Guillermo del Toro reviews ‘Avatar 2’ — Raves James Cameron is a ‘master at the peak of his powers’

Critics won’t weigh in on James Cameron’s long-awaited “Avatar” sequel for a few more weeks. But if Guillermo del Toro is to be believed, then the borderline frothy water adventure is sure to dazzle audiences and the box office come December 16.

“A staggering performance” del Toro tweeted Thursday. “[‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ is chockfull] of majestic views and emotions on an epic, epic scale. A champion at the peak of his powers…”

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That’s high praise for the director behind “Titanic,” “Aliens” and “The Terminator,” made all the more meaningful by del Toro’s own cinematic chops. The Mexican filmmaker’s latest project — a stop-motion “Pinocchio” for Netflix — is the frontrunner for best animated feature at the 95th Academy Awards. Cameron and “Avatar 2” are similarly placed in the Oscar race for best visual effects.

Del Toro’s rave review came with a retweet by producer Jon Landau, who celebrated one of the film’s final post-production milestones as the cast and crew head into the final days of promotion before their film hits theaters for the holidays.

“Congratulations to the entire ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ family,” Landau wrote earlier Thursday. “Yesterday we finished our final mix and image mastering and I took this photo of our post-finishing team. I am grateful to all of you for your contributions to the film.”

In 2009, the first “Avatar” outing blew away moviegoers with an unparalleled visual experience that, as IndieWire’s Bill Desowitz explained in his breakdown of the 2023 Visual Effects Oscars race, “rewrote the photorealistic 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 for Pandora, particularly the sweeping oceans that take up a large portion of the film,” said Desowitz. “The oceans contain innovative water developments, including first-time underwater capture.” Per Cameron, the innovative technology required actors to hold their breath for longer periods.

In a 2017 interview with Collider, Cameron described the film’s pre-production process: “We’ve done a huge amount of testing. We have six teenagers and a 7-year-old, and they’re all playing a scene underwater. We’ve been training them for six months now, with how they hold their breath and they’re all up for two to four minutes. They’re all perfectly capable of acting underwater, very calm while holding their breath. We don’t do any of that on scuba. And we get really great data, beautiful character movements and great facial capture. We’ve pretty much 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 yourself with the trailer below:

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