Writer and director James Cameron is a patient man, waiting thirteen years before releasing a sequel to what was the biggest (non inflation adjusted) box office film in history.

Whilst waiting for technology to catch up with his expansive world building, would anybody still care about the world (Pandora) he had created?

Despite killing off his main protagonist, Marine “Quaritch” (Stephen Lang) in the previous film, this represents no challenge for a Hollywood screenwriter. “Quaritch” is not only back, albeit in pure Avatar form, he remains pissed about being killed and has made it his virtual life’s work to find and kill “Jake Sully” (Sam Worthington) and his family.

This represent a rather weak motivation to expend seemingly endless resources upon but provides a loose framework onto which the action can hang.

“Sully” has been busy creating a family with “Neytiri” (Zoe Saldana), with two sons “Neteyam” (Jamie Flatters), “lo’ak” (Britain Dalton), daughter “Tuk” (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss) & adopted daughter “Kiri” (Sigourney Weaver). Also tagging along for the ride is human “Spider” (Jack Champion), who may or may not be “Quaritch’s” son.

The family’s idyllic existence, is rapidly destroyed when RDA returns with massive spaceships to recolonise the world, as usual brutally destroying everything in their path as they pillage the country for anything of worth, subtle it is not.

Realising they are a target, threatening everyone they care about, “Sully” realises he must leave the Omaticaya clan and head for the sea, where the water based Metkayina clan, headed by “Tonowari” (Cliff Curtis) and “Ronal” (Kate Winslet), cautiously welcome them.

We are then treated to a “Rocky” style training montage as the family learns the way of water, together with amusing pratfalls, before becoming masters of their new sea beasts.

Of course the sea is where director Cameron has been exploring his whole life and arguably this is where the 3D (in this showing) digital effects come into their own. Creating a aquatic undersea vista that could have been taken straight from a real life BBC documentary.

Whereas the previous film arrived in fully immersive 3D, proving ground-breaking and initially awe inspiring, this time out the audience is trained to accept this world exists in three dimensions. Populated by characters/people that cannot exist in real life, with Weaver playing Jake’s fifteen year old daughter, proving anything is now possible.

Technically the film is a tour de force, the mixture of totally digital (i.e. not really there) motion capture work, coupled with occasional practical stunt work to create a seamless whole, with the last hour a hugely impressive battle on a sinking ship.

Cameron is not known for dialogue and there some very clunky scenes in what is a VERY long film, that undoubtedly could have been trimmed by 30/40 minutes. However, Cameron is proud of his world and wants to show every aspect of the culture and rituals he and the screen-writing team have created. This does make the middle section something of a slog for an audience not fully immersed in this world.

There is also an element of “put family in danger” rescue them and repeat, coupled with the rather weak motivation behind their persecution, which only highlights the threadbare plot. However, the film has an overarching well intentioned conservationist message, which arguably is the underlying story Cameron wishes to convey.

It is difficult to comment on performances, as we never see the “true” actors only their digitised avatars, however what we see are the actors, albeit augmented with a new alien body, with every action, and mannerism captured faithfully on the screen.

One must keep reminding oneself “there is nothing actually there”, especially with the later brutal sea hunt of the majestic sea animals, led by a loud mouthed cartoonishly evil Australian sea captain “Scoresby”, (Brendan Cowell), aided by weak marine biologist “Dr. Garvin” (Jemaine Clement).

Cameron does thankfully bookend this disturbing sequence, with a cathartic role reversal as the animals take their revenge before the final truly impressive Navi on human/military Navi denouement.


A technically spectacular return from director Cameron who clearly wishes to not only display this world on the screen but live there if he could. Further planned films are likely to proceed with box office receipts north of $2 billion.

The film inherits many of the flaws of the first film, without the previous immediate “wow” factor but despite some initial misgivings, remains a fantastic event movie for those with one blue foot in Pandora.