James Cameron Says VFX in Superhero Movies ‘Not Even Close’ to ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’
James Cameron has waited 10 years for technology to catch up to his vision for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ — and he says the visual effects can’t compare to what were used to from Marvel films.
“I just want to say ahead of time that I’m not going to diss the Marvel or the DC Universe,” Cameron told reporter Brandon Davis before he could even get a word in. The director behind such iconic films as The Terminator and Titanic was clearly using the art of foreshadowing because less than three minutes later, Jim was throwing a few jabs at Marvel Studios.
Cameron was initially diplomatic about how Marvel—which is under the Disney umbrella alongside the Avatar franchise—has helped raise the bar for VFX in films, but then established that nobody compares to his team over at Weta FX.
“Our team at Weta Digital is constantly having new hires, and it’s coming out of that pool, so it improves everything. That said, Weta FX, as it’s now known, is the best,” the 68-year-old said at around the 2:15 mark above. “ILM [Industrial Light & Magic] 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. You saw this movie [Avatar: The Way of Water]. It’s not even close.”
According to Gizmodo, Weta FX worked on Thanos for 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, specifically the scenes in the third act on Titan.
In an interview with the New York Times in October, Cameron took another swipe at Marvel and DC, questioning their ability to create characters with emotional weight. “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.”
He added, “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.”
Avatar: The Way of Water, which will be in theaters on Dec. 16, arrives more than a decade after the original film, speaking to the luxury of the time that Marvel cannot does not seem to operate with. VFX artists accused Marvel Studios of poor working conditions, while artist Dhruv Govil posted a message on Twitter calling the studio a “horrible client” that “pushed me to leave the VFX industry.”
The backlash resulted in Disney+ limited series She-Hulk: Attorney at Law star Tatiana Maslany and creator and head writer Jessica Gao coming to the defense of VFX artists during their TCA panel appearance earlier this year.
Quite the coincidence since—spoiler alert—the finale of She-Hulk includes a joke referencing how last-minute VFX changes could not be made because the team working on the show had already moved on to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
We see it like this — the original ‘Avatar’ pushed technological boundaries so that the Marvel films we know and love could exist today. Now, what Marvel films have learned can be applied and improved on for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ and future installments.
It’s all a cycle. Check out James’ interview below.