promise. These are all fine trailers – I mean, I'm never watching The Railway Children, but sure – but what concluded the trailers was Avatar: The Way of Water. I have never seen a trailer so spectacular.
Nothing all that interesting happens in it, I concede. I don't get much idea of the plot, nor would I be aware of any threads connected to the original. I wasn't even sure which blue guy was Sam Worthington. It just looked impossible to believe. I go to the cinema a lot but I'm not usually an advocate for 'you have to see it on the big screen'. But you have to see Avatar: The Way of Water on the big screen. Hell, you have to see the trailer on the big screen. I watched it on YouTube yesterday when it was released, having hit theatres three days earlier, and it just wasn't the same. I have never seen a movie look this good. Is this what I missed out on by watching the original movie after the fact on an old laptop over a bad connection? Is this why those (admittedly rare) souls who love Avatar love it heart and soul?
My TV these days is better than my laptop a decade ago, so perhaps I'll get closer to the feeling on my pre-Way of the Water rewatch, though I think the time for that magic might have passed. Still, I cannot help but think Avatar: Way of the Water will be the cinematic event not just of the year, but possibly of my lifetime. Is that too much hype? Too much pressure? This is the highest grossing movie of all time and they've spent a decade making this one measure up. It's enough to excite me, a cinema-going veteran rarely dazzled my special effects, a cynic who detests hype and pre-release excitement, a self-confessed Avatar shrugger who saw the movie once and immediately forgot about it. Folks, Avatar 2 might just blow us all away.
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