Entertainment

Why ‘Avatar’ is back in theaters and previewing ‘Avatar 2’

It was December 2009 when Australian actor Sam Worthington, unaware of how life-changing his role as an ex-Marine on a mission to a new planet would be, received a little advice from James Cameron.

The film they’d been working on for two years, sci-fi epic Avatar, was about to hit theaters — and there were some doubts as the film has a reported $430 million production and marketing budget fare with audience.

“Jim told us that science fiction might not translate that well,” Worthington told the Times ahead of the film’s 4K theatrical re-release, which begins Friday and aims to give audiences the Best Picture nominee ahead of the excited to revisit the anticipated sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which opens in December. “He said, ‘When the movie comes out, just get away from the world for a while. Live on an island or climb a mountain and try not to read.’ And I did.”

When Worthington returned from a snowy getaway with friends — no box office to speak of — the film was a massive global hit. “I realized pretty quickly that my life was 180 years old,” said Worthington, who needn’t have worried: the film was nominated for nine Oscars and won three, grossing $2.8 billion to date four new blockbuster-sized sequels.

Written and directed by Cameron (“Titanic”, “Aliens”), “Avatar” uses breakthrough performance capture technology to tell the story of Jake Sully (Worthington), a paraplegic ex-soldier who stands a blue-skinned, ten feet tall big man operates genetically modified avatar on the planet Pandora. There he falls in love with the local warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and joins the Na’vi tribe to stop the Earth colonizers from destroying their world.

Producer Jon Landau recalls that pre-release nervousness — and the firm belief he and Cameron shared that audiences would be connected to the wonder of immersion in the vivid and imaginative world of Pandora.

“There was cynicism when we were making the film. When our first trailer was released, cynicism reigned supreme. There was cynicism before the film started. There was cynicism after the success of the film,” Landau said with a smile. “I think when it comes to ‘Avatar’ – show, don’t tell. let people go and see it I think it’s that experience that takes away the cynicism.”

A blue humanoid creature aims an arrow at a large birdlike creature in flight "avatar"

Avatar (2009) will return to theaters for the first time on Friday ahead of the December 16 release of Avatar: The Way of Water.

(WETA/20th Century Fox)

The theatrical re-release in 2D and 3D returns to screens in a new 4K remastering with a higher frame rate and High Dynamic Range, allowing cinemagoers to experience “Avatar” with a level of visual detail commensurate with It was not possible to start running, says Landau. “Now there’s such a wider range of colors and levels of brightness that we can get on screen,” he said from New Zealand, emphasizing notable differences in the hues of the banshee creatures and in Pandora’s bioluminescent flora.

“When I saw it in 4K with dynamic range, I was more there than ever,” said Landau, who also helped bring the vibrant fictional world to life in 2017 in the form of a theme park. “It was like seeing the whole movie again for the first time.”

Landau confirms that Cameron has made suggestions to change or add things to “Avatar” for its theatrical re-release, as filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have retrospectively done with their own classics.

“There were people who thought about it,” Landau said. “But for us and Jim, this was the film he wanted to release. It wasn’t that we couldn’t do anything. It wasn’t like there was an ending that anyone was trying to talk us out of. If you have an orchestra and it plays beautiful music, don’t try to add another instrument. It sounds pretty good the way it is! It’s no different than the original Titanic re-release. We haven’t added anything. “Titanic” is “Titanic”. ‘Avatar’ is ‘Avatar’.”

While audiences have had to wait 13 years for the sequel, many of the cast and crew have worked on simultaneous sequels for Cameron on and off for the past several years. Worthington will return for several sequels alongside Saldana and Stephen Lang, and Sigourney Weaver, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao and CCH Pounder will also return for more.

In 2012, while making a record-breaking solo performance in the Mariana Trench, Cameron also began discussing ideas for Avatar 2 with Worthington, who praised the director’s penchant for pushing boundaries outside of the film.

“I texted him and said, ‘Hope you don’t get eaten by a megalodon bro,'” said the actor, who has already directed most of his scenes in Avatar 3, which is due out in theaters December 20, 2024 hat ) and a few scenes for Avatar 4 (out in 2026). “On my days off, I do my laundry. This guy goes to the Titanic.”

Stage and screen veteran Lang was cast as Col. Miles Quaritch, the ruthless head of security for the mining company tasked with harvesting precious unobtanium from Pandora, two decades after auditioning for Cameron in 1986’s Aliens.

Stephen Lang as Miles Quaritch in military gear "avatar."

Stephen Lang as Col. Miles Quaritch in Avatar.

(Mark Fellman/20th Century Fox)

During the production of Avatar, the director first told him that he would bring him back for future episodes. At first, the news surprised Lang. After all, “Avatar” ended with Quaritch hitting two Na’vi arrows in the chest.

“As far as I’m concerned, I was probably dead,” he said.

But during a day off filming in New Zealand in 2007, Cameron reached out to him. “He said, ‘You know, you’re going to come back.’ And he had a beer in his hand and I had a beer in my hand,” Lang said. “I thought it might be the beer, but if you know Jim, you know Jim doesn’t say things lightly.”

In 2010, after “Avatar” was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, the filmmaker confirmed this. “This time he said, ‘You’re in all the sequels.'” By this point, Lang had witnessed the ‘Avatar’ effect firsthand.

“We have a masterful storyteller who tells a poignant and beautiful and far-flung tale in a wonderful and enchanting and dangerous and exotic way,” Lang said. “It was an eye opener to be in the audience and to feel the energy and the joy and the surprise and the wonder and the disbelief that people felt at what they saw on screen.”

Two blue humanoid creatures hold each other and touch each other's foreheads in a movie scene.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), left, and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), pictured in 2009’s “Avatar,” now have family at the start of the upcoming “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

(WETA/20th Century Fox)

While years of painstaking and costly research and development have gone into the unprecedented performance capture technology and production processes, the technology developed for the first film has been extended for the sequels, the first two of which were shot concurrently. Set in a previously unseen water land on Pandora, “Avatar 2” will feature underwater footage filmed in a 900,000-gallon water tank built for the sequels.

“‘Avatar’ just laid the groundwork for technological advances that we aim to push with each sequel,” Landau said.

The narrative bridges between “Avatar” and “Avatar 2,” he said, are themes of family — Jake and Neytiri now have teenage children — and the ongoing environmental awareness central to the first film. “Jake and Neytiri now have a mixed-race family; he is from the human world, she is from the Na’vi world. Your children will grow up in this environment. How do you deal with that?” Landau said.

“The sequels are a story of the young Sullys coming to define who they are,” he added. “It’s a story about family dynamics and when the family is forced to flee their homeland and seek safe haven in the distant atolls, they are literally and figuratively fished out of the water. Now they have to adapt and adapt thematically, as refugees often have to do. So again, very relatable themes for the world.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-09-23/avatar-rerelease-sequels-sam-worthington Why ‘Avatar’ is back in theaters and previewing ‘Avatar 2’

Sarah Ridley

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