“Avatar. The Way of Water»: dragons, marvels and pixels

A pioneer of computer-generated imagery, James Cameron pushed back the possibilities in Avatar. This 3D manifesto rightly stunned the planet: never had science fiction been adorned with more sumptuous finery. The forest where the extraterrestrial adventure takes place is of a prodigious luxuriance with its propeller lizards, its neon aerial jellyfish, its helical mushrooms, its butterfly-winged predators…

If he has an unprecedented strike force, the director seeks inspiration in the prehistory of the space opera rather than in the geometry of the living. His hexapod bestiary claims to be the green men that John Carter mates in The Princess of Mars (1911) and dragons that threaten in Flash Gordon (1934). Like George Lucas, who drew many ideas from French comics, the argument ofAvatar oddly refers to Welcome to Alflolol (1972), a Valerian adventure in which, returning from a small 4000-year-old resort, vacationers discover their planet occupied and ravaged by the Earth’s military-industrial complex. It should be noted that the Alflolians are four-fingered giants, like Cameron’s Na’vis, but of a brick complexion rather than blue.

Read also: “Avatar: The Way of the Water”, a visual enchantment at the service of a simplistic scenario

The great model ofAvatar, it is naturally the western. Cameron replays on Pandora the conquest of the West, materialism opposed to spirituality, steel to the pen. He claims to The Prisoner of the Desertof blue soldierof Dancing with the wolves, Little Big Man and other films in which a white settler fraternizes with the Natives.

Liquid Eden

Canadian Cameron loves the water. He dived to the bottom of the seas with Abysswith titanic and up to 11,000 meters deep aboard the Deepsea Challenger. With Avatar. The Way of the Water, he finds his favorite element, even if it means having a drink there. Cloned as a Na’vi, the ruthless Colonel Quaritch returns to Pandora to exact revenge on Jake Sully, the soldier who rallied to the cause of the blue giants. To escape the vengeance of the roughneck, Jake and his small family take refuge with the Metkayinas, a tribe living in the southern seas – a bit as if Chingachgook the Mohican was seeking asylum in Polynesia…

James Cameron is in a contemplative mood. Nothing, or very little, happens in his film – bickering between kids, aquatic magic among jellyfish, diodons, anemones and a whole luminescent fry, cavalcades on the back of plesiosaurs and mosasaurs with variegated wings. It’s beautiful, it’s kitsch and completely new age, with Pandora enthusiastically verifying the Gaia hypothesis, renamed Eywa. But there’s nothing real on the screen, just pixels.

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Qudritch returns with cetacean hunters, those giant tulkums of superior intelligence and deep kindness. One of Jake Sully’s sons follows in the footsteps of Jonas and Pinocchio by entering the mouth of the leviathan to pick a flower of wisdom from the bottom of the beast. The spiritual awakening gives way to the director’s other fad: the castagne. War sets Liquid Eden ablaze in a crash of explosions and symphonic music imbued with religiosity. Enemies settle scores in close combat as if Crazy Horse and General Custer finish the Battle of Little Bighorn mano a mano in a hell of water and fire mixed together.

Demonstration of technological know-how, the license Avatar remains subject to a Hollywood cinema whose codes, conventions and patriarchal dominance Cameron candidly perpetuates. The praise of the family is sustained there, the sons of Jake Sully give the “Sir” to their father, the most seasoned huntresses have sighs and the glances of startled virgins. And the fighters can’t ride their assault dragons without hooting rodeo “Yi-hi-hi.”

“Avatar. The Way of Water»: dragons, marvels and pixels