It feels as though an Avatar sequel has been in the works since the first movie was released in 2009. After years of rumors and “I swear it’s happening”-type comments from James Cameron, it really for real is finally coming to fruition. And according to Cameron, Avatar 2 has the potential to blow away the stunning visual effects of the first movie, which were groundbreaking for the time.

The film, which is currently shooting in New Zealand, is reportedly just as ambitious a the first film in terms of visual effects. Cameron, who has made a career of pushing technological breakthroughs in his films, had to wait years for the technology to finally catch up to the point that he could achieve what he wanted with Avatar 2. According to a new interview, it was worth the wait.

Speaking to the Toronto Sun, Cameron said he’s started getting footage back and what he’s seen has blown him away:

“I deal with images in that world every single day and there are some days when I look at those images and say, ‘This is really amazing.’ I’m not patting myself on the back with that comment. It’s a distillation of some of the best designers in the world and a great cast. But if you’ve got the script right and the design right and you have a great cast, then it’s just an iterative process to get the whole thing shot and assembled.”

Cameron has long been known as one of the more contentious directors in Hollywood; public humility and shining the spotlight on others hasn’t necessarily been his bag. That he deflected from himself and immediately redirected the praise to the extremely talented designers, VFX artists, and cast and crew he’s working with is a rare and welcome moment.

And, true, he’s been prone to singing the praises of his own movies in the past, but honestly? He and they have earned it. Terminator 2 is still a modern masterpiece and Titanic and Avatar were watershed event movies that pushed visual effects forward in ways we’d never seen. It’s not a reach to say that Cameron’s movies have evolved movie technology more than once and advanced what was possible in filmmaking; it’s just fact.

With Avatar 2, he’s already evolving technology once again, using brand-new filming techniques to shoot under water. If the sequel can do what the first film did for visual effects, we’re in for a stunning experience.

Avatar 2 is set to hit theaters on December 17, 2021.

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