It’s been over a decade since James Cameron’s Avatar became an international sensation. And what a decade it’s been. Showbiz has been transformed several times since we first went to Pandora to meet the Na’vi and there are a lot of questions about how this sequel, whose teaser trailer arrived this week, will land in a post-MCU reality. However, never bet against James Cameron — this man made Titanic, Aliens and Terminator before Avatar, so he knows his way around movies. But does he know his way around graphic design?
That question became pertinent in 2017, when Saturday Night Live delivered the sort of skewering even a filmmaker of Cameron’s caliber can’t ignore. Ryan Gosling starred in the digital short as a man driven to the brink by Avatar‘s font choice which, as he notes, is basically just the Papyrus font. If you haven’t seen it, you’ve missed one of Gosling’s career highlights.
You couldn’t ask for a simpler concept, but it really rides on Gosling’s commitment and his friends’ attempts to reason with him. When Chris Redd tries to point out that the Avatar font isn’t quite Papyrus, Gosling fully loses it in a way that would make Holland March, his shifty, duplicitous character in The Nice Guys, look reasonable in comparison.
And now that we’ve got our first real look at Avatar: The Way of Water, we can see whether or not Gosling’s crusade had any impact or if the powers that be at Avatar stuck with their original design “like a thoughtless child wandering through a garden picking at leaves.”
Hmmm. Well, it’s not identical. Definitely not Papyrus, although it seems to skew pretty close to the spirit of the first font, so it’s not really clear how Gosling will feel about this. Still, it does look like the design team pivoted from the original logo at some point in the last twelve years so that’s a small win and hopefully the writer’s room at SNL can feel that justice is served. But then again, the assessment from 2017 might still hold true today: “whatever they did, it WASN’T! ENOUGH!”