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‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ makes the visual effects in Marvel movies and other blockbusters look amateur

avatar the way of water“Avatar: The Way of Water” was filmed using a 3D camera.

20th Century Studios/Disney

  • “Avatar: The Way of Water” is one of the best-looking blockbusters in some time.
  • Director James Cameron filmed underwater sequences in an actual tank, using new motion-capture tech.
  • It was filmed in a number of premium formats, including 3D, Imax, and high frame rate.

James Cameron isn’t known for mincing words.

In an interview with last week, the filmmaker threw shade at the visual effects in Marvel movies, comparing them to those in “Avatar: The Way of Water,” his long-awaited sequel to the first “Avatar.”

“Thanos? Come on. Give me a break,” Cameron said, referring to the main villain of the latest “Avengers” movies. “You saw this movie. It’s not even close.”

He has a point. I saw “The Way of Water” Thursday night in 3D — and it was the first in many years that 3D has been relevant. That’s all the more reason that you, too, should see it in theaters and on the biggest screen possible.

After a year of Marvel movies and other big-budget tentpoles whose looks didn’t impress me, the movie was a breath of fresh air.

I’m not the only one exasperated with the state of blockbuster visual effects right now. 

In July, The Ringer’s Daniel Chin wrote that “Marvel has a VFX problem.” That same month, a VFX artist who has worked on Marvel movies wrote a scathing essay for Vulture, alleging that Marvel overworks VFX houses and demands last-minute changes.

Of course, it’s not just Marvel lacking in the VFX department, but since there are more Marvel movies in theaters in a given year than any other franchise, those films are a good place to start. The reality is that the problems with Marvel movies are a reflection of the state of big-budget movies in general.

Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson nailed it when writing that “big-screen awe is vanishingly rare” and that “The Way of Water” “filled an awe-shaped void in my heart.”

Few blockbusters leave me blown away at just how good they look on the big screen these days, a sad state of affairs for a theatrical industry struggling to recover from the pandemic.

Much of the reason “The Way of Water” looks so good is because Cameron didn’t skimp out on the bevy of underwater sequences. Instead of filming in front of walls of blue or green screens, Cameron and his crew developed underwater motion-capture technology, and submerged the cast for much of filming in a 900,000-gallon tank.

Why? “Oh, I don’t know, maybe that it looks good?” Cameron told The New York Times in a recent interview. 

The cherry on top? It was filmed using 3D cameras. After the success of “Avatar,” many movies in the early 2010s were converted to 3D in post-production, riding a wave that eventually fizzled.

“I think the studios blew it,” Cameron told the Times, when asked what happened to 3D after “Avatar.” “Just to save 20% of the authoring cost of the 3D, they went with 3D post-conversion, which takes it out of the hands of the filmmaker on the set and puts it into some postproduction process that yielded a poor result.”

Ultimately, “The Way of Water” was made for movie theaters, and it would be a mistake to skip it for its eventual home-entertainment or Disney+ release.

Yes, there are other big movies that should have been seen in theaters this year for the best experience, like “Top Gun: Maverick.”

But when I say that “The Way of Water” was “made for theaters,” I mean it was made in more formats than any other movie being released these days, from 3D to premium large formats like Imax to high frame rate, and a myriad of combinations. (For the uninitiated, a higher frame rate is meant to make the effects-heavy action sequences look smoother.)

Audiences are already realizing that these premium formats are the best way to see “The Way of Water.” The movie earned $17 million on Thursday in the US, Disney said, with 61% of that coming from formats like 3D and Imax.

Read the original article on Business Insider