“On the first ‘Avatar’ film, we met one clan of Na’vi, so a very isolated part of Pandora,” he explained during “Meeting the Expectations of Today’s Savvy Moviegoer,” a panel with 20th Century Fox Chairman/CEO Stacey Snider and Cinemark CEO Mark Zoradi, moderated by IndieWire’s Anne Thompson. “We had an opportunity with science fiction to be a metaphor for the world in which we live. So we meet diverse clans in the [future] movie[s], we see a whole wide range of environments, and really create an immersive experience, especially when we go under the water.”
Landau discussed additional ways that “Jim’s pushing the envelope” with his successors to history’s top-grossing film (second only to “Gone With the Wind” when adjusted for inflation). “We’re performance capturing underwater in a giant tank, with a wave maker,” he said, thanks to assistance from Weta Digital. “I don’t think anyone’s done that before.”
One veteran of Cameron’s oceanic oeuvre, Kate Winslet, adjusted very well to the submerged set. At her director’s request, she trained to free dive; when cameras rolled, the crew was able to watch her through porthole windows. “Kate was able to hold her breath for more than three minutes underwater, capturing performance,” said Landau, who watched the Best Actress Oscar-winner (“The Reader”) pace, smile, and wave from deep inside a tank. “She just made this look so easy, she came in and nailed the Na’vi language, and all of that.” Winslet will portray Ronal, whom Cameron has described as “part of the Sea People, the reef people.”
“Avatar 2” will be released in December 2020, with the sequels continuing through 2025.