A blog about movies and filmmaking.

If you missed Avatar Day, well, I don’t know what to say

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2009 at 3:04 am

I want to first say that I am not a James Cameron devotee. I appreciate ALIENS, I loved the water-creature effect in THE ABYSS and I still think that TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY is his best movie. TRUE LIES was fun, TITANIC was good, but really not worth all the fuss. To make a long story short, I was curious about AVATAR, but I wasn’t drooling for it, nor did I buy into the hype that it was going to change all of the film industry all on it’s own.

Friday night was dubbed “AVATAR DAY” by the movie studio – 20th Century Fox – and they previewed 15 minutes of footage of the movie. Which, judging by the accounts of this past July’s Comic-Con, was pretty similar to that.

I want to just say, this footage completely turned me around on my view of the movie. Seeing it on the big-screen, in 3-D, is ESSENTIAL to watching this movie. I’m going to include the recently released 2-D trailer below – and having seen the footage in the correct context, it does look better on the second viewing on my monitor – but this is a movie that is mandatory to watch in the format in which it’s intended. The colors, the textures, the characters all look AMAZING in this format. The segments from the trailer released on the internet is from the last few moments of the footage – mostly – that we saw. Like, all the stuff with the military and Na’vi fighting and what-not. What the footage focussed on, was showing us how the human characters (mostly in the form of Sam Worthington’s character) go from themselves, to having their minds transferred into these genetically created alien creatures.

All of the lead Na’vi that we see, and the human transplants, all look amazingly like their human counter-parts – specifically, Sigourney Weaver and Joel Moore’s characters. Maybe it’s just from my not being as well-known to seeing Worthington’s face, but his character didn’t look as much like him; and there were a few moments where knowing that Zoey Saldana was the native Na’vi, I could see the resemblance. But, the key thing to note, is that in 3-D and in IMAX (even the faux-IMAX that I saw it in – which as an aside, I wasn’t that disappointed in) really brings these characters from looking like decent CGI, to pretty damn good-looking prosthetic, digital manipulation. I can’t say they looked “realistic”, because, what would a real blue person that’s ten-feet tall, has a tail and consisting of feline features actually look like? (Like this, I bet) But, it’s kind of the same argument against The Incredible Hulk, or even the Aliens from DISTRICT 9 – which I’ll come back to in a moment. None of those things are real, so who’s to say they look any more fake than real?

The biggest thing that bugged me about the footage though, was the revealing digital motifs of the scenes. Mostly, in the way that the camera seems to move through objects, or break physical planes – like having plants dangle in front of the camera while a character moves throughout it, and also the kind of flickering blur of the digital movement – something also an issue with parts of PUBLIC ENEMIES, and other digital movies.

Lastly, while I was impressed and am probably more looking forward to seeing AVATAR than I previously was, I think that it’s biggest obstacle – besides looking like dozens of previous movies, as some other sites would lead you to think – is DISTRICT 9. Which with it’s alien/human interaction and genetic-altering heroes and pretty damn flawless CGI – not in IMAX or 3-D – is the movie that AVATAR has to beat in the sci-fi genre this year. They are apples and oranges, in comparison to budget, the seeming overall story they’re trying to tell and possibly the skill and approach of their, respective, filmmakers; but DISTRICT 9, with its $30 million dollar budget looks like it’s going to be happy to stand toe-to-toe with this movie with ten-times the budget.

And I’m looking forward to December when I get to see for myself who will come out on top.

So, here’s the trailer. I tried to resist watching it before I saw the footage in 3-D IMAX; but I caved in. I thought that it looked good, and it was interesting. But, until I saw it in the format intended, I really didn’t get the full picture. If by chance another opportunity arises to catch this sneak peak on a big-screen, before the movie comes out – SEE IT! I really think the difference matters.

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