Welcome to ... the Pandoraverse!
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water.
Today we celebrate the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to James Cameron’s 2009 science fiction film Avatar, the highest-grossing film at the time.
For all those non-cinephiles out there, Avatar and Avatar: The Way of Water are set in the mid-22nd century when humans are busy colonizing the galaxy, including Pandora, a beautiful, lush moon of Polyphemus, a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. In Cameron’s fictional universe Pandora inhabited by a 10-foot-tall, blue-skinned, indigenous, humanoid species called the Na'vi, as well as varied fauna and flora.
A key part of the franchise is the concept of “avatars”, Na'vi-human hybrids that the human visitors can “pilot” in order to explore Pandora despite its toxic atmosphere. Subsequently, “entering” Pandora in the form of a 10-foot-tall, blue-skinned alien being, can be seen as an almost perfect metaphor for entering the Metaverse. Cameron reportedly learned of the term avatar by reading the 1984 science fiction novel Neuromancer by William Gibson. Neuromancer is particularly important in that Gibson used the term “matrix” to describe a virtual reality world, a precursor to the 1999 file “The Matrix”, and it has been suggested that Gibson's vision of cyberspace may have inspired the way in which the Internet developed.
We’ve previously speculated about how the behemoth that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the American media franchise and shared universe based on characters that appear in the stories published by Marvel Comics MCU might enter the Metaverse and maximise the value of its intellectual property with virtual experiences. But James Cameron’s fully-realised fictional universe, including the rich, alien world of Pandora, provides a wealth of Metaverse-ready intellectual property.
Cameron’s fictional universe provides a solid foundation on which to imagine a future “Pandoraverse”, a virtual Metaworld, where fans of the movies and characters can socialise with like-minded fans, explore areas inspired by Avatar mythology, play games, compete in competitions, and buy exclusive merchandise and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The first Avatar film introduced an astonishing array of alien flora and fauna, setting the scene for a Pokémon-esque, “gotta catch ‘em all” collection and training game. True to its name Avatar: The Way of Water moves the action from the first film’s lush jungle, to Pandora's eastern seaboard, opening up a whole new array of underwater creatures. It’s not only the world’s creatures that come in different shapes and sizes. The Na'vi, the franchise’s indigenous, humanoid species live in various territorial clans. The Omaticaya clan, to whom we are introduced in 2009’s Avatar, are a jungle-dwelling clan. Their home, an ancient, 150m tall tree “Hometree”, would provide the perfect place for visitors to the “Pandoraverse” to start their journey, to socialize, and from which to travel to other regions of the Metaworld.
In Avatar: The Way of Water we are introduced to the Metkayina clan, who live by the reefs of Pandora's eastern seaboard. The Metkayina clan practice the art of tattooing and fans of the films may want to design their own body art, to be applied back in the real world. Other clans include the Anurai clan, who are known for being renowned artisans. The Anurai clan region or “Metazone” would be a good place to house a Pandoran Meta-market, an M-commerce sector where people can buy or sell Avatar-related products in the Metaverse.
The Tawkami clan, renowned for their knowledge of chemistry and botany, might be the rightful overseers of the Pandoran archives, which contains all references to Pandoran history. Fans could even learn the Na’vi language with Tawkami clan teachers. WhenAvatar was released in 2009, Naʼvi had a growing vocabulary of about a thousand words. Since then, professor at the USC Marshall School of Business Paul Frommer, who has a doctorate in linguistics, has expanded the Na’vi lexicon to more than 2,600 words. Having published the grammar, Naʼvi is now a relatively complete, learnable and serviceable language.
With another three films in the franchise, the fifth Avatar film is scheduled for 2028, there’s huge scope for visitors to explore in the “Pandoraverse”. Other areas we’d be particularly keen to explore include the first film's floating "Hallelujah Mountains", the "Ayvitrayä Ramunong" or Tree of Souls, and other parts of the Alpha Centauri system.
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