The Western white hero who renounces his roots in order to accept a new, more morally (and sometimes climatically) better homeland is a long-standing literary and film tradition.
Dissatisfied with the structure of the society in which he grew up, this hero must prove to new tribesmen that he is not inferior to them in anything and even better in some ways, such as Paul Atreides in Dune, John Dunbar in Dances with Wolves ”or the same Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in the first Avatar. This attitude of the white man to other civilizations now seems rather ambiguous: on the one hand, he sincerely wants to help save the “exotic” people from destruction, on the other hand, many locals (and now Western people too) consider his act to be a consequence of the “white savior complex” , which initially contains a discriminatory element (“I will teach you and save you, dear island guys. Oh, what beautiful beads you have on”).
This tectonic shift in consciousness is the biggest one that has taken place in the world in the last 13 years since the release of the first Avatar, which became the highest-grossing film in the history of cinema and still holds the first place with grosses of under $3 billion. But who should experience the “white savior complex” if not James Cameron, who for four decades remains the strongest Hollywood director (the fact that he has not filmed for 13 years since the first Avatar is a big loss for cinema)?
It is all the more surprising that Cameron, who in the last century shot two perhaps the best sequels in the history of Hollywood – “Aliens” and “Terminator 2” – in the continuation of “Avatar” (at the US box office from December 15, in Russia the film can be viewed online at the pirates) took the easiest path and almost repeated the plot of the first part, just changing the scenery, however, impressive. The rule of thumb for a standard Hollywood sequel – “same thing, louder, bigger and longer” – has become a cliche that Cameron hasn’t escaped.
Years after the events of the first Avatar, an idyll has settled on Pandora. Jake Sully, who finally parted with his earthly shell at the end of the first part, and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) gave birth to three children: sons Neteyam (Jamie Flutters) and Lo’aka (Britten Dalton) and daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Lee Bliss) and began to raise two foster children: Kiri, the daughter of the anthropologist Grace who died in the first part (73-year-old Sigourney Weaver played both, yes, in the era of special effects this is possible), and Spider (Jack Champion), who remained at the Pandora base after it was left people. But things are going very badly on Earth, it is becoming more and more uninhabitable (“Avatars” are primarily an ecological utopia, therefore criticism of man’s treatment of the environment is in the first place here), and Jake’s main opponent returns to Pandora, who died in the first movie Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The enemy mimics and adapts to new conditions – Quaritch is now also an avatar with a loaded memory of his earthly martinet original. The further plot goes in circles and surprises with the inability of such an expensive cinematic team to come up with anything better than the kidnapping of Jake’s children by the Colonel, and not once, but three times – the youth almost nonchalantly stumbles upon the “heavenly people” (as the earthlings are called here). In general, this is a film about naughty children who could sit at home when they want to kill their father. Actually, according to the plot, Jake loses children, then releases them, and so the whole film.
The primitive plot is partially redeemed by the computer-generated beauty of the middle of the film, where the Na-Vi expelled from their native forest come to the Metkaina reef tribe for help, and Cameron does the same trick as in the first Avatar, only with marine fauna. If in the first film he simply attached an extra pair of legs to horses and passed them off as fantastic creatures, then here he attaches an extra pair of eyes and fins to whales and calls them tulkuns – here there is even a human hunt for such a tulkun inserted, like from another film, in order to once again show their cruelty.
Sometimes it seems that Cameron maintains his own megalomania not in the interests of the film, but simply to give the second “Avatar” the status of an “important long movie”, there are so many repetitions, unnecessary digressions and quotes from his own “Abyss” and “Titanic” – films where water as a deadly threat and a full-fledged hero are shown much more interesting than in Avatar – here the underwater world is primarily intended to lull the audience with its beauty and safety. For example, why invite Kate Winslet to play the role of reef shaman Ronal, in order to end up making her character completely unrecognizable under layers of special effects? In her place could be any other actress. Or, for example, Cameron includes a scene that refers to the story of Jonah in the belly of a whale, but does not beat it in the picture any more.
For the special effects of “Avatar 2” you can put a solid five, for the plot – two, for originality in the approach to the continuation of the highest grossing film in history – about the same (when the dead return from the previous picture, you know that’s a bad sign). The Way of the Water is the first of four sequels that will start coming out next year. Let’s hope the next movie doesn’t see the Na-Vi and their new Metcaine friends hiding from Colonel Quaritch with some third Pandora tribe we don’t know about yet. For example, one that lives like moles underground. It will be too much even for Cameron.
Photo: 20th Century Studios