The Way Of Water’s Biggest VFX Challenges Were Not The Usual ‘Third Act Battles’

At a press conference with producer Jon Landau and key visual effects team members at Weta Workshop — the New Zealand company with credits on “The Lord of the Rings,” “Avatar,” “Alita: Battle Angel,” and “Dune” — senior VFX supervisor Joe Letteri explained how their work is always about the story.

“The fact that [James Cameron] decided to take it to another part of Pandora, like, there’s a whole world out here that we haven’t explored,” Letteri said, referring to the new film’s plot, which sends Jake Sully, Neytiri, and their children to an island locale. “And I remember talking to him about that, and he said, ‘Every movie on Earth happens in some place on Earth, and you still get stories out of it.'”

There is a strange tendency in sci-fi storytelling to typify an entire planet based on one look or ecosystem, even though the planet we all live on — Earth, unless your wi-fi on another planet is exceptional — features a wide variety of locations with different weather, environments, and artificial structures built for different purposes and different styles. Pandora, it seems, is no different, and that forced Letteri to come up with new aesthetics for “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

“The fact that we were taking this to this new village with these new characters and this new environment, I was thinking more about the overall scope of what that could look like,” Letteri explained. “And then, of course, from there, you start to delve into the technical challenges that you have to build for. But really the overall feeling was just really a nice setup.”

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