Okay, let’s make this clear at the start, Avatar is not a great film.
It is not a film that will surprise you and offer you things you have never seen before. You do not get sucked in to a world of new colours, dimensions and landscapes, what you do get is the same old familiar fantasy stuff just presented a little differently. And that’s the driving force of this film, not what you see but how you see it.
James Cameron is on very familiar ground with many of the story elements of this film, but it’s the technical advances that seems to be getting all the column inches and blog postings, probably because the story’s so familiar.
It takes great skill in creating a totally believable world in cinema, and at this Cameron excels.
In the years he was waiting for the technology to mature enough to start filming he obviously poured over every aspect of the world of Pandora, and it certainly shows on screen. It’s a lush and very detailed world with a well thought out and realised methodology and ancestry that it could’ve been lifted straight from a documentary of indigenous peoples. Pandora is fully realised and totally believable, at least in concept if not execution. This is where the film started to fall down for me; the CG realisation.
The very first time we see Sam Worthington’s character (Jake Sully) in avatar form, it looks so fake. The whole scene needs proper attention to the blending process to integrate the CG with the live action, because it just looks cheap and well below par for any big budget film these days. The whole sequence is very unnatural in it’s movement and the cartoon skin doesn’t help in the least. This scene isn’t the only one that actually takes you (or me) out of the film and draws your attention to the artifice of the medium, but as it’s the first scene that does it in a very easily recognisable sense then it deserves mention for that. Cameron should look to District 9 as a lesson in how to blend CG and live action seamlessly.
Once emerged in the world of Pandora the CG becomes much more believable but there’s something about the way things move, it’s very unnatural in it’s execution. Again, this takes the viewer out of the film and draws attention away from verisimilitude.
The script is typical Cameron fare. Don’t go expecting anything approaching complex dialogue, because that’s not what he does. What he does do is create spectacle, and in this he certainly hasn’t failed, though some aspects need a little work Avatar is by no means a bad film, but by the same token it’s not great either, and this is where I came in.
So, is 3D going to be the saviour of the film industry? Based on this film I’d have to say “nope”.
While it undeniably adds depth to the image there’s a few problems I have with it (even though it is still very much an emerging technology).
The glasses were a major problem for me. Not being a person that requires any kind of correctional eye facility I found wearing the glasses a distraction. Not only could I constantly feel the pressure of the arms against my head I found the rims of the glasses a constant distraction. The CG movement I’ve already gone in to so I won’t rehash but as a gimmick I can see 3D catching on in a small way, but I certainly don’t think I’ll be going to watch another 3D film at the pictures again any time soon.