How do you follow up the most successful film of all time? Well, after a 13-year wait, from Friday audiences will finally get to see what James Cameron has been up to with his much-delayed Avatar sequel.
Much of the first film’s £2.4billion haul was down to the cutting-edge technology he used to create his stunning visuals.
And now, advances in motion-capture technology have let the Titanic director take his characters under the sea.
But this is more of an incremental improvement than a quantum leap. A new, watery realm of the planet Pandora is beautifully realised but Cameron can’t rely on a groundbreaking spectacle to bring punters into the cinema.
Thankfully, the stirring drama and thrilling action kept me pinned to my seat for the bladder-testing three-hour-12-minute running time.
Sam Worthington’s soldier, Jake Sully, is now perfectly at home in his alien body and deliriously happy with his 10ft blue wife (Zoe Saldana). They live an idyllic life as leaders of their Na’vi tribe and loving parents to four kids, three of them teens.
But a flash in the sky announces the arrival of another raft of warlike earthlings – and this time, they’re not just after a mineral but the planet itself.
And a mission to kill or capture Sully is spearheaded by his old adversary, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), whose mind has been implanted in a Na’vi avatar.
The Sullys seek sanctuary in a remote island realm inhabited by their amphibious cousins, the Metkayina, who are ruled by Kate Winslet’s matriarch.
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As in the first film, Cameron wows us with 3D introductions to the environment’s creatures, including the skittish manta ray-like “ilu” the Metkayina ride.
In 2009, critics accused Cameron of ripping off the plot of Dances With Wolves. And here, there’s a touch of Free Willy as troubled teen Lo’ak Sully (Britain Dalton) befriends an outcast alien whale.
This new world is immersive but the high frame rate can break the spell. Some sequences look jarringly hyperreal, like a TV with the motion smoothing turned up to the max. Hopefully, he’ll ditch this gimmick for the next three sequels – due out every other year until 2028. The tense finale certainly left me wanting more.
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