If geeks love it, we’re on it

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

James Cameron's AVATAR

UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA:Redwood City, CA Icrontian
edited March 2010 in Movies & TV
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.
«13456712

Comments

  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Avatar is the first and only time I have been compelled by 3D cinema. I don't have eye ache like Bobby does, but I don't appreciate the faint blurriness/darkness it imparts on the picture. I will admit, however, that after a while I forgot about the 3D and got drawn into the film.

    Plot: Typical Cameron in that it's good, but not great. Predictable, but entertaining.

    Characters: Believable, though some are painfully one-dimensional.

    Technology: The movie is 60% CGI, and never before have you seen fully-rendered characters move with this grace, gravity or realism. The animations are natural and--most importantly--the translucence of skin was finally articulated correctly (gg subsurface scattering).

    In sum: Fern Gully + Braveheart + Halo, shake lightly, serve with 3D glasses. Solid 8/10, pulled up from a 7 on account of its technical sorcery.
  • edited December 2009
    I feel this needs to be promoted to a Life article.
  • Cliff_ForsterCliff_Forster Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    MachineDog wrote:
    I feel this needs to be promoted to a Life article.

    ^^^^^^^^^^
    To MachineDog you listen, this is feature stuff.
  • CBCB Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Der Millionendorf- Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    There's only one theatre in the area that does 3D, and they charge $15 for tickets. I payed that much to see Coraline, only because I didn't know how bumped up it was, and by the time we got there, my wife didn't want to balk at the price, but $30 to take my wife to a movie, when we usually only spend $12 for matinees, is simply not feasible.

    I'm not going to see any more 3D movies in the theatre until the price goes down a bit.
  • BandrikBandrik Elkhart, IN Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    I haven't seen the movie yet, but this practically convinces me to get going soon. I'm having some trouble getting friends riled up for this, so I may have to solo this movie. I'd rather not have to do that, but I might just have to.

    I wonder if we have the movie in 3D locally. Lafayette theaters had better. I actually enjoy the Real3D experience, as gimmicky as it may seem.

    Oh random question on Real3D: if I keep the glasses, can a similar experience be re-created on a traditional TV or monitor, or is it unique only to the projection process in a theater?
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    I can't stop thinking about this movie. I am so excited for the future of cinema. Things are going to get NUTS.
    Bandrik wrote:

    Oh random question on Real3D: if I keep the glasses, can a similar experience be re-created on a traditional TV or monitor, or is it unique only to the projection process in a theater?


    Currently, no, you cannot replicate RealD at home. RealD is exclusive to the theater experience, which is why you don't see Pixar films done in 3D released on DVD with 3D tech. RealD requires high res digital projection, displaying two images intermittently, and repeats each frame three times to reduce flicker. Could it be done on an HDTV or PC? Yes, but there are a few problems.

    One, DVDs aren't capable of holding the data required for this kind of display. In fact, Blu-Ray is the only medium that could pony up to the likes of RealD. We just reported about ATI showcasing the recently standardized Blu-Ray stereoscopic technology at CES. With this standard, RealD will be able to be brought home, and it'll be done by Sony. Why Sony? Well, that's point two:

    Sony owns exclusive rights to display RealD on their Sony 4K cinema projectors. Red tape, of course. As I said in our news piece above, ATI and NVIDIA are both working to bring this tech home - but it'll be Sony that delivers the RealD goods.

    So you can hold on to the glasses (I have a pair from UP in my drawer) but don't plan on using them any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised if the Blu-Ray stereo presentations require different glasses, as the lack of a reflecting silver screen, and the distance from viewer to display, will probably present new challenges.

    CB - perfect example of why RealD pisses me off. 3D Tax is complete bullcrap. I'd have a very hard time paying $15 for this film, before I saw it. But trust me, if you would only pay a premium for one single film in the theater, let it be this one. There is no way at home viewing will do this film justice - it needs to be seen in the cinema.

    Thrax - again, you said with brevity what I said in a book. Pretty much sums up my views on the film quite well. I'm glad you mentioned the flesh, I forgot it. They did a stellar job with flesh displacement on touch and such, and of course, SSS was gettin' it done in a way I have never seen.
  • BandrikBandrik Elkhart, IN Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Thanks Lynx for explaining how Real3D works - that was pretty much what I expected it to be. Different distance from the screen, high-def & high data requirements, etc etc. What I did NOT know was Sony's ever-encompassing legal tentacles. They're everywhere, in everything. All. The. Effing. Time.

