James Cameron promises unexpected twists and turns in soon-to-be-released Avatar: The Way of Water

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  • Twelve years since the release of Avatar, the sequel finally makes its way onto the big screen this week.
  • News24 attended a virtual global press conference with director James Cameron and actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Kate Winslet, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang.
  • Saldaña, who plays Neytiri, said that jumping back into her character was "terrifying."

Avatar: The Way of Water is set to hit South African cinemas on 16 December. Twelve years have passed since the original Avatar film was released in 2009.

"I think it's important for a sequel to honour what the audience loved about the experience the first time, but also to get them off balance. Do things that they don't expect," said James Cameron, the director and producer of the Avatar franchise, at a global press conference.

 (L-R) Filmmaker James Cameron, producer Jon Landa
(L-R) Filmmaker James Cameron, producer Jon Landau, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington arrive at a press conference to promote their new film Avatar: The Way of Water.

Cameron said that Avatar: The Way of Water holds many surprises for viewers, which have been omitted from trailers. "[The film] also goes much deeper in terms of the heart and emotions," added Cameron.

I was inspired by the fact that both Zoe [Saldaña] and Sam [Worthington] were parents, and I'm a parent of five. And so we wanted to get into the family dynamics and responsibilities of having kids. And also what that is all like from the kids' perspective.

Challenging roles in Avatar

Zoe Saldaña and Sam Worthington reprise their respective roles as Neytiri and Jake Sully in the film. For Saldaña, who has been a mother for eight years, returning to the role of Neytiri was "terrifying", she said in the press conference. "When something is very similar to you, you can't see it. You know, it's just so close to you that it's not in front of you. And Neytiri and I, in a way, we've lived parallel lives," said Saldaña.

"There is a level of fearlessness and rebellion that I have as a person that Neytiri has as herself. We were able to find kindred in that," she said.

Saldaña later commented on the fear she experiences as a mother in relation to the film. "Fear was such a sensation that was paralyzing to me. It still is sometimes," she said. "I'm learning to manage that sensation enough so that I can let go. Nothing is more heartbreaking than when your child looks at you and says, 'Mama let me go'."

"In my personal life, when I became a parent, fear entered my realm. The fear of losing something you love so much," Saldaña continued. "And you just spend a great deal of your time creating these hypothetical scenarios that are just unimaginable," she said. When Saldaña read the second script, she could see that reality reflected in Neytiri.

Cameron echoed Saldaña's sentiments: "You may be fearless when you don't have kids; you learn fear when you have kids when you have something greater than yourself that you could lose."

Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), L
Neteyam (Jamie Flatters), Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), Lo'ak (Britain Dalton), and Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) in Avatar: The Way of Water.

Strong female characters

Cameron was praised by Kate Winslet, who plays the character of Ronal, for writing strong female characters. "[What] pulled me in most of all was the characters that he's created. You know Jim has always written, for women, characters who are not just strong, but they are leaders," said Winslet.

Cameron stated that writing a bold character like Neytiri was easy because she was strong in the first film. However, Neytiri's character must now face the challenges of being a mother. Now "there is something outside herself that she puts herself beneath in terms of her priorities," said Cameron.

Ronal (Kate Winslet), Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), and
Ronal (Kate Winslet), Tonowari (Cliff Curtis), and the Metkayina clan in Avatar: The Way of Water.

Avatar: The Way of Water releases in SA cinemas on Friday, 16 December.

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