This morning a friend and I went to see James Cameron’s first feature film in 15 years, Avatar.
A Science-Fictione adventure set in the year 2153, Avatar is about a paraplegic marine Jake Scully (Sam Worthington) who has step up and take over his brothers position as an Avatar driver for a science and anthropological mission on the planet Pandora. An Avatar driver is a person who has the conscious mind transferred into an artificially created Na’vi body. Allowing them to live free and interact with the native population.
Pandora is a jungle planet with a veracious biome that extremely dangerous. The Atmosphere is poisonous and it is populated by the tribal people the Na’vi. (Cameron observes the Sf cliche of over use of apostrophes in alien languages.) Unluckily for the Na’vi, Pandora is also home to ‘Unobtainium’ a mineral so valuable that it sells for 20 million a kilogram. In addition to the scientific expedition there is a large scale strip mining operation with plenty of ex-military security.
Naturally Jake finds his loyalty tested as he lives more and more in his fully abled body and learns more of the ways of the Na’vi.
The film is nearly three hours long and represents a new level of excellence in the relatively young art of performance capture. Actors have their performance captured digitally and this drives the animation of their digital doppelgangers. Robert Zemeciks has been experiment with this as a tool in motion picture, but on films that retained an animated look to them. With Avatar James Cameron has given us photorealistic performance capture. Truly the trailers do not capture the perfect images that have been created for this film. I watched the movie and was totally amazed by the look and realism of the scenes. I could not even begin to guess what elements were real and which elements were digital outside of the alien life on Pandora. The 3-d effect was the best I have ever watched and really did help place you right into the reality of the story. If you have any interest at all in seeing this film you need to see it in the theater where the achievement can truly be appreciated.
As for the story — well sadly there the film was simplistic and predictable. The baby-boomers simply cannot let go of Vietnam and this — in part — is Vietnam all over again. The characters are flat and without and real depth or complexities. From what I have told you — all of which is available in the trailers – you should be able to guess nearly every major plot-point, development, and ultimate resolution on the story.
The film suffers from the need to lecture and allows this soapbox mentality to mar a perfectly fine production. Now mind you, the three hours passed quickly and the visuals are gripping. The story did not fail so badly as to bore me, but it didn;t fully engage me either.
The film also suffered from people behaving stupidly for plot devices reasons, as well an inconsistency in realism. (for example in once scene we see that cockpit glass is tough enough to stop sub-machine guns rounds, but in another it is unable to stop an arrow.)
Still, I am glad I saw it in the theater. Home video, even blu-ray, would not have done this film justice. However I am also glad I paid a bargain price. Keep all that in mind when you make up your mind as to weather you want to see Avatar or not.