When Avatar first came out in 2009, it used cutting-edge VFX technology to bring the jungle world of Pandora to life. The alien flora and fauna and the indigenous 10-foot-tall blue-skinned Na’vi looked so real. Even more so when watching it in 3D. More than a decade later, director James Cameron gives audiences a reason to revisit Pandora with the highly anticipated sequel Avatar: The Way of Water. The sequel explores new territories and utilizes newer natural elements like water. The latter of which has never been done before.
When James Cameron’s Avatar premiered in 2009, it represented a landmark moment in visual effects for film. Cameron made some of the most effective use of CGI and motion-capture performances since Andy Serkis’ brilliant portrayal of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Na’vi, as alien and as CGI as they were, felt real to audiences as their animation took realistic form, as did the stunningly beautiful planet of Pandora. But while these visual effects were a spectacle, the story itself, while moving at times, was simplistic and derivative of other films in the realm of colonists and Indigenous peoples.
Last week, a contingency of Nerds of Color were invited to speak at Pandora Radio as part of the company’s Mixtape Rap Sessions. Representing the NOC were Julie Kang, Shawn Taylor, and Valerie Complex, as well as Salim French, host of the podcast Blacker Than Black TImes Infinity. This was a reunion of sorts of the NOC panel that was a highlight of last month’s inaugural Silicon Valley Comic Con.