James Cameron’s smash hit Avatar wasn’t a video game movie, but it’s probably one of the most video game movies ever made in its elements – it was even accompanied by an ambitious link game that, predictably, didn’t quite pan out. The movie was released in 2009, but now get ready for the marketing blitz to end all the marketing blitzes as both the sequel and Ubisoft’s Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora arrive 13 years later.
The teaser trailer for Avatar: The Way of Water has now dropped and, well, there’s a lot of water. Reactions were so strong on PC Gamer’s towers you’d think someone had stolen all our unobtanium, and now you should watch too.
The trailer is embedded above. Read some of our reactions.
Rich Stanton, Senior Editor: I’m a game critic, not a movie critic, but by God this stank. Avatar is a movie I’ve always had a strangely strong reaction to, possibly because I’m Scottish and the ticket price I paid 13 years ago still hurts – mostly because I fell asleep in the second half. I watched it again on DVD, because I’m a glutton for punishment, and found I didn’t miss much.
What’s most impressive about seeing this world again is how boring it all seems now. Clearly, this is extremely expensive CG, but the whole scene has changed since 2009 and it doesn’t have anywhere near the impact that Avatar’s visuals had at the time. I wanted to see Avatar primarily because it was the first real 3D show in theaters, and I still think the selling point is more responsible for its commercial success than the quality of the movie.
This, honestly, in parts feels like something my kids can watch on Netflix. I’m not saying it reminded me of the PAW Patrol, but there’s an unconvincing quality to the Na’Vi that I don’t remember feeling before. I think I’ve seen so many good CG creations that these blue-skinned, big-eyed aliens look like imitations rather than the visual pioneers they once were. The Na’Vi woman’s reaction shot at the end of the trailer… this looks like nothing more than just bad acting.
That aside, I appreciate that Cameron is trying to set a scene here rather than really revealing too much about the movie. There are some impressive looking locations, and I enjoyed the Na’Vi swimming with the giant whale-like thing and their flying mounts. Perhaps the strangest thing about it, though, is that I started to feel a pang of nostalgia for a movie I didn’t even like very much the first time around: maybe they should have subtitled The Way to Nostalgia.
Tyler Wilde, Executive Editor: I don’t want to be cynical, but like Rich, I can’t help but think about the strange animated creatures that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm serves five-year-olds. His muscles appear to be made of polymer clay. There’s something intriguingly unsettling about seeing them lurking around with assault rifles. Maybe that tension will sustain the movie for me if I watch it.
Morgan Park, staff writer: Listen, I’m not an apologist for the Na’Vi, but I don’t see what the big deal is here. The next Avatar looks just as exciting as the next Marvel movie I plan to see in “theater 3, right” at 7:30 pm with a giant Coke in hand. I expect a very thin, very blue, very good film.
So why all of Avatar’s passionate hatred? I think the internet has lost the thread of Avatar over the years. It started with annoyance that the sequels are taking so long and evolved into us deciding it wasn’t very good in the first place. I understand this to a degree – people were quite impressed with the VFX and 3D depth of field at the time. Was pretty cool! These days, we want nothing to do with 3D, and Avatar looks like any other high-budget mega cartoon done almost entirely in front of a green screen. I don’t remember much praise for its rich characters or incredible story in 2009, so I don’t see any need to score internet points for diving into it now.
If anything, more Avatar movies at least means we’re getting another Avatar game. Unlike its charming 2009 shooter Avatar, Ubisoft seems to be putting all of its weight behind Frontiers of Pandora.
Wes Fenlon, Senior Editor: The CGI in the new Avatar trailer doesn’t look particularly impressive, perhaps because 75% of the 1:37 that it lasts appears to be entirely CGI rather than an attempt to blend in seamlessly with live sets and actors. If everything is going to be computer generated, I’d rather watch something with more creative animation, like last year’s Arcane or Pixar’s new Turning Red.
I expect this movie to be mediocre, but here’s my main takeaway from thinking about an Avatar sequel: I really don’t want to watch a movie that looks like a video game, what does it do. But I’m going to watch a movie that’s structured like a video game anytime. Dredd and The Raid are just 90s arcade fighters turned into movies and both are raaaaaad.
Jody Macgregor, Weekend/AU Editor: I’ve watched every movie James Cameron has directed (up to Piranha 2: The Flying Killers) but I don’t know about that. The reason I keep watching your great dumb movies is for the action, and there’s not a lot of that on display here. It’s mostly generic inspirational trailer music, fish and a line of dialogue about family – the safest theme any American movie can have. Sure, there’s smoke on the horizon, raging bows and arrows, and a few flashes of people running and jumping, but I can’t think of a trailer for any Marvel movie that has sold like this. If I’m going to see a big-budget popcorn show, you have to promise me more stuff is going to rock. A fish that can fly is no good, James.
Chris Livingston, Feature Producer: I’m pretty neutral on Avatar – I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It was kind of there. My only thought during the trailer for the sequel was, did they change the title font just because of this Saturday Night Live sketch? That’s literally the only question I have for James Cameron.