With an estimated budget of $300 million for Avatar, the bar has certainly been set high. The concept for Avatar was created by James Cameron fourteen years ago when the technology did not yet exist to create the 3D cinema experience that Avatar has become. Cameron knew after seeing Gollum come to life on screen in The Lord of the Rings, that the technology was ready for his newest feature.
Although the story for Avatar is simple enough to grasp, it is rooted in all of the reality of today. It touches on war, the environment, and the beliefs of others. Avatar takes place in the year 2154, humans have all but ruined the planet and have sought out another planet, Pandora, to harvest it’s resources to help create a stable environment back on Earth. The resource they seek lies under the tree in which the Na’vi live in. There is currently a struggle between the humans and the Na’vi on the resource as the Na’vi do not want the humans there and certainly do not want to leave their home. Enter Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) on the newest ship headed out to Pandora. He is a military jar head who is paralyzed from the waist down and has an opportunity to help the scientists and be put into an avatar to walk amongst the Na’vi and he can’t pass it up.
Once put into an avatar, Jake has two jobs. For the scientists, he is to keep his mouth shut and help them collect samples and learn about the Na’vi, but to the military, he is to report back where the weak spots are in the environment, so they can come in with their big guns and take what ever they want. This could be taken as symbolic or allegory as Pandora is of no threat to Earth, they fight with bow and arrow and it seems that Cameron is making a point here about our current politics.
The Na’vi are often referred to as “tree huggers” by the military which is a direct misunderstanding of their beliefs. The Na’vi can be compared to pagaens of today which respect the Earth and do not wish to take from it anything that they wouldn’t need. The Na’vi will even thank the animal that they just killed for the food that they are providing. They are larger than humans, maybe nine or ten feet tall, blue skin with golden eyes and in excellent shape. There are times you will think they are truly native as Cameron does not shy away from showing female Na’vi breasts in the film. It is simply the lack of coverage from their clothing that causes this, just a minor distraction.
Enough about the story though, its time to talk about the real reason that people will fork over the dough to see this adventure, the 3D! Cameron has truly moved cinema forward with this film. Most of the film is spent in the Na’vi world which is all shot with motion capture or MoCap where the actors are all hooked up to computers to capture all of their movements on film. The surprising thing about Avatar is the way that Cameron has also managed to capture emotion as if the real actors were actually in front of you. Just looking at some of the actors in their avatars, you can plainly see the resemblance and it makes it easy to recognize the actors. Even with golden eyes, the emotion comes across just as a live action movie would.
There are some fantastic creatures created in the film. Many of the animals resemble something familiar, but in a fantastic way. There is a huge rhinoceros-like creature that has the headdress of a peacock. There is a panther-like creature that has no fur and looks like a shiny leather through the 3D glasses. There are these amazing little creatures that resemble the dust of a dandelion blowing away, but also a small jelly fish, but made of fiber optics. The world itself is almost another character as it lights up as the Na’vi step on it and shut up into itself if others get too close to it.
The use of 3D was perfectly executed and not overused like so many other movies have done. There was none of the use of 3D to cause you to jump. In fact, I wanted more, and never wanted to blink for fear of missing some great new creature. Seeing fireflies in the jungle of Pandora dancing around the main character’s face felt so real, I almost felt like swatting them from my face! Even the use of the human machines in Avatar looked and felt real.
If you are wanting to see this film, do yourself a favor and make sure you see it in an IMAX theatre. I was able to see it in 3D, but not an IMAX screen and it made a difference. Instead of being completely immersed in the Pandorian world I was supposed to be in, I was reminded of my real life with the limitations of the screen. A bug would appear at the top of the screen and float around me for a moment and then disappear at the bottom of the screen, a little distracting.
So go see Avatar and see how Cameron is changing the game when it comes to making movies. I will be there again this weekend, and on an IMAX screen this time.
I give Avatar 4.5 “more Avatar pics” out of 5.
by Angela Davis