Return to Pandora with the first teaser for Avatar: The Way of Water

James Cameron finally brings a sequel to 2009 Avatar to theaters with Avatar: The Way of the Water.

If you ventured to the theater to watch Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness this weekend you probably got to see the first teaser of Avatar: The Way of the Waterthe long-awaited sequel to the 2009 sci-fi blockbuster Avatar. Director James Cameron spent more than a decade making the first of four planned sequels, much of which takes place in underwater environments.

(Spoilers for the 2009 film below.)

Cameron wrote a treatment for Avatar in 1994, and it was supposed to be the director’s next big project after finishing his blockbuster Titanic. But Cameron realized the technology didn’t yet exist to make the movie he envisioned. He spent several years developing what he needed, including a state-of-the-art virtual camera system to direct motion capture scenes. (He compared it to “a big, powerful game engine.”)

The visionary bet pays off. The finished film set new box office records upon its release; it was the highest-grossing film until Avengers: Endgame briefly took the top spot in 2019. (A March 2021 Chinese re-release put Avatar back to top.) Reviews were mostly positive, praising the technological achievements, though some pointed out that the storytelling suffered slightly. Cameron also consulted with several scientists when designing the world of Pandora (a moon orbiting a gas giant exoplanet called Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri A system). Avatar was nominated for nine Oscars, ultimately winning Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects.

Enlarge / Sam Worthington reprises his role as Jake Sully, now permanently in his avatar form.

YouTube/20th Century Studios

Even before Avatar, Cameron has expressed hope for two sequels, expanding the scope of the story to include more moons of Polyphemus. The first would feature Pandora’s Ocean and involve shooting footage at the bottom of the Mariana Trench with a deep-sea submersible. (Cameron made the first solo descent to the trench in 2012 using such a submersible.) But again, he needed technology that didn’t yet exist, namely to film motion capture scenes under water. As Cameron explained to Collider in 2017:

This has never been done before and it’s very tricky because our motion capture system, like most motion capture systems, is what they call an optical base, which means it uses markers that are photographed with hundreds of cameras. The problem with water is not the underwater part, but the interface between air and water, which forms a moving mirror. This moving mirror reflects all the dots and markers, and it creates a bunch of fake markers. It’s a bit like a fighter jet dropping a bunch of chaff to disrupt a missile’s radar system. This creates thousands of false targets, so we had to find a way around this problem, which we did. Basically, every time you add water to a problem, it gets 10 times harder. So we’ve put a lot of power and innovation and imagination and new technology into the problem, and it’s taken us about a year and a half now to figure out how we’re going to do it.

I expect we’ll hear more about the various technological advances made to make this film as the studio’s marketing ramps up.

Several actors had to receive special training to shoot the many underwater scenes.
Enlarge / Several actors had to receive special training to shoot the many underwater scenes.

YouTube/20th Century Studios

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana reprise their roles as Jake Sully and Neytiri respectively. Jake decided to permanently merge with his avatar at the end of the first movie, so he could be with Neytiri and start a family on Pandora. According to the official synopsis: “More than a decade after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of the Water begins to tell the story of the Sully family (Jake, Neytiri and their children), the troubles that follow them, the efforts they make to protect themselves, the battles they fight to stay alive and the tragedies that they endure.”

It’s pretty vague, but consistent with what we’ve heard over the years. Jamie Flatters, Britain Dalton and Trinity Bliss play the couple’s three children (Neteyam, Lo-ak and Tuk), while Jack Champion plays a human-born teenager named Spider, who is rescued and adopted by the couple. Sigourney Weaver (Dr Grace Augustine), Stephen Lang (Colonel Miles Quaritch), and Matt Gerald (Corporal Lyle Wainfleet) will also return, although all three died in the original. And CCH Pounder returns as Mo’at, Neytiri’s mother and the spiritual leader of the Omaticaya clan. Cameron said Quaritch would once again be the main antagonist. The return of this ancient threat forces Jake and his family to leave their home and explore other parts of Pandora, hence “the way of water”.

#Return #Pandora #teaser #Avatar #Water

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