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I See You
Member Name: obscuredbykep
Advantages: A super film, amazing in 3D !
Disadvantages: See review
I remember seeing a trailer for Avatar a few months back, it must have been August or something, when I saw District 9. There were a load of trailers for films I hadn't heard of, and most looked pretty shit. Avatar was one of these such films, and I didn't pay any attention to it again. That was until being at home for Christmas, my best friend told me he had been to see it in 3D, and that it was a good film, to which I responded, "oh right, I'll see if I can download it". He exclaimed, "NO! You have to see this in the cinema". That is coming from the guy who downloads even more than I do. I had to take his word.
I mentioned it to another couple of friends when I got back to Manchester, and they had seen it, and confirmed it was a great film. I was still sceptical though, sticking with my initial preconceptions from the early days of the trailer. However, after viewing a house to move into next year (we want it, it is huge!!) we decided to go to the cinema that night. So, it was decided I would part with £9.75 of my limited supply of money and venture down to the Odeon. We saw Avatar not just in 3D, but on the IMAX screen.
Before the Film
15 years ago, James Cameron (director of Titanic) completed an 80 page script for Avatar, and a year later announced it was to be produced after completion of Titanic. As you may have noticed, it wasn't quite that quick. It was announced back in 2005 he was planning two films. One was entitled Battle Angel, and one was Project 880, which later became Avatar. He then announced in 2006, that this 10 year delay was due to him waiting until the technology had advanced, so that he could see his vision into reality. That time has finally come, and the film was released in cinemas in December 2009. It was also announced, that he was planning Avatar to be a trilogy.
The script was apparently written in just 2 weeks, and based upon "every single sci-fi book" he read as a kid. This script had been circulated on the internet, but upon the announcement of the film, it was quickly withdrawn. Cameron then spent a load of time perfecting the script, working with professionals in various fields to make it all more real. This included making up the language of the Na'vi, which was some 1000 words, based upon other languages, in both Ethiopia and New Zealand. Another professional, this time in plant physiology met with Sigourney Weaver to discuss how to play her role, and give information on how the Na'vi could communicate with plants.
The film was given a budget of $300,000,000.
The films stars Sam Worthington, who you may know from Terminator Salvations, as Corporal Jack Sully. He is a marine but confined to a wheelchair, with apparently no use of his legs. He was cast back in 2007, when Cameron was looking for a cheap lead actor, to keep production costs down, apparently, Worthington was just living in his car at that time.
There were a couple of actors I recognised from other films there too, Joel Moore, who features in the film 'Grandma's Boy' is Dr. Norm Spellman, he is on Pandora to work with Dr. Grace Augustine studying the life on the planet, and is expected to lead the diplomatic meetings with the Na'vi.
Grace was played by Sigourney Weaver, who played Alice in The Village, which is I assume where I know her from. She is the leading researcher on the planet, and is keen to build peaceful realations with the Na'vi, having previous set up a School to teach them English. It doesn't explain exactly what happens with that, but she is later known to not be allowed into the Na'Vi area.
The film also features Michelle Rodriguez (The Fast and the Furious) as pilot Trudy Chacón, and Stephen Lang (Public Enemies) as Col. Miles Quaritch the main antagonist of the film. He is the head of the US Army force on Pandora, and shown to be a brutal man who is used to getting what he wants.
The main Na'vi, Princess Neytiri of the Omaticaya, is played by Zoe Saldana who has previously had roles in Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Trek (movie)
The film opens with Jack Sully being released from Cryo, he is disabled, paralysed from the waist down, which is pretty useless for a marine. The film is set 200 years into the future, on a planet called Pandora. Sully is being deployed to take the place of his brother, who was killed, in the Avatar programme.
The purpose of the occupation of Pandora is a fiscal one. The planet is rich of a certain precious metal which retails at £2mill per kilo.
When Sully arrives at Pandora, you see the scope of the technological advances. Huge great robots controlled by a human driver, super technical touch screen computers. Sully is informed about the Avatar programme, and we are then introduced to the Avatars. An Avatar, is a Na'vi human cross, based upon the genome of the human host - which is why Sully is brought in to control it when his brother dies. Humans go to sleep in a special thing, and are then in control of their Avatar. Sully, and the two Dr's, travel into Pandora, and while they are looking at some plant life, Sully wanders a little way and is intrigued by the plants himself.
He eventually finds himself separated, and stuck in the depths of the Pandora jungles at night fall. Alone, he uses his skills as a marine to survive the jungle, before meeting Princess Neytiri, she sees something in him which marks him as special, and she brings him back to the base of the Omaticaya tribe...
What I thought about the Plot
As I had said, I wasn't originally expecting much, and I kept my scepticism right up until the film began. I had donned my daft 3D glasses, and sat starring at the gigantic screen. The film opened up, and it first seemed like it was going to be what I had expected. A bit too military, the sort of film I could watch, but not enjoy hugely.
Jesus, was I wrong. It turned out to be an absolutely incredible film. The sort you would quite happily go and watch again (although, not at £9.75..) and again and again.
Of course, I wasn't won over immediately. After the military beginnings, once it got onto exploring the depths of Pandora, I noticed the first major cliché thing. The main character was one of those "ooh I have to do this, for my brother and for getting new legs" type people. He had a real motivation that the leads always have in films, that annoying pitiful hero sort of thing. Maybe it's just me, but why couldn't he have been normal, his brother died, he didn't have anything better to do that weekend, so thought "what the hell, I'll give it a shot".
