James Cameron’s career as a movie magician has given us a liquid-metal man, a shocking recreation of the sinking of the Titanic and the photorealistic, bioluminescent forests of Pandora.
But casting 73-year-old Sigourney Weaver as a 14-year-old alien is his greatest illusion yet.
“Avatar: The Way of Water” is chugging toward a $2 billion worldwide gross with its 3D ocean adventures and over-the-top action, but Weaver’s performance as Kiri, the teenage alien daughter of her character from the first film (don’t worry, the movie doesn’t explain it very well either), could be another Cameron gamble that revolutionizes the medium.
Weaver worked alongside her fellow actors in a performance-capture volume and acted a part 59 years younger than she is — her face was not digitally pasted on top of a young stand-in, and her voice was seemingly not altered in any way. We are looking at a blue, teenage Na’vi with the unmistakable face and voice of one of our most beloved actors.
I have been watching Weaver in movies for literally my entire life and can’t remember seeing her play a part with childlike innocence or giddy wonder. And now that I have, I can’t wait to see her again in the third “Avatar” movie, tentatively coming in 2024.
Yes, we’ve seen plenty of “de-aging” in movies and TV this century, beginning with the wonky experiment on Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006) and leading up to the so-good-it’s-scary rejuvenation of Luke Skywalker in last year’s “The Book of Boba Fett.” But what Cameron and Weaver achieve in “Avatar 2” is something new, something more convincing. The “uncanny valley” is eliminated by the fact that Kiri is an alien character; she doesn’t have to look exactly like a 14-year-old Sigourney Weaver to be convincing for audiences who have been watching Weaver for 40 years.
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It’s an astonishing sight in a film full of them. What else and who else could put this innovation to use?
A ‘Nightmare’ of a guest
The calendar says Friday the 13th, but this weekend is going to be a nightmare at Chicago’s premier movie theater.
“A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge,” to be more specific. Perhaps the most maligned, forgotten installment in the horror franchise that Wes Craven first dreamed up in 1984, “Freddy’s Revenge” has aged quite well with its rule-breaking climax, the hero’s subtextual struggle with sexual orientation, and an affecting lead performance from Mark Patton.
Patton, whose Elm Street teen Jesse moves into the house where the original film’s mayhem went down, will appear in-person and take questions this weekend at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, after a special 35 mm screening of the 1985 film. The show starts at 10 p.m. Saturday, and $15 tickets are available online at musicboxtheatre.com. (Need some more ’80s nostalgia? They’re also showing the original “Predator” on the big screen at 10 p.m. Friday.)
• Sean Stangland is an assistant news editor who can’t wait to see “Titanic” on the big screen again in February.