Over the decade-plus that has elapsed since the release of Avatar in 2009, many have grown understandably doubtful about the likelihood of James Cameron ever completing the long-in-development sequel. Behind-the-scenes photos of Kate Winslet in a ball pit and the reveal of a title provided some encouragement, but it wasn’t until today’s unveiling of a proper teaser that non-believers started to consider that this motion picture may exist after all.
The people of Earth feasted their eyes on the first preview of Avatar: The Way of Water this morning, traveling back to the far-off planet of Pandora and exploring new ecosystems within that gleaming CGI world. And in true Cameronian fashion, this adventure will take us back to the ocean he returns to like a womb, having last combined his lifelong passion for scuba with cinema in Titanic, The Abyss, and his documentary Ghosts of the Abyss.
The azure-skinned feline humanoids known as Na’vi bring us along on a guided tour through a lattice of archipelagoes where gigantic whales glide by sharklike creatures the locals can ride as mounts. Cameron has doubled down on his predilection for suspending hunks of land in the sky, the most splashy shot depicting a semicircular rock formation wreathed by floating islands. Elsewhere, unseen to us, Winslet and Michelle Yeoh and Edie Falco join the cast of the series.
As of late, teasers have been turning into mini-trailers, but this one wears its incompleteness confidently — no plot, one line of dialogue, mostly just awe-struck wide shots of the wondrous digital playland Cameron has constructed. The main thing we’re meant to absorb is the sense of sheer colossal scale, the feeling of being dwarfed that can only come from seeing a large movie on a large screen.
But this being Cameron, and with the previous film’s example to go off of, we may safely count on a few things: some entry-level commentary on the evils of imperialism threatening this peaceable nature tribe, another cyborg-ish performance from a motion-capped Sam Worthington in the lead, and most certain of all, another multi-billion-dollar gross for the surest thing in the entertainment industry. To bet against James Cameron is to bet against the house.
Avatar: The Way of Water comes to cinemas in the UK and US on 16 December.
Published 9 May 2022
One of the most successful filmmakers of all time talks Alita: Battle Angel, Avatar and the future of cinema.
By Matt Thrift
The true greatness of James Cameron’s record-breaking space opera is not in its conception but its execution.