In 2009, James Cameron reminded us that he had been one of the lucky few to board a lifeboat off of the RMS Titanic (1997) along with Rose (as we all know, Jack Dawson didn’t fare quite as well.). Avatar splashed into theaters that holiday season with its Papyrus typeface title card, bringing the groundbreaking digital effects to the silver screen that Cameron had allegedly been working on since he devised the film in the mid-’90s.
We all saw Avatar, literally all of us (including you, reader). It became the highest-grossing film of all time and remained that way until 2019’s Avengers: Endgame took over the top spot. Not to be outdone, Avatar returned to cinemas in China and took the mantle back in 2021. In any event, I bet you didn’t know that this sci-fi adventure – set over 100 years in the future – features a certain 20th-century digital watch on its lead character.
Why We’re Watching
Avatar returns to cinemas yet again this weekend, so that moviegoers can return to Pandora, hang with Na’vi, and revisit what state-of-the-art digital effects were like …13 years ago. Of course, this theatrical comeback is in anticipation of the upcoming Avatar sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. You may notice the re-release of the first film features a new typeface. So in many ways, this is a way to dispose of Papyrus once and for all.
The film follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), an ex-marine recruited (and bribed) to make an expedition to the planet Pandora to explore a new world, meet its indigenous people (the Na’vi) and exploit them for their natural resource (aptly called Unobtanium). As part of the project, he is expected to undergo connect his mind to the body of a Na’vi, which is referred to as an Avatar. In the process, Sully becomes embedded with the Na’vi, falls in love with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and works to protect them from the greedy human race.
I distinctly recall not liking Avatar when I saw it for the first time. I was in college, and a few of us went on opening weekend because – well – hype (and yes, we saw it in 3D because, hype). There was something about the overall tone of the film that just felt off to me visually as if everything was oversaturated. It didn’t feel like a film, but rather a three-hour amusement park ride. And maybe that’s the point.
It was in this most recent viewing, which took place because I will eventually see the sequel (hype, again) and needed a refresher, that I noticed there are watches in this movie! Nothing of the earth-shattering, haute horology variety, but watches no less. Sully wears a large digital Casio watch on a rubber strap – what appears to be the ProTrek PAW-1300G-1V. The ProTrek line is Casio’s more rugged offering, it’s not quite G-Shock with a price reflective of that fact, but can take a better beating than most other Casio watches can.
It’s hard to get a total view of the watch on screen in this one, but the overall form factor and unmistakable digital readout are easy to see on his wrist throughout. Key standouts of this particular ProTrek are its resin case and strap, 100 meters of water resistance, alarm, altimeter, barometer, compass, stopwatch, and thermometer functionality.
Sully’s status as an ex-marine makes a large digital watch like this really check out. What’s curious to me, however, is the timeline. This film is set in the 22nd century, about 130 years in the future. The existence of this watch in Avatar leads me to believe that there have been no advances in the art of digital watch manufacturing on Earth. That’s a tough sell. What’s tougher still is the idea that a watch released in 2007 would even still be working a century and a half later. But in the interest of suspending my disbelief, kudos to Casio for a truly robust timepiece.
Unfortunately, given the nature of the film, Sully doesn’t get to wear his Casio in his Na’vi form (because it’s his mind that connects with his Avatar body so it would be impossible for him to take any objects from his human form with him, unless his Avatar body opened up his sleep chamber and took it off of his person, but you get the idea). Honestly, I doubt the watch would even fit if he did – he would need a Na’vi Avatar strap extension. Okay, I’m done here.
When We’re Watching
After we’re introduced to Sully we watch the wheelchair-bound ex-marine fill in for his brother and head off for a new world. When he arrives on Pandora, he visits the laboratory for the Avatar project and meets lead scientist Dr. Grace Augustine played by Sigourney Weaver. Instead of being warm and gracious to the new arrival, Dr. Augustine makes snide remarks on how she would have preferred his brother to be there. As Sully retracts his hand from an offered handshake [00:15:28], we see the big, resin Casio on his wrist resting on his wheelchair.
Eventually, Sully gets a taste of what it’s like to be inside his Avatar body. On his first adventure away from headquarters, he finds himself encamped with the Na’vi people. When he falls asleep the first night, he’s awakened by Dr. Augustine (when you sleep as an Avatar, you wake up in your human form). It’s then that he explains his whole experience to the team and finds himself given a new mission: To be something of an informant on the N’avi in order to exploit their Unobtainium supply. As he sits in a tactical meeting, listening to his overlords [oo:55:50], we see his Casio ProTrek behind a hologram map of Pandora.
Avatar (starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang) is directed by James Cameron with props by Andrew M. Siegel. It is now playing in theaters and is available to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon.
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