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One Avatar 2 Scene Sets A (New) Pinnacle For James Cameron's Career

The following contains spoilers for "Avatar: The Way of Water."

No one does it quite like James Cameron anymore. 

The director behind "Aliens" and "The Terminator" has always had a knack for raising the stakes and providing some of the most eye-popping visuals committed to film. It seemed like his life's work culminated in 2009's "Avatar," but little did we all know that Cameron was just getting started. It would take him and his team 13 years and the further advancement of technology in order to get to a place where shooting the follow-up, "Avatar: The Way of Water," was actually a possibility.

Say what you will about the first "Avatar," but it moved the needle for filmmaking innovation in a positive direction. It wasn't long before a ton of films coming out of Hollywood utilized 3D graphics and began building out entire worlds via CGI. "The Way of Water" continues on that trajectory, fleshing out the world of Pandora even more and making the Na'vi come across as actual beings.

"The Way of Water" looks absolutely splendid, and it's clear that the VFX team did an incredible job transporting audiences to Pandora once again. But there's one scene, in particular, that truly sums up everything James Cameron has managed to accomplish in his career thus far in the realm of technological advancement.

The first underwater sequence is breathtaking

When Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), and their family realize they're being hunted by a reincarnated Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), they understand they can't put themselves or their loved ones in danger. They must go to another tribe to try to live in peace, but of course, that doesn't last long. But for a little while, Jake and Neytiri's kids have a blast swimming around the reef with the Metkayina clan. And it's that first experience of them diving into the ocean where you truly understand where James Cameron has been building up to throughout his career. 

It's no secret that Cameron loves the ocean. He's a fan of deep-sea diving and has even traveled within the Mariana Trench (via National Geographic). You can feel the man's love and admiration on the faces of the Na'vi children as they explore a new world for the first time. As they swim around the reef, they get to explore an entirely new ecosystem and see creatures they have never witnessed before. 

It's abundantly clear Cameron wants to instill a similar sense of whimsy and wonder in the mindsets of audience members. No other movie set in the ocean has ever felt this real, let alone on an alien planet with entirely different animals swimming about. There's a certain majesty to the sequence few filmmakers could ever hope to achieve, but Cameron managed to bring it to theaters in spectacular fashion.

James Cameron aimed for authenticity

Without naming any names, there are some movies that take place predominantly underwater that pretty much just look like they were done in front of a green screen (or a blue screen if the crew felt like being on theme). Maybe an actor's hair waves around a bit, but it just doesn't quite look right. One of the reasons why the first underwater sequence in "Avatar: The Way of Water" takes your breath away is due to how it looks like the characters are actually underwater. From the lighting to the various textures, it genuinely feels like you're watching them go for a swim. Well, there's a very good reason why that's the case. 

In an interview with The New York Times, James Cameron spoke about the prep that went into getting the underwater scenes in "Avatar 2" just right. This involved having the actors learn how to hold their breath for extended periods of time so that they could actually film scenes underwater. Putting people in the water was crucial for getting the look and feel of the film the way Cameron wanted it, going on to say, "Come on! You want it to look like the people are underwater, so they need to be underwater." He continued, "It's not some gigantic leap — if you were making a Western, you'd be out learning how to ride a horse."

As for the team's dedication, the proof is right there on film. The first underwater sequence submerges you into this new realm while all of the subsequent ones up the ante and make you feel like you could reach out and touch all of those weird fish.