Avatar – The Panda Review

So I saw Avatar over the weekend. I won’t go into the story really, don’t want to reveal the plot or anything.

But if you really want to know, go watch Fern Gully.

Let’s talk visuals.

I read an interview with James Cameron the other day, and he said that he wishes he could have done all his old movies in CGI. He said like all of Titanic would have been in CGI, forget building a huge fake Titanic and worrying about capturing real sunsets and stuff. He would just go with fake everything.

Now I’m not some naturalist, I’m not all for having to make every movie in the real world, but I think there should still be a responsible limit to the use of CGI, especially when it pertains to things in the real world. Obviously movies about Mars or something will have CGI in it. But to just create all of your sets with computers seems lazy and crappy. And you can always tell the difference, very rarely am I so convinced that set is real when it isn’t, it has something to do with the look and the fact that no one can interact with it properly. Imagine how crappy Blair Witch Project would have looked in CGI (not that the movie was any good). People pretending to move branches out of the way and fall over fake tree stumps. Shit would look like Han Solo stepping on Boba Fett’s tail, unnatural and obviously faked.

On the other hand, the charaters themselves were very well done. They did appear and act very realistically (for huge blue cat/people), and thus is the real interesting draw to the CGI part of the movie. The scene where the main female Nani lead interacts with the main charater’s human body did look surprisingly real. And all of their teeth look really real.

But let’s clear this up really quick, Cameron didn’t say he would replace the actors with CGI, just the scenery, which would ruin everything. Forever.

Thus sets the stage for my review of Avatar. I think Cameron needs to get off his high horse. This movie was way overhyped and all the CGI in the world couldn’t save this crappy story. I really felt like I had seen this movie a million times before, only with the ships using rotary blades instead of jets, and avatar bodies instead of mechs or something. That part was pretty Robotech esque in a weird way. See, all the characters in the movie knows which avatar aliens are fake and which are real, why go through so much trouble to fake the alien bodies. No one is confused as to which is fake, so it’s really pointless to create bodies resembling them so closely.

And back to the CGI. I just feel like I’m watching a cut scene in a video game I wouldn’t buy. Maybe if I got to play as the marines, without feeling so crappy for tearing down the forrest. But probably not still, as I would apparently be fighting against aliens with bows and arrows.

Then there was the 3d. Man it was cool, for like, 5 minutes. Then it became gimmicky. I don’t need to see scenes with nothing but talking in 3d. It’s really cool to give a sense of distance in scenery shots or something, but two or three people talking doesn’t need to show the field of depth between the person and the wall. Action scenes can suffer from it. There was a scene with the avatar fighting dog things, and it just became unwatchable at a certain point because there was too much movement by too many things and the glasses are not the best out there. I got physically sick after that scene.

Another thing, why is it when things are in CGI, the camera always has to move. One thing I like about movies is perspective. A certain way a scene is shot can make the whole scene better, even if the camera never moves, it just lets the scene take place and you get a good perspective of whats going on. Now, this doesn’t have to be the case all the time, I do like cameras on booms or car chase scene cameras and such, but these all still provide a great perspective. But with CGI, it always seems that they feel the need to center the action or characters, and move fluidly with them, never giving a sense of perspective. This sucks. And it happens a lot in this movie. When a scene is purely CGI, the camera always has to move. A lot. Even Pixar get this right with movies like Toy Story or Cars, but Cameron can’t keep his camera from moving ever.

Either way, this movie was not some epic like people want to make it out to be. The visuals were really good most of the time (still not groundbreaking to me except for the characters), but the storyline was unoriginal (except for the useless avatar bodies) and the over reliance of technology.

So with all that said, go see the movie. You don’t want to be that guy who didn’t see the movie, but also go see it during a matinee. It wasn’t that good. It was really pretty to look at and does push the medium in a direction that will help movies after this. 3d, the (over) use of CGI, all of this will help make movies better in the future.

But, it’s kind of like buying a GM EV1, or the first gen Toyota Prius. You aren’t getting the best of the technology, you’re just letting Toyota know that you want to see this in the future but way better. And if it doesn’t get better in the future, you will buy from someone else.

If James Cameron releases another crappy movie (the movie itself, not visuals) like this again, I won’t go see it.


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