How ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ Stunts Ground Pandora in Reality — Watch

Go behind the scenes on the reality-based stunt work of the James Cameron blockbuster.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER, (aka AVATAR 2), Director James Cameron, Sam Worthington, on set, 2022. ph: Mark Fellman /© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
"Avatar: The Way of Water"
©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

Avatar: The Way of Water” is maybe the most special-effects-heavy film of the entire year, transforming the majority of the cast into the alien Na’vi and their real-world surroundings into the lush planet of Pandora. But in making the film, James Cameron had an edict for the stunt team responsible for coordinating the action scenes to make them feel as real and grounded as possible.

“[James] of course doesn’t like things to just be animated, you’re gonna do them for real,” stunt coordinator Garrett Warren says. “The only thing that’s not real is us being blue,” assistant stunt coordinator Steve Brown adds. “If we need real fire, there’s gonna be real fire on that stage. If we need those physical things in our hands to make it real, it will be there.”

IndieWire is exclusively debuting this stunt featurette for “Avatar: The Way of Water.” The video below sees the stunt team go into detail about how they brought to life some of the most jaw-dropping set pieces of the film, from the fights and flying scenes to the multiple underwater sequences the film brings to life, which required an entire crew of free divers to film underwater for up to 11 minutes.

“This movie is not just some amazing trip into another world, it’s also still a reality-based movie that’s right here in your face, and that’s why I love it,” Warren says in the video.

In an interview with IndieWire, James Cameron discussed how the technological advancements between the original 2009 movie and its belated 2022 follow-up allowed the sequel to shoot underwater while still using the performance capture suits and went into detail about how the creature rigs represent the alien mounts of the film, like the Tulkun, revealing that he went to the Bahamas for research to make the movement as realistic as possible.

“We tested these creature mockups that could be flown around the water at high speed and even pop out of the water and fly over it and then dive back in. It sounds kind of impossible, but we built them based on a water jet principle — they were being driven by a high-performance jet ski engine,” Cameron told IndieWire. “Then we brought it all back into the tank and taught the actors how to do it. It was a tremendous amount of trial and error perfecting it and then transferring that knowledge to the stunt people and actors.”

“Avatar: The Way of Water” is playing in theaters now.

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