    Yeah, suck on that hentai image, weeaboo.

    Oh well, could be worse. And at least ATI/nVidia are working on their own tech. Who knows what blue rabbits they could pull out of their hats.
    UPSLynx wrote:
    I'd have a very hard time paying $15 for this film, before I saw it.

    I'm a little lucky on this one. Local theater is only charging $9.25 for 3D. Not the most upscale bells-and-whistles theater but its audio and picture quality is decent enough. Looking forward to it.
  • soogansoogan Marion, IN
    edited December 2009
    So you can hold on to the glasses (I have a pair from UP in my drawer) but don't plan on using them any time soon. I wouldn't be surprised if the Blu-Ray stereo presentations require different glasses, as the lack of a reflecting silver screen, and the distance from viewer to display, will probably present new challenges.

    I'll throw it out there too that circular polarization will be impossible to replicate with the current technology of displays, so realD as a technology will never be mainstream consumer tech.

    But of course, shuttered glasses would work fine, and as Lynx mentioned, as long as you can push out enough frames (which BluRay and the highspeed LCDs people seem to love these days) it would just be a matter of making sure the glasses stay in sync. Or if we're in the realm of speculation, I expect to see dual layer displays, one left, one right polarized.

    --Soogan
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Spectacular.
  • CrazyJoeCrazyJoe Winter Springs, FL Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Ok, for those of you that have seen this movie is it worth the extra cost to see it in 3D? There's a 3D Imax about 30 miles from my house that I can see a matinee for $10, but there is a standard theater just across the street that's $7. Is it worth the extra $3 and hour of driving time to see this movie in IMax 3D?
  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited December 2009
    Lynx, you reviewed it perfectly (and yes, this should be on Life!). You nailed every point, I was awestruck by Avatar and I very much feel that this will be a pivotal film in history of cinematography, it raised the bar very, very high.

    I liked the story much more then I had been expecting, somewhat predictable and certainly with some cheesy parts (Braveheart speech...) but it moved the film forward and didn't suck. It never felt like a story that was just there to showcase the effects, I completely believed in the world of Pandora even if the characters were predictable and one dimensional as Thrax mentioned.

    But the film-making and the CG were what defined this film, everything in it was perfect. This was a flawlessly executed film with enormous CG environments that weren't just detailed, they were real. This must have been exceptionally challenging given the amount of plant life everywhere. The dynamics and simulation work awe inspiring, the clock, rigid and fluid dynamics all looked exactly right—even the fire—and the particle work was gorgeous.

    Equally accomplished were the characters, we've never seen digital characters like this before, ever. Not even Gollum displayed this level of subtlety and emotion. They weren't just just amazing characters, they gave amazing performances. Even the best motion capture can't capture that level of detail and it's clear that the animators took it to a new level. I never felt even the slightest bit of the uncanny valley either.

    I also think the Real3D was the best we've seen so far, especially against other live action films. My eyes still felt very fatigued by the end the screen could have been a bit brighter but the image was sharp, the 3D was always subtle and it nailed the combination of live action footage with CG characters and environments.

    I should stop gushing and I'm sure that came out like an hyperbole overload but Avatar was truly magic.
  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited December 2009
    Crazy Joe wrote:
    Ok, for those of you that have seen this movie is it worth the extra cost to see it in 3D? There's a 3D Imax about 30 miles from my house that I can see a matinee for $10, but there is a standard theater just across the street that's $7. Is it worth the extra $3 and hour of driving time to see this movie in IMax 3D?

    Yes! I paid $14 for my ticket and waited four and a half hours in line for the opening showing and it was worth every dollar I spent and every minute I waited. James Cameron has said many times that this film was not made for 2D and you cannot experience Avatar without the stereoscopic.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Soogan - I actually got to play with a dual-layer display at SIGGRAPH two years ago. Still very WIP, and probably the type of thing that won't see the light of day, but it was pretty sweet having that built in. I played UT2k4 on it.

    Also, as Bandrik and probably Chris White would recall, at SIGGRAPH08 in LA, the Autodesk party let us check out some bleeding edge stereo tech that is in the works. The glasses actually had electronics in them - probably shutter based or something. Whatever it was, the tech was incredible, and by far the best example of stereo I've ever experienced.

    I don't remember the name, or how it worked, probably because Bandrik, Cherplunka and I were busy eating at Panda Express during the first half of that event...

    Agreed, Chris, on your hyperbole overload. The character performances were the best I've ever seen. When you see AVATAR, it changes your perception of digital mo-capped characters in film. This movie is proof that good mo-cap CAN be done, and that alone gives me hope for the future of VFX in film. Hopefully, everyone else that takes the easy way out learns from this example.

    The characters are entirely belivable, and it's easy to fall into the thinking that the Avatars are their respective actors wearing makeup. I hate that this film has changed my perspective on both 3D in film and mo-capped performances, but I must take back everything I said in the past.

    Joe, spend the extra $3. It is certainly worth it.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited December 2009
  • edited December 2009
    You can polish a turdish storyline till it sparkles and shines, but it's still a turdish storyline.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    I told Tim that I wouldn't feed his troll on Facebook.

    As Buzz Lightyear so elequently (sort of) stated "but we're not on Facebook, are we?"

    There are an astonishing amount of people complaining about the story. It's predictable, it's old hat, it's James Cameron, they say. What... what is wrong with everyone? The story isn't terrible, no not at all. It just doesn't ascend to the high levels of complexity that - apparently - every film today must have. It seems that around the release of The Matrix, Hollywood made a shift to super complex storytelling where EVERYTHING has a twist, and then some have a twist for that twist. And if they're particularly ballsy, a twist for the twist's twist.

    What happened to simple storytelling? Why can we not enjoy the simple stories anymore? It is as if we require every film to have a Shakespearean complexity about it, and if it isn't an intellectual masterpiece, then it is rubbish. I don't know about you, but I appreciate storytelling no matter how complex it is. If it's predictable, that's completely fine to me, as long as the whole package is compelling. Avatar pulls that off in spades. Sometimes, I just want to shut my mind down, watch a film, and enjoy the ride. I've rode the King's Island rollercoaster 'The Beast' well over 30 times in the last five years. I know every single drop, every twist, every turn. And despite that I know how the ride is going to play out, and how it's going to end, I enjoy the ride every single time.

    Why do you think Pixar films excel where all other animation studios fail? Their stories are totally simple. Sure, there may be more depth to characters emotionally in Pixar films, but those stories are as simple as can be.

    You know what? I'm starting to think that maybe, maybe, Booth has been right all this time.

    but regardless of the 'turdish' story, you cannot deny the impact this film is having on cinema. Like it or not, this is the future of filmmaking, and that kind of makes this piece important.
  • GnomeQueenGnomeQueen The Lulz Queen Mountain Dew Mouth Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    I really liked the story! I highly enjoyed the movie. Is it as original as say, District 9, which was another brilliant Sci Fi movie this year? Definitely not, but I still really liked it. :)
  • mas0nmas0n dallas Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    James Cameron just makes predictable movies, OK. In that movie he made, Titanic, it was totally obvious that ship was going to sink and just about everyone was going to die. What a piece of crap. And in Terminator 2, we know John Conner is going to live because otherwise he could not have sent his father back from the future in the first movie. Pfft...

    /have not seen Avatar. Sorry. Carry on.
  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Wut? Meechigan Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Geesh, people. Stop whining about the story. The story was perfectly fine. So it's not the shining example of storytelling, who cares? I actually enjoyed the fact that the story was relatively simplistic, as that allowed me to totally and completely immerse myself in the viewing experience, which just happened to be totally OMFGGorgeous.

    This is simply the most stunningly beautiful visual experience I've had in a movie theater. Period. If I had some uber-complex story to concentrate on, I would have missed so much that was just jaw-droppingly fantastic to look at.

    I think choosing vaguely humanoid characters, rather than trying to CGI actual humans also helped with bridging (then turning around and pissing into) the uncanny valley. Since we have no prior experience looking at, or interacting with 'real' creatures from that moon, there's nothing in our brains that tells us "something's not quite right, here".

