This post was originally published on my Blogger Account on the 4th of January 2010. This post has been edited before it was published today.
The film of 2009 will be Avatar. It isn’t the best movie of the year but will probably be the biggest. It is already the second highest grossing movie after Cameron’s own Titanic . Over the last 12 months James Cameron – the director of Avatar – has been building the film up as a game changer. The Jazz Singer of 3D cinema.
For those who don’t know the Jazz Singer was the fist talkie (non-silent film) and showed Hollywood that movies with sound were the way to go. Cameron claimed Avatar would do the same for 3D. It doesn’t. In fact it only highlights the problems with 3D. Cameron has created a beautiful looking film that is dulled by the 30% colour loss that the 3D effect brings. It was often more enjoyable watching the film with the glass off, even though the image was out of focus. When the glasses were I often forgot the movie was in 3D.
However, one thing Cameron does get right is CGI interaction. The human cast look like they belong in that world. Something that other CGI heavy films, like the Star Wars prequels, suffered from! This is something that Empire journalist Helen O’Hara blogged about in August 2009 on the Empire website as she defended Avatar from the internet hate it was getting six months before it was actually released! In the blog she stated that:
If Cameron can deliver a truly, convincingly alien world, this is a step towards a Dune that nails it, towards a Forever War worth watching or towards seeing of the weirder Iain M. Banks onscreen – The Algebraist, say.
Now I believe Cameron did create a truly convincing alien world and I hope Helen O’Hara‘s theory is correct because in many ways I don’t think that Avatar is alien enough. While the planet looks beautiful and unique, the alien creates that live on it don’t. Yes the Na’vi are nine foot tall and blue but they still have two arms and two legs and look human. In fact Cameron had to cut a Na’vi sex scene to ensure a PG-13 rating in the states, which suggests that the censors thought they looked too human! So when you compare the Na’vi to the Dwellers of Banks‘ The Algebraist – aliens that are described as looking like two discs, similar to a yo-yo, with various appendages at edges and hubs including two long spindle arms – then the Na’vi just look like slightly posher blue CGI versions of Spook’s pointy ears from the original series of Star Trek.
And to make matters worse for Avatar examples, if not overly extreme versions, of truly alien looking aliens exist in movies like District 9 or Cameron‘s own Aliens and their budgets were a lot smaller than Avatar‘s. However, this may only be the first step. The giant leap Cameron seemed to be promising may only be a small, but very important, one.