Avatar Day wrap-up
Ed. note: We sent intrepid reporter Jenna Busch to her local theater to check out "Avatar Day." This is her report.
I just got to check out 16 minutes of the upcoming (and endlessly plugged) film AVATAR. James Cameron, I must shake your hand. And not just for what I saw. You somehow managed to keep this all a secret...those non-disclosure agreements must have included some sort of demon blood pact.
We've all seen the teaser trailer by now and to be honest, most of us were underwhelmed. It looked pretty, but for a film this hyped and with reports from Comic Con saying that it will change cinema forever, I was expecting a bit more. But what I saw last night blew me away! I'm not going to say that it changed my life or I had some sort of religious experience, but it was absolutely beautiful.
From the time they let the lucky viewers in until the preview started, the theater was buzzing. People who didn't come in together were chatting it up, introducing themselves and deciding to meet later. There were long discussions about James Cameron and cinema in general. (I had no choice but to listen. They made me leave my cell phone in the car. Might as well cut off my arm.) And when the lights went down there was a huge round of applause.
We were shown a few scenes, beginning with the set up. Crippled war veteran Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) wheels his way into a military scene. One of the higher ups is explaining that where they are stationed is one of the most dangerous places in existence due to a race called the Nav'i. (They're the purple dudes you've seen on the posters.) Sully is put into what looks like an MRI machine by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and told to keep his head down. His brain is transferred into a Nav'i body, eight feet tall, complete with long braid, yellow eyes and a tail he can't control. They try to keep him still, but he wants to take the new body out for a test drive and leaves the facility. Once he's outside (new scene by the way), he is attacked by weird little creatures and saved by another, female Nav'i named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). We're in CGI land now. From here on in, it's all about the beautiful, glowing, sherbert colored landscape and the purple creatures. (Thanks for making me crave sherbert, by the way. If I gain weight, I blame you Mr. Cameron.) We saw another scene where Jake is taken to a mountain full of giant flying creatures, taming one for a rite of passage, and a really impressive fight/chase scene with Jake and a giant birdy/cat dinosaur thing.
So here's the verdict. The story seems pretty simple. Get a new body, meet a tough chick who can't stand you at first, but learns to care for you after you do something to impress her. The guys in the tribe have no respect for the new guy (I can almost guarantee one of them has a crush on Neytiri and hates Jake for that, but will grudgingly shake his hand at the end or sacrifice himself to save Jake in some noble way.) Fine, I guess, but nothing earth shattering. And I've only seen a bit from the first half of the film, so I could be wrong.
But the CGI is incredible. Incredible. Stunningly beautiful. And a bit freaky. After seeing Sam Worthington in TERMINATOR: SALVATION, I know how he moves. Nav'i Jake moves exactly the same way. The facial expressions are spot on. And for those of you who freak out about the whole uncanny valley thing (look it up for details, but basically it's a repulsion for something really close to human but not quite...usually CGI eyes are the culprit), AVATAR has that pretty much figured out. Don't make the eyes human. We don't have anything to compare it to, so it looks pretty real. The bodies are built differently as well, so the movement makes sense. And between the colors, the glowing plants, the flying pterodactyl things with beautiful markings...just gorgeous.
The studio didn't do itself any favors by restricting the shots in the teaser trailer. Unless this is some kind of campaign to take away some of the expectation and...sorry. I like conspiracy theories. Anyway, the other thing I have to mention here is that I saw the footage in IMAX 3D. AVATAR may silence the ongoing debate about whether or not 3D is fad or the future. UP was lovely in 3D. BOLT was too. Either one of them would have been just as nice in 2D. But this...this is a revelation for the third dimension. It almost made me forget how uncomfortable the glasses were. It absolutely adds to the film, and if this is what the future of 3D looks like, sign me up for my custom pair. (Jeffery Katzenberg has a deal with Luxotica eyewear to make them. He says we'll all have movie glasses in the future.) I'm not only dying to see the rest of the film, but I can't wait to see if this does what I think it will do for the future of 3D.
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