So does a movie about 10 foot tall blue aliens sound like some cheesy kids movie made by Disney or Pixar? Yes. That being said, it is absolutely awesome.
I was pretty skeptical going in to see the movie AVATAR yesterday. It has received all kinds of glowing reviews, which usually means that I will usually find myself disappointed and feeling that the movie was overrated. After seeing this film I found myself a little bit stunned as to how amazing it really was.
First things first; the downside. The plot of this movie is nothing special. It’s basically Dances with Wolves. Except this time, in encumbered by real history, the natives actually get to win. As I was reading some of the reviews on www.rottentomatoes.com there were basically three categories of analysis of the plot. 1) It’s a thinly veiled story about white expansionism and Native Americans. 2) It’s a critique of the use of violent force in the war on terror. 3) It has some racial (potentially racist) overtones. Namely, a white guy ultimately comes in to save the people who have flat noses, big lips, are a darker color, wear “tribal” jewelry and wear virtually no clothes. My take is that it’s a generic enough plot that you can probably see the storyline as a metaphor for whatever you want. Ultimately these critiques probably say more about the person writing them than the movie itself. Overall, the plot was solid, but not revolutionary.
What was revolutionary was the visual nature of the movie. There are several things that came together to make it a truly stunning movie. 1) The use of 3d. 3d technology has been around for quite a while now but James Cameron used it incredibly well. The scenes in the forest floor were incredibly deep. Every level of detail was attended to; from the depth of the plant landscape in the background to the bugs, smoke and burning embers floating in the foreground. The attention to detail was amazing. 2) The motion capture detail. The story is that James Cameron has been sitting on this script for the last 10 years because the technology wasn’t up to what he wanted….so he created it from scratch. Specifically, the motion capture technology that existed previously lacked in the amount of detail that it could capture, especially in terms of capturing all of the little movements of the face of the actor. In addition to using the traditional techniques of motion capture, actors would also wear little video cameras that were directed just on their face. It’s so detailed that Cameron is calling it performance-capture, not motion-capture, implying that he’s not simply replacing the actors but rather capturing their performance and then enhancing it with a computer. He wants people to think of it as the next generation of prosthetics or theater makeup. Going in to see the movie, I was a little skeptical of this claim. Now, I would have to agree with Cameron. It really is that good and that detailed.
I understand that I enjoy movies more than some people, but if you’re the least bit into films, you have to see this film. You also have to see it on the big screen and you have to see it in 3d. It’s worth every penny that you’ll pay for it.