It’s been 13 years since James Cameron’s Avatar was released. The strange new world with exotic flora and fauna, the Na’vi people, who were totally in tune with nature, and the insertion of human avatars into the world—all of this blew our minds. The film’s central plot hinged on human greed. It showed them as colonists hellbent on destroying the natural habitat of an alien planet in their quest to mine Unobtanium. The present film, set roughly 13 years after the first film, shows human Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who by some miracle became fully Na’vi and took the mantle of a war leader after the return of humans to Pandora. He and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) have three children: Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Lo’ak (Britain Dalton) and their young daughter Tuk (Trinity Jo-Li Bliss). An adopted teen girl named Kiri (Sigourney Weaver), and a feral human kid named Spider (Jack Champion) are also part of their family. Humans have perfected avatar technology. Now, the Na’vi clones don’t need to be mind controlled by people lying in suspended animation. Controller memories can be directly implanted as chips in their brains, transforming them into sentient bio-robots. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the arch-villain of part one who had died near the end, now resurfaces as an avatar. He and a platoon of bloodthirsty soldiers have been resurrected as Na’vi. Their mission is to capture and kill Jack Sully with extreme prejudice. He guesses their intentions and runs away to seek asylum with Pandora’s merpeople, called Metkayina, who live on far-off islands and have adapted to life in the ocean. They’re led by Ronal (Kate Winslet) and Tonowari (Cliff Curtis). Metkayina can hold their breath for a long time underwater and have an affinity with underwater flora and fauna. They share a sacred bond with the tulkun, huge whale-like creatures who are said to be more intelligent than even humans or Na’vi. Quaritch, however, finds them even in this safe haven, resulting in Sully making an all-out stand to protect his family.

Like the first film, this one offers a visual spectacle like no other. For close to two hours of the 192 minutes of running time, you feel you’ve immersed yourself in an ocean as you encounter miniature phosphorescent fishes and other large and small aquatic creatures that share an odd similarity with our own marine biology. We also get to see the marine tree of souls, which is situated underwater. There’s also a magical, butterfly-like creature who can bond with the Na’vi and help them breathe underwater. You’re transfixed, taking it all in. And watching it in IMAX 3D really raises the stakes. So full marks to James Cameron for showing us another delightful aspect of Pandora.

The film also serves as a memory palace of sorts for Cameron. There are nods to his previous hits such as Aliens, The Terminator, The Abyss and even The Titanic. From being a story of ruthless colonists who don’t give two hoots about the natives or the planet they’re destroying, the film becomes a tale of personal vendetta. Quaritch is given carte blanche by the human authorities to kill Sully at whatever cost. Their face-off, which happens in the last 20 minutes of the film, resembles a small-scale sea battle. That’s when the film really picks up. Till now, we feel as if we were watching scenes from a serene, seaside family vacation, then things segue into Apocalypse Now territory, and at the end, we feel we’re watching the premise of The Patriot. The last two aren’t Cameron’s films, by the by.

There are several questions left unanswered. We’re shown that Kiri is the daughter of Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who was killed in the last film. But who is her biological father? And how does she have a shaman-like ability to telepathically link with the wildlife both above and below water? How come the humans, who’ve come all the way from Earth to Alpha Centauri, lack the technology to make the kind of glass that isn’t easily pierced by arrows? If our planet has been depleted of its resources, how do we still have the funds to make spaceships with the ability to move across galaxies?

Watch the film for its wonderfully crafted images that make you feel like you’re actually on an alien planet. The film’s message of loving your family and facing upheavals together as one will resonate with the Indian audience for sure.

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