Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Mark LaFountain

*** Avatar Discussion Thread

7 posts in this topic

From The Hollywood Reporter (There may be spoilers, read at your own risk):

Bottom Line: A titanic entertainment -- movie magic is back!

A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world.

As commander-in-chief of an army of visual-effects technicians, creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors and music and sound magicians, he brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is "Avatar." And he did it almost from scratch.

There is no underlining novel or myth to generate his story. He certainly draws deeply on Westerns, going back to "The Vanishing American" and, in particular, "Dances With Wolves." And the American tragedy in Vietnam informs much of his story. But then all great stories build on the past ( "Avatar" premiered Thursday in London).

After writing this story many years ago, he discovered that the technology he needed to make it happen did not exist. So, he went out and created it in collaboration with the best effects minds in the business. This is motion capture brought to a new high where every detail of the actors' performances gets preserved in the final CG character as they appear on the screen. Yes, those eyes are no longer dead holes but big and expressive, almost dominating the wide and long alien faces.

The movie is 161 minutes and flies by in a rush. Repeat business? You bet. "Titanic"-level business?That level may never be reached again, but Fox will see more than enough grosses worldwide to cover its bet on Cameron.

But let's cut to the chase: A fully believable, flesh-and-blood (albeit not human flesh and blood) romance is the beating heart of "Avatar." Cameron has never made a movie just to show off visual pyrotechnics: Every bit of technology in "Avatar" serves the greater purpose of a deeply felt love story (watch the trailer here).

The story takes place in 2154, three decades after a multinational corporation has established a mining colony on Pandora, a planet light years from Earth. A toxic environment and hostile natives -- one corporate apparatchik calls the locals "blue monkeys" -- forces the conglom to engage with Pandora by proxy. Humans dwell in oxygen-drenched cocoons but move out into mines or to confront the planet's hostile creatures in hugely fortified armor and robotics or -- as avatars.

The protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a crippled former Marine who takes his late twin brother's place in the avatar program, a sort of bone thrown to the scientific community by the corporation in hopes that the study of Pandora and its population might create a more peaceful planet.

Without any training, Jake suddenly must learn how to link his consciousness to an avatar, a remotely controlled biological body that mixes human DNA with that of the native population, the Na'vi. Since he is incautious and overly curious, he immediately rushes into the fresh air -- to a native -- to throw open Pandora's many boxes.

What a glory Cameron has created for Jake to romp in, all in a crisp 3D realism. It's every fairy tale about flying dragons, magic plants, weirdly hypnotic creepy-crawlies and feral dogs rolled up into a rain forest with a highly advanced spiritual design. It seems -- although the scientists led by Sigourney Weaver's top doc have barely scratched the surface -- a flow of energy ripples through the roots of trees and the spores of the plants, which the Na'vi know how to tap into.

The center of life is a holy tree where tribal memories and the wisdom of their ancestors is theirs for the asking. This is what the humans want to strip mine.

Jake manages to get taken in by one tribe where a powerful, Amazonian named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) takes him under her wing to teach him how to live in the forest, speak the language and honor the traditions of nature. Yes, they fall in love but Cameron has never been a sentimentalist: He makes it tough on his love birds.

They must overcome obstacles and learn each other's heart. The Na'vi have a saying, "I see you," which goes beyond the visual. It means I see into you and know your heart.

In his months with the Na'vi, Jake experiences their life as the "true world" and that inside his crippled body locked in a coffin-like transponding device, where he can control his avatar, is as the "dream." The switch to the other side is gradual for his body remains with the human colony while his consciousness is sometimes elsewhere.

He provides solid intelligence about the Na'vi defensive capabilities to Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the ramrod head of security for the mining consortium and the movie's villain. But as Jake comes to see things through Neytiri's eyes, he hopes to establish enough trust between the humans and the natives to negotiate a peace. But the corporation wants the land the Na'vi occupy for its valuable raw material so the Colonel sees no purpose in this.

The battle for Pandora occupies much of the final third of the film. The planet's animal life -- the creatures of the ground and air -- give battle along with the Na'vi, but they come up against projectiles, bombs and armor that seemingly will be their ruin.

As with everything in "Avatar," Cameron has coolly thought things through. With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course. The screen is alive with more action and the soundtrack pops with more robust music than any dozen sci-fi shoot-'em-ups you care to mention (watch the "Avatar" video game trailer here).

In years of development and four years of production no detail in the pic is unimportant. Cameron's collaborators excel beginning with the actors. Whether in human shape or as natives, they all bring terrific vitality to their roles.

Mauro Fiore's cinematography is dazzling as it melts all the visual elements into a science-fiction whole. You believe in Pandora. Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg's design brings Cameron's screenplay to life with disarming ease.

James Horner's score never intrudes but subtlety eggs the action on while the editing attributed to Cameron, Stephen Rivkin and John Refoua maintains a breathless pace that exhilarates rather than fatigues. Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time.

The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was lucky enough to see this movie in IMAX 3D, and all I can say is holy $hit! I loved it. I was thinking since I saw the movie, "have I ever seen anything better", and all I come up with so far is NO. I cannot wait untill this comes out in 2010 on bluray 3D, this will be insane!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

F-I-L took all the son-in-law's out to the movies, and he took us to see Avatar in 3D. On the overall scale, best movie I have seen in a theater. Just flat out unreal. Visually, for parts of the film I forgot it was in CGI. It was with all the colors of the deep sea. Just awesome. I will actually pay to go back, and that is super rare for me to feel strongly enough about a movie to see it in the theater twice and even pay extra money for the glasses.

Going into it, I was :huh: . Ten minutes into it, I was :) . By the time it really got rolling :ohsnap: . When the credits rolled, I was :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

... i may see this movie again.

I heard one person leaving the theater saying, "this is better than star wars, all six of them combined". I don't know if I can agree to that kind of heretic level talk, but oh em gee. :)

If this isn't my new favorite movie I'm not really sure what is. The last time I experienced catharsis type emotions from seeing a movie was definately a long time ago.

I may have cheered durring this movie. I don't actually remember. This movie was something else. In truth it could have been 9 hours long and I would probably have been ok with it.

As for the 3D part of the film..... well..... IT WAS AMAZING. I saw Imax 3D and while some movies are enhanced a bit by 3D parts, this movie didn't piss me off by being in 3D. That is so rare. I would much rather see a clean crisp image than see some 3D effects in a movie any time. But like a woman who knows that make up should be put on to make it look like she doesn't need make up, this movie worked through 3D to just enhance the film. It never over reached, and it felt natural the whole time. No crap comming at your face in an akward way just to show off.

I stayed home from work today as after the movie I couldn't sleep with this sinus infection that turned into 2 bloody noses. My wife also felt like crap I guess noticing her in the master bedroom (I sleep in another room when my sinus' are this bad as I can make windows rattle in their frames with my snoring). I'm thinking.... maybe an early lunch and another trip to Pandora is in order.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It reminded me of a studio ghibli film. Almost had a mononoke feel to it with the tree, and how everything was connected.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0