Critics won’t weigh-in on James Cameron’s highly anticipated “Avatar” sequel for few more weeks. But if Guillermo del Toro is to be believed, then the boundary-pushing water adventure will surely dazzle audiences and the box office come December 16.
That’s big praise for the director behind “Titanic,” “Aliens,” and “The Terminator,” made even more meaningful by del Toro’s own cinematic chops. The Mexican filmmaker’s most recent project — a stop-motion “Pinocchio” for Netflix — is a frontrunner for Best Animated Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. Cameron and “Avatar 2” are similarly positioned in the Oscar race for Best Visual Effects.
Del Toro’s rave review came with a retweet of producer Jon Landau celebrating one of the film’s final post-production milestones as the cast and crew pulls into the final days of promotion before their movie hits theaters for the holidays.
“Congratulations to the entire ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ family,” Landau wrote earlier on Thursday. “Yesterday we completed our final mix and picture mastering and I snapped this picture of our post finishing team. I am thankful to every one of you for your contributions to the film.”
In 2009, the first “Avatar” outing blew moviegoers away with an unmatched visual experience that, as IndieWire’s Bill Desowitz explained in his breakdown of the 2023 Visual Effects Oscars race, “rewrote the photoreal playbook for character animation, world building, lighting, and rendering.”
“[Visual effects supervisor Joe] Letteri reunites with Cameron on ‘Way of the Water,’ where they explore new frontiers of Pandora, particularly the sweeping oceans, which take up a large portion of the film,” Desowitz said. “The oceans contain innovative water development, including first-time underwater performance capture.” Per Cameron, the innovative technology required actors be able to hold their breath for extended periods of time.
In a 2017 interview with Collider, Cameron described the film’s pre-production process: “We’ve done a tremendous amount of testing. We’ve got six teenagers and one 7-year-old, and they’re all playing a scene underwater. We’ve been training them for six months now, with how to hold their breath, and they’re all up in the two-to-four-minute range. They’re all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calmly while holding their breath. We’re not doing any of this on scuba. And we’re getting really good data, beautiful character motion and great facial performance capture. We’ve basically cracked the code.”
You can read more about the new technology in “Avatar: The Way of Water” from IndieWire’s sneak preview at D23 — or check out the visuals for yourself with the trailer below: