With Avatar: The Waterway, James Cameron delivers a great ecological film, constructed as much as a tale as a great spectacle. But the message ofAvatar 2 is it consistent with the way it was produced? The answer is yes — except that the promotion is where the problem lies.
LikeAvatarand perhaps even more, its sequel Avatar: The Waterway is a masterpiece. Visual beauty is not the only reason, because it is also in ecology that this second opus shines with intelligence and poetry. This observation is particularly rare on the scale of blockbusters.
A question can then legitimately arise: are behind the scenes of filming, production and promotion of the film consistent with the messages of the film? The reality is better than you can imagine… but is not spared some paradoxes.
“Zero carbon” production
Fairly early in terms of usage, James Cameron campaigned for the use of drones, rather than helicopters, to shoot aerial scenes. But the director has also committed, since 2012, to an ambitious task: to produce the sequels toAvatar to clean energy.
The objective: to reduce the carbon footprint ofAvatar 2 and D’Avatar 3, or even achieve a zero carbon footprint, in any case concerning the production of films. He then detailed during a report of the time : ” I don’t want people coming up to me on the way out and saying ‘you’re an environmentalist making a movie about how we should behave and yet you’re using all this energy to power these computers’. I heard that criticism when we made the first movie, so we did something about it. »
Ten years ago, then, James Cameron got involved in the construction of solar panels for the main filming and production studio of his saga — so that this solar energy supplies electricity to computers and motion capture systems.
So this is how The Way of the Water, and the third opus for 2024, have been made. “ We established very early on how much energy would be needed and, following these studies, we had one megawatt of solar panels installed on the roof of our studio. Not only did they provide the power for all of our computers and servers, but we got a bonus surplus that we were able to sell to Manhattan Beach Studios. “, recently reminded the director, to the magazine Three colours. “So it was a very good deal financially, in addition to guaranteeing us a negative carbon footprint. »
Vegan meals on set
The application of the film’s messages does not stop there. Avatar: The Waterway discusses the protection of species — a statement that is all the more relevant at the time of the 6th mass extinction caused by human activities. If James Cameron is vegan (non-consumption of any product of animal origin), what about filming?
Here again, the director encouraged consistency: all the meals served in the studio self-catering were vegan dishes. For all the studios, all the control rooms, all the motion capture sections — although everyone was obviously free to eat somewhere else than in these canteens.
He explained to Deadline : “ I sat down with the whole crew — about 130 people then — and said, ‘These films, we don’t just make them to make money or to make cool, imaginative images with amazing animations. We do them for a higher purpose, because they mean something. And we must act accordingly. We have to live our lives, as people working on these films, consistent with the message of the films. So we’re all going to eat vegan on this production.’ You could have heard a pin drop in a room of 130 people. »
The limit: the promotion of the film?
That paints a fairly positive picture behind the scenes ofAvatar 2 and D’Avatar 3 in terms of environmental footprint. However, one element remains unresolved in the equation: the promotion of the film. This is where the shoe pinches for a blockbuster. Obviously, there are all the journeys, in particular by plane, undertaken by the film crew. Add the advertising screens. And the list of these ingredients could be longer.
But what caught the attention of fans of the franchise the most was a video taken in japan, in early December, where the film crew (including James Cameron) attends a promotional show involving captive dolphins. However, Japan is renowned for its cruelty in the capture of this species. The situation completely contravenes the ideas of James Cameron and what the film stands for. A phrase from the director also seems tinged half-wordly with his own uneasiness: “ I’m sure everyone asked their permission to put them in the show… I love these animals, I love their intelligence. »
What about the coherence on which the director has worked so hard for 10 years? The reality behind this sequence is quite clear: the team had no say. Distribution is handled at the production studio level (20th Century Fox/Disney) and the events to attend are contractually imposed. It would seem that no one in the marketing department perceived (or wanted to perceive) the absurdity of the situation. While the studio may be willing to concede effort in the creative process, given Cameron’s clout in Hollywood, the financial stakes for the film’s theatrical success are another story altogether. And Asia is a big market.
There is also a liability in this area, since we know that James Cameron and Fox had already opposed each other in the past. A production executive would have asked, for the first film, that the environmental message be simply… removed. ” There was a concern, regarding Avatar, that the environmental themes — explored on a deep, spiritual level — would hurt the film. Someone at Fox, who is no longer there today, said, ‘Is there any way to cut down on this New Age, environmentalist and hippie bullshit? “, he related in 2011.
So: Avatar, green blockbusters or not?
Undeniably, Avatar 2: The Waterway is all the more unique in its genre because the ecological dimension at the heart of the film is coherent with its creative process – at least in part (which is already a lot for a blockbuster involving tens of millions of dollars). It is therefore true that James Cameron was able to change things and push logic also behind the scenes.
But the reality of a world where ecology does not have much of a place in decision-making quickly came back into the saga: to spread the message ofAvatarit is necessary to go through the typical circuit of theamusementitself imbued with capitalism and therefore with a rather weak consideration for ecology.
Except that James Cameron said it himself in 2012: he had been touched by the criticism of the energy cost of producing the film, and that’s also why he had the motivation to improve this aspect. The buzz of the video taken in Japan will probably not remain a dead letter behind the scenes. Fans, who love the saga and the director for their love of life, can legitimately feel disappointed. One can however imagine that, for Avatar 3such a situation in total inadequacy with the work becomes impossible.
There is also an even larger picture. The impact ofAvatar on society is nothing other than a vast diffusion of ecological awareness – it is also in the imaginations that this is played out. And the impact of its production on Hollywood is an objective demonstration that some more positive methods are quite simply possible!
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