James Cameron told ComicBook.com in a recent video interview that when it comes to motion capture and building emotive faces from VFX, Marvel villain Thanos doesn’t hold a candle to the Na’vi. Both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Cameron’s “Avatar” franchise utilize extensive motion capture technology so that real-world actors can play otherworldly beings. Josh Brolin starred as Thanos, while “Avatar” turns the likes of Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña into blue-skinned aliens.
Reporter Brandon Davis asked Cameron if any of the VFX breakthroughs coming out of Marvel movies and the comic book movie world have motivated him to raise the bar, to which the filmmaker responded, “Obviously the big comic book films have been driving the sheer volume of the industry… the rising tide of technique raises everybody together. It gives you higher quality artists, more tools and plug-ins and code [to use]. You’ve got more talented people writing code out there.”
“Our team at WETA Digital is constantly having new hires, and it’s coming out of that pool,” Cameron continued. “So it improves everything. That said, WETA Effects, as it’s called now, is the best. Right? Industrial Light & Magic does great work, but when it comes to the kind of emotive facial stuff that we’re doing… Thanos? Come on. Give me a break. You saw [‘Avatar: The Way of Water’]. It’s not even close. It’s what WETA did.”
Cameron is often critical of Marvel movies, so much so that he started his ComicBook.com interview by declaring, “I just want to say ahead of time that I’m not going to diss the Marvel or DC Universe.” Clearly, Cameron couldn’t help himself. In an interview with The New York Times in October, the director went viral for saying he wanted to bring a level of stakes and character maturity to “Avatar: The Way of Water” that the Marvel Cinematic Universe lacks.
“Zoe and Sam now play parents, 15 years later,” Cameron said. “In the first movie, Sam’s character leaps off his flying creature and essentially changes the course of history as a result of this crazy, almost suicidal leap of faith. And Zoe’s character leaps off a limb and assumes there’s going to be some nice big leaves down there that can cushion her fall. But when you’re a parent, you don’t think that way. So for me, as a parent of five kids, I’m saying, ‘What happens when those characters mature and realize that they have a responsibility outside their own survival?’”
Cameron continued, “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. 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.”
“Avatar: The Way of Water” opens in theaters nationwide Dec. 16.