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Friday, November 13, 2009

Do You Believe in Avatar?

To begin, I want to admit that this won’t be the most thorough look at Avatar. I’m not going to chronicle Avatar from its 1994 conception. But I am going to try and throw down why it’s such a big effing deal—Or not?

I haven’t updated a lot on Avatar over the last couple of years and that’s mostly because so little was known about it. Okay. And I just didn’t think it looked that interesting. Obviously that’s changed otherwise I wouldn’t be embedding the trailer on my blog.

So why am I paying attention to Avatar now? Read closely, because if I find something intriguing you should too. If not you’re a moron. Lets start with the obvious: James Cameron. This is the man that gave us the first two Terminator flicks and a sequel to Alien that was at the very least as good as its predecessor. Though he arguably sold out with Titanic, he did win an Academy Award for it. (Admittedly something that means less and less every year.) He ushered film in to the CGI era with Terminator 2 and The Abyss, and, to end this list of legendary titles, True Lies was funny as hell.

Okay, so enough of the James Cameron blow job. Why else should I be excited for this flick? Remember that small mention of Cameron jumpstarting cinema’s CGI era? Ready for the next big fad? Come now, you didn’t think CGI was the end all of visual effects did you? There will always be something else. In this case Cameron has invented his own Reality Camera System; an arrangement that uses two HD cameras in a single unit. This accomplishes greater depth perception making the 3-D component of the film more interactive with the audience. Couple that with Cameron’s promise of photo-real CGI characters that he’s been tweaking for two years and you have something to chew on.

I know what you’re thinking. We’ve seen a billion CGI characters. What makes this so different? Like King Kong and Lord of the Ring’s Gollum, motion capture is used for the alien creatures, the Na’vi. Old news, but new adjustments. A new skullcap has been constructed to capture 95% of an actor’s facial performance. But what makes all this really cool is Cameron’s visual camera technique. Most motion capture is integrated in to a shot in post-production. Here the director can see what the motion capture footage looks like next to his digital world in real time. This gives Cameron an extreme edge over all the past motion captured CG characters. Can we really say Gollum was that impressive? King Kong looked great, but there were some noticeably weak shots. And Jar-Jar? Scratch that. All of the CG characters in the recent Star Wars flicks looked like they came off Dreamwork Animation’s scrape pile. But the point is directors and visual effects artists can now perfect movements and designs of a digital character by immediately seeing what they’re like in real time. If you didn’t understand any of that, I’ll dumb it down to this: James Cameron has [apparently] developed a way to make photo realistic characters and sets through advanced camera technology and perfected motion capture.

Well this sounds all fine and dandy, in theory, but has Cameron created something truly groundbreaking? Is it what he says it is? Going on trailers alone, it’s hard to say. This is definitely something that must be seen on a large scale. I have a feeling even bluray discs will have a hard time incorporating all the detail this movie promises on the big screen. Ultimately the trailers look rather underwhelming, but watching it on a 19” computer screen on Youtube probably doesn’t do it the nearest hint of justice. I will say the shots look rather impressive and I look forward to experiencing them on the big screen.

The next drawback is Cameron’s idea of “original.” Though he claims to have imagined the whole thing from his little noggin, there has been some nasty talk of *GASP* plagiarism from our favorite Terminator creator. A science fiction novella, written by Poul Anderson, boasts a very similar storyline featuring a character embodying the form of blue, savage-like aliens.

“But wait! Cameron came up with this story in 1994! When was this sorry-ass little ‘novella’ written?” In 1957. “Oh.” Whether Avatar is a loose adaptation of that story or not, I don’t think it takes away from the hype factor. After all, this movie seems to be bent on sending cinema in to a new direction—No matter how good the story is the visual aspect is going to block it out. Or am I speaking too soon? Terminator 2 managed to tell a powerful tale of humanity’s will and value without becoming an over bloated effects orgy. It was new, fun technology, but it didn’t cloud the story. Can Cameron pull it off again?

Another concern I want to address isn’t so much about the quality of the film, but its success. With a reported budget of $230 million, plus other production investments and marketing, Avatar is said to cost an estimated $500 million. Say that out loud. $500 million. One more time. And this time enunciate. $500 million. Yeah, I wish I had $500 million to blow on a movie and make it all ba—Oh… Wait… Avatar hasn’t made a dime back yet has it? So what say you? Is Avatar going to be able to break even? Or will it just break Fox Studios’ executive balls? December 18th kids. December 18th.

Until that anticipated day I will cross my fingers. Because I want to believe in Avatar. I want to believe it will be a masterpiece. I want to believe it will look incredible. I want to believe it will be something I have a desire to make love with. I want to say, “Hey! It’s James! He’s back, he’s got this one guys.” But the internet age tends to hype things above expectation and I pray that’s not the case here.

End Note:
If you’ve finished this little rant and still think about The Last Airbender when this movie is brought up, you should seriously consider removing all sex organs. F—ktards shouldn’t reproduce.

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