Monday, January 18, 2010

"I wanna live like the blue catpeople!" - Thoughts on "Avatar"

Alright, just got back from the Gandalf Google-plex. Bad immediate thoughts first:
1) The 3D can get very overwhelming. In particular, I'm thinking of the scenes where there were leaves or bubbles or dust particles floating around, where the camera was looking at a transparent surface with smudges or marks on it, and where there were two characters fighting or chasing each other and the camera follows them around. They messed with my visual cortex badly. It couldn't keep track of what to focus on during these scenes. ("That's just the illusion of a window. But it looks like a real scratched-up window and I have to adjust my focus to look at the thing behind that window... but neither the window or the thing behind it is real and - woah... woaaah... woaaaaahhh.")
2) With that in mind, walking out of the theater was very like coming down from a weird high. I was a little disoriented and had a bit of a headache. So the 3D technology still needs some work. It could also be partially because, so help me, Pandora still looks like everything on DeviantArt ever. (On that note, it took a remarkably short time for the "Avatar" fandom to grow a scary-obsessed branch, didn't it?)
3) And while this isn't the most unusual thing to b*tch about in a review of "Avatar", it does bear repeating: I've seen this story before. You've seen this story before. Heck, if you like animation and fantastic fiction, you've seen many, many different versions of this story multiple times. So yeah, the story is pretty boring and the initial "Ferngully: Dances With Thundercats" assessment from the early trailers was pretty spot-on.
As for the good things:
1) The overall impact of the movie, my knee-jerk reaction coming out of the theater was, and I quote, "Holy sh*t!!!" "Avatar" is awesome. Really, really awesome.
Aside from the nagging things I already mentioned, the 3D is crap-your-pants amazing. It sounds like a broken record by now but you really have no idea how amazing this movie looks until you see it in the theater.
With that said, I'm not sure what I'd have thought of "Avatar", or if I'd enjoyed it as much, if I'd seen it in a conventional theater or in an IMAX 3D theater. The IMAX 3D, as you know, was very uncomfortable for me after a little while, and based on subsequent comments I've read/heard online, I would have greatly disliked the IMAX version.
2) If there is an Art of Avatar book out there, I want it. Because I want to pore over those crazy awesome Wayne Barlowe and Neville (happy "Cloverfield" day!) Page creature designs. Tapejarid-wyverns! Hammerhead Lairons!
Hoverchameleons! This may be as close as we ever get to an honest-to-goodness Expedition movie. (Yeah, I know, but "Alien Planet" sucked.)
(Turns out that such a book exists, but does not include much in terms of concept art. Still, might be worth a thumb-through.)
3) It's James Cameron! I like him! Hell, I've got "Terminator 2" in the background as I write this!
4) I cannot. Effing. WAIT. To see what WETA does with this technology next. As you may have heard, Cameron was inventing new technology as he was making this movie. Future animated and live-action/animation films will benefit greatly from what he learned. You realize what this means? It means "The Hobbit" is going to be unreal.
In short, you should go see "Avatar". This movie is an experience. I went with three other friends and not one of us had a bad time watching it. We went on a weekday and joined a very diverse crowd - there was every imaginable "target audience" present - and the whole theater was enthralled (and very quiet, which is darned refreshing). You don't want to wait until this hits DVD and I don't care how good your theater system is at home. "Avatar" is on a different level, and it demands to be seen in a theater.
That said, be prepared for a pretty lackluster story (with a puzzling subtext, but more about that in another review.) After a few days, I realized that the things that really stayed with me about the movie were the amazing setting and creatures and trippy visuals. But this isn't "Disney's Dinosaur"; "Avatar" does not qualify as an epic fail by any stretch of the imagination. It is, in case I haven't stated it before, really awesome.
The right attitude here is to go in expecting the best "scenery porn" ever.
Sketch of the day!
1.4.10 Sketchbook Page
I like this dragon! I may have to bring him to finish later.
It's funny I mentioned DeviantArt above, isn't it? You may notice a new link under "My Other Websites" at the right. Yes, I have joined the DVA party. I figured, even though Flickr is ridiculously easier to use and looks much nicer, and even though DeviantArt has a case of Sturgeon's Law like nothing else in this world and is far harder to navigate, it behooves me (whatever that means) to join the most popular art-sharing site and make more contacts. Plus, I am on good authority that their print service is very good. It was certainly easy to set my store up. And to that end, you know you want a Liopleurodon coffee mug. I will make a little less than a dollar if you buy one!
For now, I've got three pieces on DVA (not counting my ID). I may roll out three more every... as-yet undetermined length of time. I'll see how these first three go over.

1 comment:

Zach said...

Yeah, "Alien Planet" really, really sucked. Possibly because there was a ten-minute commercial break for every five minutes of show, as tends to happen on Discovery/Animal Planet/History channels.

Still need to see Avatar, if only for the creatures. I don't give a crap about the story, and the Na'vi look entirely out-of-place with the rest of the animals around them. Still, that giant orange pterosaur-bird thing looks craaaaazy cool.