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The Way Of Water’

Maverick filmmaker James Cameron has again come after Marvel — this time, drawing an unfavorable comparison between the studio’s ILM-produced VFX and those overseen by Weta for his forthcoming 20th tentpole, Avatar: The Way of Water.

When asked in a recent video interview with (which you can view above) about the extreme amount of visual effects work being produced today — first and foremost, for superhero-driven programming — Cameron acknowledged its positive impact in driving the art form forward. 

“Obviously, the big comic book superhero films have been driving the sheer volume of the industry, and the rising tide of technique raises everybody together. It gives you higher quality artists. You’ve got more tools and plug-ins and code. You’ve got more talented people writing code, and simulations, and all that sort of thing out there,” he said. “Then, as we’re putting our team together, and as Weta Digital is constantly having new hires, it’s coming out of that pool, so it improves everything together.”

But even if Cameron was willing to admit to a recent raising of the bar across the VFX industry, he wouldn’t go so far as to put Marvel’s effects on the same plane as those of his films — specifically evaluating the motion-capture work for Josh Brolin’s Avengers villain Thanos, in comparison to that of his Avatar sequel.

“Weta Effects, as it’s now known, is the best. Right? I mean, ILM does great work, but when it comes to the kind of emotive facial stuff that we’re doing…I mean, Thanos? Come on. Give me a break,” Cameron said. “You saw this [new Avatar] movie. It’s not even close.”

Cameron made the comments after stating at the start of the interview that he was “not going to diss” the films of Marvel or DC. “I love those movies,” he’d said. “Let’s just get that off the table.”

The filmmaker had previously criticized Marvel in an October interview with the New York Times, there taking umbrage with the level of character development in its films. “When I look at these big, spectacular films — I’m looking at you, Marvel and DC — it doesn’t matter how old the characters are, they all act like they’re in college,” he said. “They have relationships, but they really don’t. They never hang up their spurs because of their kids. The things that really ground us and give us power, love, and a purpose? Those characters don’t experience it, and I think that’s not the way to make movies.”

While Cameron has long been lauded for his work as a VFX pioneer, it’s nonetheless remarkable to note his awards record in this arena, in comparison to that of Marvel. The filmmaker has thus far won five VFX Oscars, including for the original Avatar; the Kevin Feige-led studio, meanwhile, has secured zero wins from 12 nominations.

Grossing over $2.9B at the worldwide box office, Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar watches as the paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), dispatched on a unique mission to the moon Pandora, becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home. The sequel arriving on December 16 picks up with Jake, Pandora native Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña) and their family as they look to fend off a new threat to the race of aliens known as the Na’vi. Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Yeoh, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet and more also star in the new film, to be followed by at least three sequels set for December 20, 2024, December 18, 2026 and December 22, 2028.

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