    The short of it: I enjoyed EVERYTHING about this movie, including the simplistic storyline.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    This is why I could give two craps about Avatar.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    That article vastly overstates the theme in the film. Figures that someone who hasn't seen it would write that.
  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Wut? Meechigan Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Thrax wrote:
    That article vastly overstates the theme in the film. Figures that someone who hasn't seen it would write that.

    QFT.

    Sure there was plenty of environmental stuff in it. But at least it was done in a way that helped move the story along. It's not like at 1:20 in the film, Al Gore came on screen and started talking about truths and inconveniences.
  • UPSLynxUPSLynx :KAPPA: Redwood City, CA Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Just like Wall-E preached about our garbage-forming habits as humans are destroying the world. Just as CyberDyne taught us that corporations and technology will destroy us. Just as Jurassic Park taught us that playing god will cause horrible results. Fern Gully, Pocahontas, ect.

    This film is no propaganda piece. It does not come off preachy, and I would take that writer's opinion - having not seen the film - as valid as a blind man in a theater.
  • AlexDeGruvenAlexDeGruven Wut? Meechigan Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Yeah, I thought Wall-E's message was a lot stronger than Avatar's, personally.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Yep. Didn't like Wall-E for those reasons. It was about as subtle as a hand grenade. Pocahontas is one of Disney's worst films for the same reason and Fern Gully was so bad it has been relegated to a punch line. I wouldn't call Terminator or Jurassic Park "good films" either.

    Perhaps I shouldn't have picked an author who admitted to having not seen the movie. Plenty of other folks who have seen the film that I know came to a similar conclusion.

    But I'm a movie snob. No subtitles = no-go for me.
  • ledbetterledbetter Chattanooga, TN
    edited December 2009
    My buddy and I drove 60 mile to see this it IMAX 3D and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Preachy messages and turdish story lines be damned. I would've paid twice to see this movie. I've never seen anything like this in my life and neither have you. You could wish for cinema to NOT evolve and be happy in 10 years watching Transformers 17.
  • ardichokeardichoke Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    Buddy J wrote:
    This is why I could give two craps about Avatar.
    I haven’t yet seen Avatar, James Cameron’s new film...
    This is why you shouldn't give two craps about that article. How can they possibly write an accurate piece on the movie if they haven't seen it?

    Also, I was quite disappointed to hear that the IMAX in Lansing will not be showing Avatar. Apparently they didn't make enough copies of the IMAX film. The owner of the IMAX theater here actually offered to buy one of the prints out of desperation but got turned down. I'll just go see it in a normal theater I guess. Also, totally not braving the 3D. That stuff sets off migraines for me.
  • SnarkasmSnarkasm Madison, WI Icrontian
    edited December 2009
    I didn't see preachy. I saw a good movie.

    You'd have to go into it thinking it was preachy (or perhaps having listened to Cameron's comments, which I haven't) to interpret it as preachy. It's nothing of the sort if you don't go into it with that mindset.
  • GrimnocGrimnoc Marion, IN
    edited December 2009
    I'm with BuddyJ on this one in that I believe it was pretty mediocre. Yes, I saw it in IMAX 3D, and the effects were indeed fantastic, but effects alone cannot make a movie. Now don't get me wrong I had fun and I suppose I'm glad to have seen it, but I'll never watch it again even given the chance to see it in 3D. The fact of the matter is, Cameron has done much better work in the past.

    I'm also one who thought it was fairly preachy (though this isn't necessarily why I didn't like it), and going into it I had no idea that there was any type of argument over its preachyness.
  • chrisWhitechrisWhite Littleton, CO
    edited December 2009
    I didn't think it was too simplistic of a story, if anything, the basic plot wasn't any less simplistic then District 9 (though the storytelling differed). My only problem with the story was that it was a bit cheesy in a few parts (Braveheart speech especially, but that's always cheesy).

    As for the environmentalist bend, I thought it was a little preachy and I know I'll have that discussion if I recommend it to a few friends that would love it if they could get past the message. But I didn't feel like it ruined the film for me in the slightest. The only reason it's 'too preachy' is because it's dealing with something so many people are skeptical about, we let far more preachy movies fly all the time when it's not something like environmentalist, couldn't bother me less.
Sign In or Register to comment.

The 5¢ Tour