Avatar - Commentary

It is official; I don't understand the hype surrounding James Cameron's upcoming science fiction/action hybrid, Avatar. It's not that I doubt Cameron's abilities as a director, after all this is the same man that brought us both Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I consider those two films as the absolute best examples of the sci-fi/action genre in existence. Each film displays a perfect blend of story and character development, expertly balanced by some of the most impressive visual effects of their times.

At first glance, Avatar appears to continue in the tradition of these fine films. There seems to be a strong human element to the story, seeking to add a grounding point for the more fantastical alien elements. Cameron's  last feature film before this was 1997's Titanic. In the time since that film's release, Cameron has worked on a steady stream of IMAX-style documentary films, no doubt using the opportunity to develop and hone the technology on display in Avatar. Given that Cameron has had nearly 12 years for his next project to percolate, it's not wonder that expectation have been so high.

In the months leading up the first trailer release, rumors have swirled regarding the highly realistic special effects in the film. This is a point that has been pressed by the early marketing campaign surrounding the film. I'm at a loss of words other than to say the effects are not that impressive. I'll be the first to admit that final textures and animations on computer generated effects are typically not in place until very late in the process, but for such a highly hyped feature, the trailer does not sell me on the point. The blue aliens and outlandish alien landscapes look about on par with what I remember from The Phantom Menace. Note I'm not saying they look bad, they just have a cartoonish quality to them and are not as photo-realistic as I had anticipated. As someone who plays video games, I don't think these effects are appreciably better than any of the highly praised Blizzard cinematics from the last year or so.

That said, I think the actual story of Avatar looks interesting enough. Sure, the idea of a human being "going native" on an alien world isn't exactly the most original tale, but neither was cybernetic killer from the future and look what Cameron crafted from that. The important thing here is Cameron is continuing his tradition of grounding his brand of fantastic sci-fi action with a very basic story about humanity. Context can be a wonderful thing.


Lord Dixie said...

I just wathed Avatar last week. It was a beautiful film and as long as I didn't look too close I could "buy" the Navi. The story has been done before, I kept thinking of Dances with Wolves while watching it. I do not think the story had enough depth. While I liked it I was not blown away, possibly because I waited and saw on DVD not the big screen