James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” press tour has officially kicked off with a new interview in The New York Times in which he was joined by stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña and Sigourney Weaver. The long-awaited “Avatar” sequel takes place 15 years after the original, so it was important for Cameron to depict a new sense of maturity in his protagonists Jake Sully (Worthington) and Neytiri (Saldaña). Such maturity is lacking in the characters that populate Marvel and DC movies, Cameron argued.

“Zoe and Sam now play parents, 15 years later,” Cameron said. “In the first movie, Sam’s character leaps off his flying creature and essentially changes the course of history as a result of this crazy, almost suicidal leap of faith. And Zoe’s character leaps off a limb and assumes there’s going to be some nice big leaves down there that can cushion her fall. But when you’re a parent, you don’t think that way. So for me, as a parent of five kids, I’m saying, ‘What happens when those characters mature and realize that they have a responsibility outside their own survival?’”

Cameron continued, “When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college. They have relationships, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.”

Another way not to make movies is to make underwater scenes. Cameron shot a majority of “Avatar: The Way of Water” in large water tanks, and his cast had to train to hold their breathes for minutes on end so that Cameron could film longer takes underwater. When asked what’s gained from shooting in actual water has opposed to the more CGI appraoch taken in films like “Aquaman” and Disney’s upcoming “The Little Mermaid,” Cameron answered, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe that it looks good?”

“Come on! You want it to look like the people are underwater, so they need to be underwater,” Cameron told The Times. “It’s not some gigantic leap — if you were making a western, you’d be out learning how to ride a horse. I knew Sam was a surfer, but Sigourney and Zoe and the others weren’t particularly ocean-oriented folks. So I was very specific about what would be required, and we got the world’s best breath-hold specialists to talk them through it.”

“Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in theaters nationwide Dec. 16.

Zack Sharf

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