Second super obvious typically cliché thing, was that of course, he had to fall for the Princess. The lead always has to fall for the princess. They have to be too people who shouldn't get on but a deep love draws them together, not two people who have a good laugh, and enjoy the same breakfast of Coco-Pops.
But, once it got past that, then I was in. That's when the plot gets good, that is when it develops much more interestingly. The whole world of Pandora has been created brilliantly, and is very believable, the animals they have created, mostly with very dinosauristic appearance, are well crafted, and behave really realistically. The plants, all funky coloured are also really believable, they don't seem too far out for them to be inconceivable.
I think that the whole film is well scripted, the interaction between the Na'vi and Humans, their language, their whole mannerisms, which are obviously all based on tribes in Africa and New Zealand, so keep great realism. There are some really powerful tribal scenes, one featuring the whole tribe joining arms chanting around the spiritual leader person, it was a seriously moving sort of scene - something I haven't experienced before in a film. Another, which features all the animals of the planet also really impressed me, it felt so right for the film, and well, perfect.
The plot did keep you on your toes quite a bit, though was not entirely original. It was at least not predictable in the most part, which made for a film where you genuinely were engrossed with every happening.
Thoughts on Film Production
The film was shot predominantly using motion capture imaging. That's the one where the actors aren't show in real, but a computer animated character using their movement and facial expressions - like on The Polar Express. This was used almost entirely when the Avatars were in view, expect for a few scenes where it was mixed with real life.
The normal scenes were incredibly well produced, and the sets created were very visual. The use of super high-tech equipment gave it a very sci-fi feel to it. It was certainly both believable and impressive. These scenes mixed in the normal amounts of CGI you would expect in a film these days, and it was certainly blended well.
Then, onto the biggie. The main part of the film - Pandora. Entirely in CGI using MCI, it was nothing short of amazing. The use of rich colours was visually stimulating, and the computer certainly worked its magic in making them look as near to real as possible - Cameron definitely did the film justice by waiting until technology had improved to shoot.
The textures on the planet are so smooth and accurate, from the glistening of a rock, or the smooth feathers on the end of an arrow - they looked the most real I have ever seen on a film, even not viewing it with the 3D specs on. There are scenes of waterfalls and mountains, and they look so believable. It really is incredible how far CGI has come.
Throughout the film, the acting was brilliant. I think that each cast member really thrived in their character and bought them to life, giving a deep personal touch.
The film has a score composed by James Horner, who has composed dozens of film scores, from Titanic to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The music fits perfectly in the film, and I did sit and think about how well it complimented it. This probably isn't the sort of thing you would buy for general listening, least it isn't something I would. The final song, is performed by Leona Lewis, and is, well, shit.
The film was released in 3 formats. Standard, 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D. We went and saw it in 3D, and it was the first film I have ever seen in 3D. First things first, price. Expect to pay more to see something in 3D, secondly, you will be given a pair of glasses to wear for watching the film. They are certainly different to the 3D glasses I remember when I was younger. They are now a large pair, not blue and red, but just tinted, with no obvious colouring. They fit well over normal glasses, which is a basic requirement for me.
3D was amazing. So much more visual depth is brought to the film it is phenomenal. I didn't notice the whole "things flying at you" routine, so I don't think it was used in the film as such. There were shots of crafts flying in space, exiting to the sides of the screen - and they genuinely looked like they were passing past you, so I definitely suggest seeing it in 3D to make the experience better.
3D did have a few issues for me though, and I am unsure if in part it is due to the fact I have dodgy sight or what. Mainly it was image ghosting. As you might know, 3D works by projecting a couple of images onto the screen, the glasses then filter what you see, so that one image arrives at each eye, that is why without the glasses you see the film with super image ghosting which would probably give you a migraine in minutes. However, even with the glasses, I noticed it quite often, different parts of the shot would appear to be in focus, and I could see them perfectly, then other parts wouldn't, this didn't as such ruin it for me, but made it a little less great. I dunno if that is normal, or whether to attribute it to my atrocious sight from my right eye.
Secondly, a general 3D annoyance, is that there isn't focusing depth. Normally, you can focus on different parts of what you see, moving things in an out of focus. With a normal film, it is obvious that only what is in shot is in focus, so my eyes don't search the background, but I found that with the depth being present, I kept looking past the main scene and trying to explore the screen, which obviously wasn't focusing. This is just a limitation with 3D at the moment I guess.
But, all in all the positives of 3D far surpassed my couple of quibbles.
Not only was it my first time with 3D, but it was my IMAX virginity I gave up as well. IMAX screens are huge, massive, gigantic. Something like 8 stories high, they really are massive, and I definitely found this to be positive to the viewing pleasure of the film. If you have a chance to an IMAX then go for it.
In short. Yes.
It is a brilliant film, and something I think lovers of many genres can enjoy. I found it to be just as good as my friends had said it was, and that for once, the trailer actually made the film look shite compared to how good it was. So, go out and see it in 3D and IMAX while it is still in the cinemas!
Oh, and so far it's already managed to hit #2 on the list of highest grossing films, beaten only by Cameron's own Titanic.
Summary: A super film, amazing in 3D !