The Re-Release of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009)

The Re-Release of James Camerons Avatar (2009)

The 2009 James Cameron movie, Avatar has recently been rereleased in theaters in anticipation of the sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, which will release on December 16, 2022. 

When Avatar was released, it became the highest-grossing movie of all time and held its title until 2021 when Spider-Man: No Way Home was released. Avatar grossed about $2.85 billion worldwide upon its initial release. Despite this, the movie hasn’t had a significant impact on popular culture. Other movies, such as Avengers: Endgame, Titanic, and The Lion King have all left lasting impressions on society and are still discussed and referenced, although this is not the case with Avatar. Could this be because the movie is a reflection of our past and possibly our future?

The movie is set in the twenty-second century when the human race is colonizing the moon, Pandora, home to the Na’vi people, and the valuable mineral unobtanium. The main character, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is tasked by the US Air Force with becoming close with the Na’vi people in order to gain their trust before his company begins extracting the minerals from their land. Throughout the movie, he develops a relationship with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and discovers that mining this element will destroy the people’s way home and way of life. Even though this world does not threaten earth and our way of life, military personnel still invade with machine guns and war robots as they destroy the ecosystem and kill the Na’vi. This could be a direct reflection of our own society. If this situation were to become a reality and an incredibly rare mineral was found on a moon six years away, America would be the first country to send soldiers and scientists into space. We have already experienced this when the US tried to invade Venezuela to gain access to their oil reserves back in 2020 (The Organization for World Peace). I see ourselves in this society, and perhaps we need to take a step back and consider how our greed may affect others. 

Even though it was made in 2009, the special effects of this movie are still held in high regard. One of the most important elements in the movie was creating realistic animation for the Na’vi faces. Through high-definition cameras, the actor’s faces were mapped and replicated to capture their emotions and get them to show on the screen.  Every shot of Pandora is incredibly detailed. Shots of floating mountains, iridescent forests, and strange creatures show how much time and meticulous effort went into this movie. It is possible, however, that Cameron was so focused on creating a visually enthralling film, he forgot to write the dialog to match. Most of the conversations between characters rely on the delivery of the actors and their body language. But if one was to take all this away and strip it back to the actual words being exchanged between characters, they would be met with disappointment. Perhaps it’s the unquotable nature of the film that has prevented it from solidifying its place in pop culture.  

The sequel, which is set to release on December 16, 2022, will be about Jake, Neytiri, and their children as they become displaced from their homes and are forced to flee to the Metkayina’s waterworld. The visuals are said to be revolutionary, even compared to the first movie. In his article “Avatar 2: How much has CGI really improved since 2009?,” Stephen Johnson said the movie brings a “new level of photorealism to sci-fi epics through computer-generated imagery (CGI), stereoscopic filming techniques, and state-of-the-art motion-capture technology”. Audiences can expect more captivating scenery and detailed cinematography. 

Just as the first movie had an important message to be conveyed to audiences, Cameron is choosing to use his platform to spread awareness about another environmental issue. The Way of Water will bring awareness to water conservation. 

Typically when a sequel is announced we see it as a pointless cash grab by studio executives trying to profit off the magic of the first movie. However,  Avatar has always had the potential to expand its universe. I am excited to see how Cameron brings new life to this franchise and hopefully earn its place as a relevant piece of pop culture.