Archive for December, 2009

Cake With A Weasel On Top

My little cuddly blog here isn’t what one might define as traffic monster, unsurprisingly enough. Not that I want it to be one to begin with — my provider bill is just fine as it is, thank you –, but the lack of content isn’t helping, I guess. I had Nielsen Media do some research for me to find out more about my target audience.* They then polled 9853 people and, among other things, asked them about how interested they are in the content I’m delivering here.

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I watched 3D version of Avatar yesterday, and while it surely is not a flawless movie, it still was a fascinating and visually impressive experience. I was a bit worried that it might feel like two movies going through a shotgun wedding due to the mix of real actors and full CG scenes, but it ended up blending rather well. Facial animation often is a problem in movies that try to aim for a ‘realistic’ look – see Polar Express or Final Fantasy – but the Na’vi worked and did not break the immersion.

And an immersive movie it certainly was thanks to the world James Cameron and — based on the credits — millions of artists had crafted. Let there be no doubt: Avatar is a movie that begs to be watched on a big screen, preferably in 3D.

However, the c’t take I saw today probably put it best: It’s a three-dimensional film with a one-dimensional story. Pretty much everything is telegraphed ahead, and what follows is predictable down to the smallest level. Well executed, but predictable. Dances With Wolves was brought already by others, and yes, it’s an apt comparison. Cameron also sourced some of his own movies and reused themes he had employed there, especially Aliens and The Abyss.

The characters are more or less stereotypes and equally fail in surprising anyone. Avatar has a running time of 162 minutes, and yet there’s next to nil information given on the background or motivation of any of the characters. Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lange) — I had to look up his name because, like most of the other names, it did not really stuck with me — really is your average military person, Grace (Sigourney Weaver) and her colleagues are the good-natured scientists while Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) came across like a poorer version of the corporate guy played by Paul Reiser in Aliens. There wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about them, and same can be said about Na’vi characters like Eytukan (Wes Studi) or Tsu’tey , which probably both translate to “I’m a character that will kick the bucket before the movie is over so that Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) can become the true and clear leader of the tribe“. It’s up to the audience to speculate as to why Trudy (Michelle Rodriguez) goes rogue by noting that “this isn’t what I signed up for” because soldiers usually do not sign up for dishing out candy. None of those details was a dealbreaker that ruined the experience for me; many of them could have been fixed/improved by some writer though. Not every piece of information needs to be spoon-fed to the audience, but sometimes providing more background helps provide a reason for what a character is doing instead of conveying the impression that he/she does it because the script simply requires him/her to do exactly that at that moment.

Cameron still knows how to frame a good action scene. Despite there being quite a number of fights and a bigger aerial battle, pretty much everything was easy on the eyes compared to the hectic and overly nervous crap delivered in other recent action movies like let’s say Transformers 1 & 2. They surely were aware of the fact that quick cuts and changes of focus will result in a jarring and stressing 3D experience – and avoiding that really paid off. I also thought that they used the 3D effect quite well throughout the movie – not as gimmicky as Beowulf.

So yeah, it’s nice cinematic experience with a really well defined world. And while the story or the dialogue can’t live up to Avatar’s visual quality, it’s still way, way more bearable than the insane scripts beneath other 2009 ‘blockbuster’ productions — yes, 2012 and Transformers 2, I’m looking at you. Go and fetch your ticket already.


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