James Cameron's latest 'Avatar' film combines his love for oceans and family

James Cameron answers questions from the press at a local press event for his film "Avatar: The Way of Water" at Conrad Hotel in western Seoul on Friday. [YONHAP]

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is James Cameron’s love letter to the ocean and families.

After the world premiere of the highly-anticipated sequel to epic sci-fi film “Avatar” (2009) on Tuesday, Cameron, producer Jon Landau and actors Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang headed to Korea to promote their film before it hits local theaters on Dec. 14.

“Avatar,” which was the highest-grossing film of all time until the record was broken by “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), enjoyed immense popularity in Korea as well, with more than 13 million people seeing the film. Even over a decade after its release, it still sits as the No. 8 bestseller in the history of the local box office.

“Korea was very important to us in the first film,” Cameron said at a local press event in Conrad Hotel in Yeouido, western Seoul, on Friday. “We still have a lot of sadness and darkness in the world today. We hope this film can bring a bit of joy and a bit of light to everyone’s lives.”

In “Avatar: The Way of Water,” Cameron takes the audience to the underwater region of Pandora, away from the rain forest explored in “Avatar,” as Jake Sully and his family seek sanctuary elsewhere to escape the wrath of Colonel Miles Quaritch, who has been resurrected as a Recombinant, an avatar embedded with all the past memories of his former human self.

Throughout various interviews, Cameron has accentuated his love for marine life, defining himself as an explorer, a diver and an ocean lover — as well as a filmmaker, which inevitably led him to create films related to water such as “The Abyss” (1989), “Titanic” (1997) and ultimately the upcoming Avatar sequel.

“I love the ocean, I love what it means to us, kind of symbolically; even subconsciously I think we all know that the ocean is kind of our mother, it’s where life came from, it’s what moderates the life on the planet,” he said. “We also all know, even if we try to tune it out, the oceans are in a lot of trouble. A lot of ocean species are in danger, a lot of whale species, a lot of dolphins are being killed in great fishing fleets.

"So we have to do better, we have to try harder. But, that being said, I think the film is adventure first and foremost. It’s a family story, it’s drama, it’s an emotional story. It’s not a film that beats you over the head with its message, but I think it does make you feel. I think it makes you feel more than it makes you necessarily think about it. It doesn’t tell you what to do, it just asks you to feel something for the oceans, so, maybe at least for few people, that may translate it into action.”

From left, Cameron, producer Jon Landau, actors Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington pose for the photo at a local press event held in Conrad Seoul in western Seoul on Friday. [NEWS1]

Cameron stressed that the film is also about family, as the narrative dives into the paternal love Jake and Neytiri feel for their children.

“When you do a science fiction film — you go to another planet, you see these amazing creatures of this alien world — it’s important to ground it dramatically. People in the audience haven’t been to another planet, they haven’t done all these amazing things, but they have been part of family,” he said. “This is a love letter to family and how family makes you stronger, but it’s also kind of tough. We see a lot of tension between Sam’s character and his sons.”

The film's length has also been quite the topic of conversation, spanning three hours and 12 minutes, or approximately 30 minutes longer than the first film. But Cameron says the audience won’t leave their seats feeling disappointed about the screening time.

“I’ve never heard anybody complain about getting more for the same price except that they do with movies,” Cameron said. “If we got more of anything, you got more beef for the same amount for money, you wouldn’t complain. There are short novels and there are long novels. This one is a long novel, but it doesn’t mean it’s a bad novel. But it’s shorter than ‘Titanic,’ and that worked out okay, right? For people who have actually seen the film, we haven’t had any complaints about the length.”