I got a chance to see James Cameron’s Avatar on Friday night in 3D. It was absolutely amazing. After letting it settle for a couple of days and reading other reactions, I have a few thoughts.
The technology used in this film changes everything. It sets a new standard for motion capture, environment creation, and 3D (or REALD as they call it). The 3D is so much more effective than older 3D movies where random things just happen to pop out at you. Each scene is carefully crafted with things in the foreground more in front of things in the background. Instead of the novelty item flying at you, it adjusts the depth of field in every scene to make everything lift off the screen and come to life. At some points, you can focus on different parts the of screen as though you were standing in the room with them.
The motion capture accuracy is beyond the best completely cg character to date – Gollum – by far. When the Na’Vi move around, you don’t see a computer generated character. You see the movements of the actors. The facial movements are so distinctly unique to each actor that at times, I honestly forgot who was CGI and who was human. They switch back and forth from Na’Vi to human, and you hardly notice a difference because their facial tics and subtle movements come through so much. The textures are perfect and natural.
And the thing that is possibly most impressive is that the entire world of Pandora isn’t real. You start to think that it’s so amazing how well the Na’Vi characters interact with the environment so accurately…then you realize it’s because the grass, trees, every little leaf…is all CG. And it looks amazing.
The world itself and all the creatures in it were amazing in their conception and design. They’re unique, creative, and beautiful. I loved how the forest interacted directly back with the Na’Vi – it flowed at their footsteps and reacted to their touch.
And the story itself was very good. It borrowed from a lot of different ideas, but what came out was something wholly new. I have read a couple of articles about how the main theme is “white guilt’ – white guy is guilty for killing the natives and their land and stealing, so he becomes one of them and saves them. Let me be the first to say: NO. This is not the theme of the movie. It didn’t even cross my mind, and it’s ridiculous. This movie has NOTHING to do with race. It is not an allegory for white settlers coming to American and taking the Natives’ land. The humans refer to the Na’Vi as savages, yes, but they also refer to the entire world with the same disregard. They are not interested in colonizing Pandora. Jake Sully mentions that Earth is a wasteland of concrete with no green left, but nobody really seems bothered by that to say that they are trying to colonize Pandora because they’ve messed up their own world. They are driven by money, greed, and power. They want the expensive rock found on Pandora so they can be insanely rich and in turn have more stuff and more power, likely to build higher and better things on Earth. The theme is corruption caused by money, power, and greed, and making a choice against those things to save yourself and those things that truly matter: love, nature, the planet, and your beliefs. I hope white people stop trying to make everything about white people. Newsflash: nobody cares.
Avatar truly changes everything in the world of 3D movies. I’m very interested to see where it all goes from here.
And a word of advice: I’ve seen a lot of reviews out there that are just not right. The people writing them seem to have decided a long time ago that they were going to hate the movie, due to hating James Cameron, hating hype, or who knows what. Their cynicism shines through. And some people just don’t like stories of fantasy and science fiction. Please don’t let reviews decide anything for you. If you are interested in this film, just go see it and draw your own conclusions. And for the record, that goes for ALL films.