Friday, February 26, 2010

My Review of the first hour and five minutes of Avatar

If you're asking yourself "Who was that jerky guy in the second row at the 6:30pm showing of Avatar on Friday night who got up and left the theater an hour into the movie?" That guy was me.

Firstly, I'm quite sure I am the last person who reads this blog who hadn't seen Avatar as of today. OK, so I'm a bad, bad, sci-fi director.

Secondly, there aren't any spoilers here on this blog since I didn't even make it to midway through act 2. We were in the middle of the fun and games section and just learned how to ride a dragon. You've seen the movie. You know what I'm talking about.

Now the reason it took me so dang long to see the movie is because the perfect is the enemy of the good. I wanted to see Avatar in the only "real" IMAX theater in New York City. That's the one up by Lincoln Center.

And that's where I almost threw up.

I suffer from motion sickness. By the time we were getting close to flying the damn dragon I was saying (I don't think I was saying out loud) "Jim, Jim, please don't move the camera any more. Let's just stay with a shot and linger on it a while. Please don't spin along the X axis, just sit there, on virtual sticks. Please."

But alas, Jim Cameron did not heed my desperate plea. Virtually ever shot was moving. All all axes simultaneously. It's like the camera was being directed by a bumblebee.

When we got to the part where the lead character was recording his video log on what was essentially the webcam of the future, I think I dedicated my life to one of the minor Pandora deities. Why o why couldn't the whole movie be like this? Still. Not stomach curdling.

Nope, we had to go flying on the damn dragon. The dragon spun, the camera spun, my head spun. "I'll watch the movie on DVD." I miserably muttered to myself. As I left. Pale and shaky. Like a really bad hangover, or something approaching the flu. Near death, I think.

Now, I know you desperately want to know what I thought of the movie. So I'll tell you.

  • Go ahead and let the hero have an Australian accent. It's gonna creep in anyway. Maybe it should be moderated a little, but let him just do it.
  • Evil guy = awesome.
  • Story is in good shape. Everybody complains about the dialog and such in this movie. Yeah, there's some stuff that's so on the nose you'd think it was a golden retriever on a horse farm. It doesn't really bother me. I'm more of a story guy anyway. Story works. At least up through the middle of the 2nd act. I'm sure later our hero finds out something about himself and about the Na'vi and then has to make a decision which will affect his life, and the lives of all those around him forever. There will be a great struggle but at the last minute, using the knowledge he learned about himself through his contact with the B story the girl, he prevails. But I never saw that part so you didn't hear it from me.
But that's not what's important. What's important is how was the CG? How is 3D?

  • This picture isn't a big advance in CG. I think Chance Shirley pointed that out. It doesn't look as photo-real as The Golden Compass. Heck, it doesn't look as photo-real as parts of Wall-e.
  • I hate 3D. 3D isn't even 3D. It's 2 and-a-half D. To my eye the stuff that's "closer" to you is flat, on a plane. It's like the AfterEffects "postcards in space" effect where you can move objects closer or further from the camera but they have no depth to them.
  • Maybe part of the problem is the depth of field. I expect stuff in 3 dimensions to let me focus on whatever I want to (and this might have contributed to my motion sickness). But the background in Avatar is just as out of focus as you'd expect with 35mm film. So for me it means that I "hunt" a bit more for the in-focus part. If the movie were 2D the in-focus part of the frame would be easier to find and I wouldn't find myself searching the screen for whatever Mr. Cameron wants me to be looking at.

So I'll rent it on DVD. I'm kind of curious to see how the mechs, the dragon things (now I suspect there are even bigger dragons in the movie) and the helicopters have their big battle and how we learn what the Na'vi are doing with the Unobtanium.

Here's a picture of my sister's dog, Chien. Dog is sleeping. Dog is named "Dog."


Kangas said...

There is a word for people like you, sir. That word is PUSSY.

I disagree on the CG not being an advance--I don't remember people in the Golden Compass being CG. People are the tough CG thing to do, not bears.

And the story is pretty generic. You know how you saw half the film? I GUARANTEE you that you can tell me exactly what happens in the 2nd half.

Go ahead--I'll tell you if you're right. You will be, at least, if you've ever written a screenplay and gone with your first instinct every time...

Lindsay Stewart said...

afraid i'm in the minority of well trained north americans that hasn't seen cameron's latest ego masturbation. it just doesn't look like a very interesting movie once the ooh-aah factor is stripped away. a friend of mine gushed like old faithful how this was THE game changer and movies would never be the same and i am a cynic at heart so i wante to know how this thing would alter the flick he's working on... dramatic pause... i'll concede it might change the way that film makers with half billion dollar budgets work. the rest of us, not so much.. i refuseto see over hyped movies during the hype storm, prevents me getting rooked by charlatans like tarantino.

Andrew Bellware said...

Yep, I'm a pussy.

But I gotta say for the CG -- the big advances in the picture were all in the process, rendering out mo-cap in real time is pretty cool.

But for the actual renders? Humans are hard, but fur is harder.

I think that's a line from Animal Farm.

Humans hard. Fur harder.

Besides that, it's hard to mo-cap a ferret.

Andrew Bellware said...

I just want to say that again.

It's hard.

To mo-cap.

A ferret.

Lindsay Stewart said...

there's the chorus! let me know when the verses are done.

Andrew Bellware said...

Look man, I did the chorus. Let the drummer write the verse.

Lindsay Stewart said...

oh good lord man. let the drummer write the verse? ladies and gentlemen.... tyrannosaurus rush! how's yer falsetto?

Andrew Bellware said...

That's only in Canada. And the words would be all Ayn Randian. We'll go to England for a drummer and the words will be all like "susuusudio".

Lindsay Stewart said...

this can only end in loose bowels and receding hairlines. drummers, you can usually find them hanging around with musicians.

Andrew Bellware said...

I love drummer jokes.

Soprano jokes are good too.

"What's the difference between a violin and a viola?"

Viola burns longer. -- Joke told by brass musicians.