Avatar: The Way Of Water's Cast Used Underwater Jetpacks To Swim Faster While Shooting

With "Avatar: The Way of Water" proving to be yet another massive box office success for director James Cameron, it looks like we're going to be getting those sequels he's been teasing for over a decade now — and I say bring them on. In that time, Cameron painstakingly mapped out the regions of Pandora, as well as the moon's inhabitants, with one of them being a Na'vi fire clan called the Ash People. Given all of the canonical Na'vi tribes established within the world of "Avatar," it stands to chance that we've barely scratched the surface, especially with the new one we just spent over three hours with.

In "The Way of Water," in order to keep his family safe, Jake Sully leaves his clan to seek refuge among the Metkayina. Where the Omatikaya are adept at being one with the forest, the Metkayina are a water tribe, and their physiology suits their survival in such an environment. Besides their skin tone resembling the turquoise aesthetic of their beautiful oceans, as opposed to the Omatikaya's baby blue, the Metkayina also possess a fin-like curvature around their arms that help them swim. According to Cameron, it helps them become one with their aquatic environments (via "The Art of Avatar: The Way of Water"):

"It's called a strake, which are paddle-like extensions of the forearm and the lower leg [...] There are no webbed feet at all, so this was a real departure from all the amphibious or water-adapted humanoids you've seen in the past."

Giving these new Na'vi a physical feature like that can be difficult to pull off with the motion capture suit, but Cameron had a clever tool to help them look as if they were gliding smoothly among the waters of Pandora.

The jetpacks gave the Metkayina actors a 'crocodile swim'

On top of their arm strakes, the Metkayina also possess a paddle-like tail that seems to serve an even greater purpose to their survival. In order to make it look seamless when they put the digital makeup on the actors later, Cameron tasked lead character designer Joseph Pepe with finding a solution. If the groundbreaking underwater technology wasn't already cool enough, what they came up with was giving the Metkayina performers jetpacks to mimic a perfect underwater rhythm (via "The Art of Avatar: The Way of Water").

"We gave them a switch to hold in their hands so they could kick and then hit the jet pack and glide and wiggle their hips like they had a tail. We called it the 'crocodile swim' because the crocodile moves its butt back as its tail is moving. The actors had to perform as if they had tails. There was a whole aesthetic around the tail, where we wondered how to best design their functionality into the costumes and so on."

With Cameron in tow, you truly get to play with the coolest toys. In addition to having a freaking underwater jetpack on your back, it also helps the audience to distinguish how the Metkayina swim as opposed to the other clans. The Sullys are, as leader Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) puts it, babies compared to them, so they must utilize their bodies to be at one with the water if they are to properly assimilate. The new clan fits so organically into their imaginatively designed reef home, while still maintaining the towering stature of the other Na'vi we've seen thus far.

"Avatar: The Way of Water" is now playing in theaters everywhere.