Oh, like you didn't see THIS thread coming. Don't worry, I'll speak no spoilers.
I just got back from seeing AVATAR. Let it be known that I didn't really follow this film until a year ago, and that was because I followed one of the lead VFX artists on Twitter. I didn't really know anything about the plot until James himself told an anxious crowd at E3. I had no real hype about this film, but I knew it to be a VFX wonder, I couldn't pass it up.
I was completely blown away by this film. AVATAR is a stunning work, and I think it is one of the most significant pieces to hit cinema in a long, long time.
Bold statement? You bet your rear. Allow me to explain.
This story isn't groundbreaking. Yes, yes, I am very much a 'story' guy, hear me out. The story is good enough to be compelling, and I really did enjoy it (truthfully, throw Fern Gully and Pocahontas into a blender, and bingo). But the story does nothing new. The progression is typical, and can almost be predictable. It truly is a typical James Cameron story. But no, the story is not what makes AVATAR a must-see film.
I really do believe this movie will be a defining point in the American cinema. We will look back and speak of the release of this film as we do other great pieces of film. Films that changed the way we looked at the medium. Star Wars. citizen Kane. Jaws. Tron. Does AVATAR deserve to be ranked among those? From a presentation standpoint, I dare say yes. AVATAR will be the film that ushers in 3D as a standardized, acceptable medium, and CGI imagery that finally tells the story, rather then becoming a focus of attention. For those two advances alone, that makes this film incredibly important.
The 3D, it's still same old Real3D, and it still makes my eyes hurt. I have been a HUGE critic of 3D - namely, I don't think it belongs in cinema. However, up until now most of the Real3D uses are rubbish - animated films and childrens movies that use the tech to 'poke' you in the eye with stupid things. There is no meaning, it's been a gimmick. AVATAR, while still making me squint and darkening the picture, does not let the technology take center stage. They implement it in a live-action environment, and they use it to assist the storytelling. I 'forgot' about the tech more in AVATAR then in any other film I've seen with it thus far. That's certainly an accomplishment. It is non-intrusive, and it finally seemed to 'work'. THIS is how studios should use the technology if they feel so inclined. Do I want it to become a standard? No, but I do know that I cannot stop the speeding bullet train of 3D. It's coming regardless if we like it or not, so the least studios can do is implement it correctly. AVATAR is one of the first examples of doing so.
I still HATE the '3D tax'. $10.50 for a ticket when it's typically ~$7? Bullcrap.
Now, the CGI hardly needs to be mentioned. AVATAR is notorious for it. A production time of nearly 10 years, half a billion dollars cost.... James Cameron has stated many times that he wanted to do AVATAR years ago, but the technology simply didn't exist yet. His investment paid off, AVATAR is one of - if not THE defining example of CGI out there. It is a completely immersive experience. A world so creatively designed, totally imaginative, lush, and brilliantly orchestrated.
This is a film that isn't afriad to dance circles over the Uncanny Valley. Though the 'strangeness' is still there, it is so significantly reduced compared to previous attempts (any of Robert zemeckis' recent zombie-ridden meat-puppet shows are perfect examples of how to go horribly, horribly wrong with mo-cap CGI). The CGI characters of AVATAR felt welcoming, and they felt believable. Massive strides have been made, connecting technology and computer graphics to a reality of actors, sets, ...film in general. It is hard to put into words with my limited vocabulary. The technology is astounding, the film is a technical marvel, it simply needs to be seen to be believed.
Despite it's enormous cost, AVATAR is a perfect example of where films are headed. If a film is going to be completely shot in front of a chroma key, then THIS is the example of how to make things interact, and how to put it all together seamlessly. This is a defining moment, everyone. This will be the future of computer graphics in film production. AVATAR's budget is astronomical - a number which will probably not be recovered by the studio - but these techniques, this look, this believability, this is what to be expected of in future releases. Just as Star Wars brought special effects to the lime light, and TRON brought computer graphics, AVATAR is the film that put it all together and delivered.
This is inspiring work. This is why I'm into computer graphics. This is exciting, and we're only seeing the beginning of what synthesized worlds and environments will be capable of. Man, it gets me fired up.
Go see AVATAR.