Monday, December 21, 2009


1995. In 1995, James Cameron wrote a treatment for a film called "Avatar". Avatar was supposed to be on the cutting edge of special FX. And as we all know, the 90's weren't the best years for special FX. Yeah, we had Jurassic Park, but we also had Escape From L.A. James Cameron went onto doing a little film called Titanic. Was the film any good? Barely. But it didn't matter. It made James Cameron (as he said at the Oscars) "King of the World". Afterall, he was director of the highest grossing film of all-time (and that still stands). Fast-forward 12 years and two land-mark films (in photo-realism special FX) later, he's back with Avatar. And without those 2 land-mark films, I dont think Avatar would have hit screens as soon as it did. And what are those two films? Neither he was involved with. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Now, I love Peter Jackson, but Im not a fan of Lord of the Rings. They're just too bland for my taste. But WETA Digital did an incredible job on Gollum. And what WETA did for Gollum in Lord of the Rings, ILM did for Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean. And those two films are what proved to Cameron that the technology was almost there. All he had to do was push it. And that he did. As James Cameron said, with Avatar, they pushed the technology, it pushed back, and they pushed harder. And it shows almost 100% on screen.
A couple years back, when I first heard about Avatar I was totally sold. And all I knew was "James Cameron" and "science fiction". There were no pictures, no plot, no interviews, nothing. All there was, was a director, and a return to form. Fast-forward a year later, Avatar's release date was announced. Summer 2008. That wasn't the case. The film was pushed back over more than a year, and there was STILL nothing to be released. Still no pictures or anything. And then they released a couple pictures of James Cameron on set. Which I guess was cool, but really... Who wants that? Show us some stills. And then of course, the Na'vi design leaked online. It looked like... Blue cat people. What the fuck? My anticipation went down a bit, and then the talk of a teaser trailer was circulating. Anticipation went up. The teaser trailer came out. Anticipation went down. Then 20th Century Fox did "Avatar Day" in August, where they played 15 minutes of the film in IMAX 3D. I went, and my anticipation went back up. And then the theatrical trailer was released, and I was fucking ready.
Avatar has been my "gold at the end of the rainbow" for this week, so to speak. I mean, Ive been waiting for this film for 2 years now (despite my fluctuation in anticipation-levels), and it was finally here. So the day finally came, and I finally went to see it. In IMAX 3D no less. And all I have to say is fucking A. Well, actually, that's a lie. That's not all I have to say. I mean, Im not going to write two paragraphs leading up to the event, without writing about the actual event. So here it goes...
First of all, I already expressed my new profound love for 3D after watching A Christmas Carol in 3D, in my last blog. But within the first 20 seconds of Avatar, you really understand what the movie is going for, in terms of 3D. There are 2 kinds of 3D. There is the gimmicky "comin-at-ya" 3D, and there's the "looking-through-the-window" 3D. Avatar is the latter. When the first 10 minutes of you being amazed as to how fucking incredible the 3D is, when that goes by, you are totally immersed into the film. You honestly dont even notice the 3D (and I say that in the best possible way). I saw this in IMAX 3D, and I say this with 100% honesty... There is NO other way to see it. This film was made to be seen in IMAX 3D. It's unfathomable to me, to see it any other way. I wouldn't see it in 2D, I wouldn't see it in a regular theatre in 3D, I wouldn't see it in 2D IMAX. IMAX 3D. And when it's out of theatres, and on DVD, I have no idea what Im going to do. Of course Im going to buy it. This isn't just a film, it really is an experience. And yes, there are some of those "gimmicky" shots. But to be completely honest, they're really not gimmicky at all. When an Amp-Suite is smashing down a tree, it makes sense that wood shards would fly towards you. When bullets are flying through the air, and their target is past the camera, it would make sense that the bullets would be flying past you. It all works, because most of the "comin-at-ya" shots are literally 45 minutes apart from each other. And there's only about three or four noticeable ones.
