Avatar (2009) was the first film I watched at the cinema that took my breath away. I have chosen to ignore the Harry Potter adaptations because my obsession with the books was quite intense at the time.
Seeing the Wizarding World fully realized at the cinema was awe-inspiring. Characters that injected so much joy into my childhood were walking and talking like real people on the big screen. I could not believe it. But my love for the Harry Potter film series is primarily rooted in my attachment to the source material.
Avatar was different; a wholly original property from a director I couldn’t have cared less about. I walked into a cinema on a random afternoon in 2009 and walked out with the name James Cameron seared into my brain. To say that I had a magical time is an understatement.
Avatar delivered the sort of whimsical and transformative experience that makes fantasy fiction so alluring to me. I could not wait to inhabit that world again.
But then, a few years passed and I started engaging with other movie fanatics over the internet. To my surprise, all I saw was disdain for Avatar (2009). People criticized the film for its predictability, which confused me.
Yes, it was predictable, but so what? Most movies are predictable because they follow the same tried and tested formula. What does that have to do with the experience of watching Pandora come to life on the big screen?
Anyway, I started tuning those conversations out because all they did was annoy me. In my opinion, that movie was a masterpiece. But then, as more years passed, my fascination with the film faded.
I could not even remember what made it so appealing. So naturally, when the trailer for Avatar: The Way Of Water came out a few weeks ago, I scoffed at it. In fact, I was more than happy to join the Avatar 2009 haters in dismissing the sequel as a hollow CGI-heavy spectacle destined to fail at the box office.
Too much time had passed. Interest in the franchise had faded. We no longer cared. But then two things happened. First, Hollywood gave us Top Gun: Maverick, a whopping 35 years after its predecessor first debuted, and we loved it.
Secondly, I watched the trailer for Avatar: The Way Of Water at the cinema, and it happened again; James Cameron made a believer out of me. It is not wrong to call this franchise a ‘CGI-heavy spectacle’, because I could not appreciate the trailer until I saw it on the big screen.
Why is that a bad thing? Cameron first mentioned these Avatar sequels in 2006, before the first movie came out. The first sequel should have landed in cinemas in 2014, but Cameron repeatedly delayed the release because the technology required to manifest his vision on the big screen did not exist.
The director had to invent it. The man wanted to capture actual footage from the bottom of the Marina Trench, the deepest oceanic trench in the world (seven miles). What am I trying to say? Throw your skepticism away.
It has taken Cameron 13 years to make this sequel because he wants to deliver a cinematic experience unlike any we have encountered to date. All these delays are going to pay off. December 16 can’t come soon enough.