We take a trip to London to see Avatar: The Way of Water again, this time on the biggest screen in the country at the BFI IMAX, in high frame rate and 3D. We discuss the difference in experience between seeing it here and at the IMAX Digital cinema at Cineworld Broad Street, where we saw it previously. Mike questions why the film switches between 24fps and 48fps, rather than sticking with the high frame rate throughout – director James Cameron describes how HFR assists in making 3D imagery less difficult to resolve, and implies that he limits its use to avoid the so-called “soap opera effect” that made the Hobbit films and Gemini Man look so cheap, but Mike doesn’t buy that it’s necessary to keep returning to 24fps, and thinks Cameron’s a big scaredy-cat. José, on the other hand, can’t seem to tell the difference between the frame rates at all.
We also discuss what a second viewing of the film brings into focus that we hadn’t put our finger on before, Mike comparing it to the nature documentaries that IMAX have produced for years, and José implores the film community to drop its snootiness and embrace the opportunity to see such a marvellous spectacle while it’s still in cinemas. It’s really special.
A mere thirteen years after the release of the highest-grossing film of all time, its sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, arrives to a cinematic landscape that has changed significantly. James Cameron’s epic sci-fi franchise Avatar began life in 2009, when Marvel had released only two of its (at present) 30 films which would make universes, crossovers, and interconnected stories de rigueur for blockbuster cinema – and one of which would, briefly, overtake Avatar‘s record for worldwide gross. That’s how long it’s taken to create just one sequel to Avatar, with no indication that anything more complex than a linear progression of further sequels is planned. And there was no question that this sequel would, like its predecessor, make use of stereoscopic 3D – but while the 2009 film catalysed a new wave of interest in the technology, it has since fallen out of favour, as it always has over the years. As 2023 approaches, is The Way of Water out of date?
A tweeny sci-fi based on a manga, Alita: Battle Angel tells the story of a young cyborg found on a scrapheap and given a new lease of life by a kindly doctor. She doesn’t remember who is she or where she came from, but takes to the dystopian world around her, finding excitement and energy in it, quickly realising an aptitude for combat and inclination to explore, and developing a relationship with a young man who seeks escape to a floating city that promises a better life. Oh, and she’s completely CGI in a live-action world.
Neither of us is too enthusiastic about the film, though José is far less interested in it than Mike, who finds things worth praising, particularly how Alita’s attitude to her body can be read in terms of transgender experiences. But the world-building is weak, relying on simple tropes, and Mike decries the sequel set up, convinced that the story it’s likely to tell could and should have been a part of this film. We vaguely agree that the action is enjoyable, José holding the reservation that he felt no connection to the characters, and Mike picks up on a tonal imbalance, suggesting that a film so clearly aimed at tweens should be less comfortable with swearing (something he also notes about Marvel, though to a lesser extent).
Mike is at pains to point out that despite acknowledging flaw after flaw, he had a good time. José has no time for such nuance, finding almost nothing in it he liked.
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