I just saw Avatar in IMAX 3D. The 3D process is great. Even though the tickets are incredibly expensive, see it this way if you at all can. It's really a beautiful treat for the eyes.

Don't worry about the story. It's Dances With Wolves meets Dune. It will impress a lot of non-sf people with the imagination of sf. I'm sure it will earn James Cameron back the phenomenal amount of money that was spent on it. Most important, I hope the technology will trickle down into other film-making so that more imaginative stories can eventually be filmed.

I had fun. Go for the visual experience, and don't expect to think too hard.

Tags: 3-D, avatar., cameron, film., james, movoies

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Note - I got my degree in Computer Animation ten years ago. I've been reading SF for forty.

First - the only reason to see a movie in the theater today is for the visuals (big, lush scenery, fx, 3D) or exceptional audio. Oscar worthy films are usually better - and always cheaper - in my living room. There is a lot to be said for properly set expectations.

The biggest breakthrough in this film was the facial animation. The motion capture used hundreds of reference points to capture the subtle minutia of the actors' expressions. Of course, this was still only as good as the actual acting - but still a breakthrough.

I love that the 3D broke through what my fourteen year old daughter calls the 'paddle-ball' syndrome (BEFORE Monsters vs. Aliens actually used it.) However, UP and Coraline did a fine job of 'less is more.'

I would just like to point out that no one has mentioned Heinlein. The 'walkers' and the stylization of the para-military were pure Starship Trooper (the book - not the film).

As for the 'religiousity' - what I saw was a depiction of how a 'culture' could 'understand' a phenomenon through a religious (albeit pagan) lens while it, simultaneously, had a scientific explanation. My understanding was that the planet was a kind of 'plug and play' bio-based neural network. In other words, while all the creatures were as independent as laptops, there was an internet that was aware of itself on some level. Pretty cool. Fair enough. Didn't bother me at all. Didn't 'expand my mind' much either.

Grundgetta makes an interesting point. Rack focus (the contrast between in-focus ground and 'soft' or out-of-focus ground to emphasize the depth of a scene and what we should be looking at) is a problematic cinematic device in 3D. You see, while our eyes really do this (a limitation of all lenses called 'depth of field') in our actual 3D experience, we don't really perceive it that way. Anything in our field of view is likely to get a very quick in-focus 'read' or be completely ignored. So, we tend to think that everything is actually in focus. Your eyes focus where you look.

But, because you can look at the out-of-focus part of a scene on the screen, it reminds you that you are looking at a movie. It can 'take you out of it' for a moment. When this happens within the 3D illusion - it is exaggerated and, therefore, can be more disconcerting. It actually takes you further out of it. I think that rack focus should be avoided in the 3D medium - with the exception of 'atmospheric' depth such as distant mountains, etc.

Finally, at least when I went - no one spent any time watching the four thousand names in the credits because it sounded an awful lot like Celine Dion was singing us out. (I guess it was actually one Leona Lewis - but it was close enough to empty that theater faster than the word 'FIRE!")
Thanks Howard: Interesting to hear from someone who knows the tech that well!

And yeah, it's that Rack focus that kind of takes you out of the 3D. I suppose that's the next boundary to be broken, but then, it's still an important direction tool to make the audience look at what you want them to look at.

I like your laptop/network analogy for the planet's 'consciousness.'

I do normally stay through the credits if only because the gaffer's third assistant doughnut fetcher deserves his/her due. But the end credit song ... ewwwww. This awesome, technically groundbreaking film and they have to sing us out with something as Wonder Bread as whatever the hell that was?
Thank you, Howard, for the wonderful explanation.

I guess no one has mentioned Heinlein because he's so basic. No one has mentioned that the characters are breathing, either. Heinlein, like air, is something you only notice when it's not there (and you start gasping and choking). If Cameron hadn't taken him for a basis, everyone would be commenting on how bad those aspects were.
Never looked at it that way. Fair enough. (My very first SF book (sixth grade, 1973, was Have Spacesuit, Will Travel lol - good times.) I just gave Stranger in a Strange Land to my fourteen year old daughter for Winterfest. I am a very good Dad, yes I am!
I would also note ... being a movie where obviously many scenes were pure CGI, it helped a lot that Cameron still gave us the traditional camera work we've come to expect.

The way running people of flying banshees were tracked. Shots that looked like hand-held camera shots. Or a camera quickly turning and pulling focus to capture a smaller segment of a larger shot. This kind of internal 'camera work' within the CGI really helped add to the realism.
On a side note, I'm noticing "Avatar" is already up for several Golden Globes. But I'm wondering, could Zoe Saldana qualify for a best actress nomination being that her character was essentially CGI?

It's her voice, her movements directing most of what the character does. But what we see on screen is technically animation. Plus, it's rare enough to see a SciFi flick get award nominations, especially for its actors (like playing cyborgs or elves or blue aboriginals doesn't count as real 'acting.' Bleh!!!).

But I'm curious if there'd be any rule preventing her from the nom because we don't actually see her face/body; just the animated avatar thereof.

Just one of those things that keeps nerds up at night, pondering...
I thought the film was a fantastic ride and I was very impressed with the production quality and the use of cutting edge tech. The plot, as several have mentioned, is a common theme (greedy corporations, indigenous people, exploitation, etc.) but, how many "original" themes does one see in movies (or novels for that matter). I thought the the scientific, rational underpinnings of the religion was a fairly unique plot structure (at least in film).
The floral and fauna created for the film was also extremely well done. I'm sure other directors will be all over the new tech like bulldogs on a Porterhouse. I would love to see a remake of Blade Runner using the new developments (providing they don't use Keanna Reeves.)
Keanu Reeves is in my pantheon of actors who don't. Richard Gere, Hugh Grant, etc. Instead, they seem to get by on something else - maybe a 'charisma' of one kind or another... (I guess.)
It was a fun movie and I saw it in 3D, but started feeling sick half-way through (3D gives me motion sickness for some reason, especially if there's too much going on on the screen). The "noble savage" theme really bugged me while I was watching it. Maybe elevating the other race is less racist than denigrating it, but it's still racist no matter how you spin it. and yeah, I know it was an alien culture that doesn't exist, but they were clearly supposed to represent non-white earthlings from less technologically advanced cultures. It's almost as bad as when my mother and her friends describe the Mayans as being "spiritually advanced." and insisting that they just disappeared off the face of the earth, NO THEY DIDN'T. Collapse of a civilization is way different than the people themselves disappearing.

Sorry, went off track a bit. But yeah I liked the movie, it was just that one bit that really bothered me.
The 3D was great, I found myself reaching for things every so often. love it all story, effects sound, I enjoyed myself. The only thing was my eyes felt raw and overworked my the end, maybe just dry but eyedrops fixed that right up.
I just saw "Dances With Smurfs" today in regular 3D and enjoyed it quite a bit. The plot may have been more tried-and-true than paradigm shifting, but it was very well executed. It's beautiful, and you barely notice that the men don't have nipples.
I have a degree in animation and my colleagues and I have discovered the hidden Disney message that nipples = evil. While Disney himself was, purportedly, an atheist, the 'evilness' of nipples is best illustrated in Fantasia. The nubile centaurinas have perky breasts without nipples while the evil witches have sagging tits and sharp, pointy nipples. Clearly, the nipples are the mark of evil in the animated world.

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