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Bringing on the Waterworks

Posted 02/09/2023 by Campbell Mahoney

 The striking graphics on Avatar: The Way of Water are impressive even in basic posters for the film. photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

The release of Avatar: The Way of Water has left fans anxious for more.  

For the past 13 years, fans of James Cameron’s Avatar have been waiting anxiously for the release of the second film of the five-part series. The films are a wake-up call – a way of reminding humanity of the dangers of greed, arrogance, disconnection with nature, and the way imperialism has impacted the world. Though the Na’vi, a race of blue aliens living on a planet called Pandora, could not be more different than humans, Cameron still manages to invoke a sense of longing and respect for the way the Na’vi live and convey the message of his movie: Earth is our Pandora.

In fact, after seeing the first Avatar movie, many viewers found themselves overcome with what was then described as ‘post-Avatar depression syndrome.’ They felt a sense of despair after taking such a deep dive into the imaginary world of Pandora. Surrounded by the captivating visuals and the holistic relationship of the Na’vi with nature, viewers became disgusted with the current situation of Earth’s climate crisis and the greedy nature of most people. There’s no doubt that viewers feel similar emotions after watching the second film, as the graphics and beauty of the movie are even more striking than the first. 

Cameron outdid himself with Avatar: The Way of Water. The movie features technology such as “The Deep X,” a new way of allowing directors to film 3D scenes underwater. The Deep X significantly reduces distortion caused by water particles, which was imperative in filming the many water scenes that the film employs. In both of the Avatar movies, a variety of innovative techniques were used, including facial motion capture – a software that is able to map out which muscles in the face of an actor were moving in order to translate those emotions and movements into CGI. Most of the movie is computer generated – the only time that viewers are reminded that they are essentially watching an expensive-looking cartoon is when humans are on screen. 

The movie takes a strong stance on issues like social equality, colonization, and the climate crisis as well as taking an intensive anti-military stand. By portraying humans as the villain in his series, Cameron turns his audience sympathetic towards the Na’vi and fills them with hatred for humans. The first movie was a way of showing viewers that people with more military or technological forces have historically destroyed people weaker than them for resources and is clearly a commentary on the European colonization of the Americas and the blatant disregard for the way Native Americans lived. 

The first movie follows Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, as he struggles to find his place among the Na’vi people and adjust to a life so different from his own back on Earth. Even though the people are unsure of him, he finds new meaning in his life with them and realizes that the way the Na’vi live speaks more to him than anything else. In the second film, Sully does his best to protect his wife, Neytiri, portrayed by Zoe Saldana, as well as his children against the many threats that they face. Both movies employ impressive acting as well as advanced technology that has made the Avatar franchise one of the most groundbreaking and successful series of all time. The movies are certainly a must-watch and the hope is that Cameron will continue the impressive legacy of the series for many years to come.