Blue and Green


Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington in costume.

My apologies if my memory’s a little shaky: I was supposed to write this post about three weeks ago, but procrastinated. Its subject can be deduced from the image above.

Some Hollywood insiders forecast Avatar‘s total gross to surpass 2.5 billion USD. The film recently overtook Titanic in nominal box office receipts, although Avatar is not expected to match Titanic in the awards department; a science-fiction movie is rarely showered with statues. Cameron is the only (Hollywood?) director to have two billion-dollar movies in his filmography, and perhaps one of the few directors to regularly have film budgets over 200 million USD. Not bad for the Canadian former truck driver.

Me? I liked Avatar. A lot, and even more the second time.

My first viewing was in 2D about five days after its release. At this point, my exposure to the hype had been minimal, and my friend and I weren’t willing to wait the extra 75 minutes to watch it in 3D. I still thought the flat presentation was gorgeous – I do like a good action/effects movie, and Avatar, preachiness and all, was pretty enough to capture my attention for two and a half hours. The plot was good enough to not bore me for that length of time, and I don’t have any strong opinions regarding the message or tone of the film. My reaction to the movie was almost entirely visual. I left wondering if the Imax 3D experience would be different enough to justify $17.

Yes, it was. Cameron meant for the film to be viewed in 3D, and some of the sequences, like the first forest scene, are superlative. I noted that most special effects movies are set in environments that are either incredibly lush or startlingly bleak. Cameron’s film upholds the green over the assault of the grey: Pandora is a marvel on the screen. The first glimpses of the floating mountains were almost as spectacular as, say, those of the crystal caves in Planet Earth.

Throughout the animated and motion capture sequences, I didn’t fall into the uncanny valley. Cameron was smart to mix real humans with the (admittedly high-quality) motion capture scenes. The facial expressions and body language are nuanced and emotive; the motion is fluid, capturing the athleticism of the Na’vi. In an interview, Worthington said that it was awkward doing the love scenes with Saldana while in full headgear – they required multiple takes from different camera angles and with helmets on and off. I’m sure he had no complaints.


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