Friday, January 08, 2010

If I just turn my head like so.. Voila!

After weeks of failing to convince Tara to see it, Wednesday night saw me doing a FoldsFive first - going to see a film at the cinema on my own, namely James Camerons new cashorama Avatar. Unless you've been stuck on a remote jungle planet for several years, you can't not have heard of this so I won't go into excessive detail about what (little and predictable) plot it has.
Tropical jungle planet Pandora has rare mineral that bad human industrial and military complex need. Planet has poisonous atmosphere and is already inhabited by indigenous humanoid species and lots of nasty fanged running and flying things. Bad people want to kill nice native people to get magic mineral. Nice man from military complex use technical mcguffin (supersized with large fries) and begin to sympathise with nice native people. Inevitable conflict between nasty military complex and nice man. Big battle. Profit (especially for James Cameron who hasn't quite earned enough to buy Brazil yet - the country that is, not the film or football team). So far, so Dances with Smurfs.

Avatar is basically a hugely expensive tech demo, but oh, what tech. Every inch of the screen is saturated with detail, and the CGI is without a doubt the most incredible I've ever seen. The fully CGI'd native species (The Na'vi - whose name suggests that they should be Irishmen working on UK canals in the 18th century) are wonderful to behold; they're brilliantly realised and as computer generated characters make fucking Jar Jar Binks look like Bomberman.

I remember going to see Toy Story at the cinema back in 1995 and one moment really standing out for me and striking me as being a defining moment in cinema - it wasn't the CGI as a whole (incredibly impressive though it was, and even now hasn't dated a jot) but when Hannah, the younger sister of Sid (The Doctor Moreau of the Toy Industry) throws a typical childish grump, sad face, bottom lip sticking out, the works. A realistically portrayed human emotion done in CGI, the first decent and convincing example of it I'd ever seen.
I was originally pissed off when I'd heard how good the 3D was, because due to my shit eyes I'm incapable of seeing it - The typical red/cyan or red/green 3d glasses just make me see the picture as it is; two seperate images. However, I later heard that Avatar used polarised 3d which I already knew worked for me from a previous experience of it at Seaworld.

So, there I was, fully equipped with my newly obtained 3d glasses (that looked like something from Poundland, but happily sat over the top of my glasses). I'm watching the reactions from those around me for the first ten minutes of the film - lots of oohs and aahs - while I'm sitting watching an image that remains happily in 2D. I can see what they're trying to do; spacecraft whizzing past, scenes with depth to them, but it's just not working for me.

So, the film moves on. I'm still enjoying it because it's visually stunning, but a little pissed off that I'm missing out on something that is impressing everyone around me (except for the Chav and his thick girlfriend sitting next to me who feels the need to have to ask him what is going on every sixteen seconds) - "Who's the blue man?', "What's that?", "Do Soft Drinks have a soul?").

A chase scene unfolds in which "Nice Man" (See earlier plot explanation) is being chased by big angry fanged thing through the forest. All looks very nice as I'm staring at it, and then suddenly the 3d works. I'm that astonished and surprised by this that I drop half of my Haribo supermix on the cinema floor. As "Nice Man" runs through the forest, the tree branches are just missing my head and the claws of big angry fanged thingare swiping through the air at me. The forest is there in front of me - I'm actually there.

Once I've got the knack of it - (the trick seemed to be not to turn my head to face the screen but just to stare straight ahead - I'd be intrigued by commenters on this blog to know if this was just me because of my poor eyesight or whether everybody had to do this - those of you who didn't have the luxury of seeing it on a huge IMAX screen, that is) - it added a whole new level of depth to the film. Cameron rarely uses the old 3D trick of pointing stuff at the audience but instead uses the technology to add depth to the scenes. Chasms look infinite, the forests look deep and multi-layered. He overuses a technique with luminous alien pollen where it feels like it's floating inches away from your face, but it's a great trick so I can't complain too much.

Overall, I walked out feeling I'd watched something very special. In much the same way as Citzen Kane, Star Wars et al shifted the paradigm for cinema, Avatar did the same for me. Camerons created something very special in Avatar with technology still in its relative infancy - If for the inevitable sequel (now the technology is established) they can concentrate more on the plot, we're in for something very special indeed.

I give Avatar a hearty 57 FoldsFives out of 62.

1 comment:

  1. I have a geeky fascination for this sort of stuff! I loved it... 3D was amazing & loved the effects... did end up with a bit of eye strain but overall thought it was worth watching in 3D - gives a whole new depth.

    Can't wait for the next one & I will def be buying on Blu-ray as soon as....


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