Now due to the 3D technology really not being enhanced, and just being used correctly, Ill get to the main focus of the movie. The FX. As I already mentioned, I wasn't too fond of the alien designs before. And it's not that Im not fond of them now (because they're nothing spectacular), but the difference between what I thought of them now, and then is... I understand WHY. And it's the story. This movie is a lot of things in one. It's a message (without being too forceful), it's a commentary (without being to direct), but most of all, it's a love story. Now Ill get into the whole story originality later. But for now, I want to go in depth as to why the alien designs suit the story. You'll find a lot of producers and people who are trying to sell a movie always talk about "it's all about the story...". And 9 times out of 10 they're leaking sacks of diarrhea. But the alien design actually does suit the story. In a nutshell, the synopsis of the movie is, an ex-Marine joins a program in which his brain and consciousness is linked to a synthetically-grown Na'vi body to learn from the inside. Except, he falls in love with another Na'vi, and realizes the true soulless intentions of the corporation that he's working for. Now had the Na'vi and his synthetically-grown body had been this cool, badass-looking alien, I dont think the emotion-factor would have been there. I honestly think why I felt emotionally-linked with these characters, is because they shared a physical resemblance. And that is why the special FX are known as "ground-breaking", "game-changing", and "revolutionary". It's because they are photo-realistic. Now there is a difference between "real-looking-CGI" and "photo-realistic". The T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park is "real-looking-CGI", but the faces in Avatar are photo-realistic. Now, not all the shots and scenes in Avatar are photo-realistic, but when it comes to all the close-ups of Jake and Neytiri, they are so unbelievably real. And the fact that they can put Davy Jones to shame, it makes me wonder where we'll be at in 10 years.
To venture further into the movie's FX, Id like to compliment another aspect of the film. And that was the bioluminescence scenes at night. James Cameron created a world that was very familiar, in terms of science fiction and fantasy, but he twisted it. And one of the most beautiful touches he added was the night time bioluminescence. It was fucking gorgeous. And that is the one prime example that I would give, as to why you NEED to see this movie in IMAX 3D. It's a prime example that proves that the movie doesn't rely on IMAX 3D, but it sure as fuck enhances the experience times 100. To avoid any minor spoilers, Im not going to go into all beautiful sequences that occur in those scenes. But they are fucking incredible.
Now Ive read plenty of reviews on Avatar, and I think, in terms of story, theyre either giving it too much credit, or not enough credit. The movie is not completely original... Like at all. But it doesn't lack a story, that's for damn sure. It's a combination of stuff you've seen. But it blends it in a way that it works enough for you to give a fuck as to what's going on. Like I said previously, it has messages, it has commentaries, and it has a love story. All of which work.
The score. One of thee most important players to any movie for me, is the score. The score to this film is really good, fluent, and overall, well-written. But what the fuck would you expect from James Horner? Now eventhough James Horner had worked with James Cameron before Mel Gibson, I still think James Cameron gets Mel Gibson's sloppy seconds. In 1995, James Horner did the score for Mel Gibson's Braveheart. Braveheart had those unforgettable and trademark bagpipes. Come 1997, James Cameron used Horner for Titanic. What was Titantic known for? It's use of bagpipes. In 2006, Gibson used Horner for Apocalpypto. And the one key element that stood out on that score was the native's vocal track. It was almost a sigh/hiss. Well... Come 2009, what is one of the most re-occuring sounds for Avatar? The native sigh/hiss. But you know what? It doesnt distract me too much from the score itself. Because the main theme is fucking beautiful. It has a sci-fi sound to it, but it's predominantly fantasy. As queer as it sounds, it's got a sense of "wonderment" to it. I hate that word. Like, a lot. But it's the first and only word that comes to mind when I hear the theme. But overall, the whole score is great. Though, I did hear a few ques from Braveheart and King Kong (2005). Also, the battle themes are blood-pumping. Id love to go into all the battle themes, but there would be too many spoilers revealed (one of which involves a Na'vi jumping onto an aircraft carrier and destroying all the Marines).
The end battle. Dont cunt at me, you knew there was going to be an end battle. That's hardly a spoiler. The battle is fucking KILLER. Im not going to give too much away in this 20-minute radically awesome battle, but there's: guns the size of school buses, Amp-Suits (Mother-Loader-like suits), dragon-on-aircraft action, dragon-on-helicopter action, 3 dragons-on-aircraft action, animal-on-Amp-Suit action, fire, more fire, dragons-ripping-out-Marines-from-Aircraft action, 3 dragons-ripping-out-Marines-from-Aircraft, and a lot more. Also, Col. Quaritch is DIRECTLY from Aliens. This dude is BAD. ASS. And I dont mean that in a "oh-this-is-a-new-guy-trying-to-become-an-action-icon" kind of way. This dude is genuinely badass. Stephen Lang, look into him. He auditioned for Aliens back in '85, FYI.
All in all, Avatar EXCEEDED my expectations. Was it a flawless movie? No, it wasn't. Has Avatar changed movies forever like they said it would? No, I dont think so. But is it a landmark? Yes. A giant landmark.
Also, you ever notice all James Cameron's films either start with the letter "T" or "A"? The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, True Lies, Titanic, Avatar. Piranha 2 doesn't count. Fuck off.

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