For the last two years the internet has been ablaze by rumors and conjecture over the new James Cameron flick, Avatar. As images slowly began to emerge, a geekdom fever started to pour a cold sweat over an already rising tide of Tinseltown speculation. Fanboys worldwide began to contemplate what the film is about, and how Cameron, perhaps the most consistent special effects driven director EVER, can top anything that he’s done thus far. Then came the trailer, a turning point which created a not so great divide between the many who found themselves not at all impressed, and the few (myself included) faithful who have complete confidence in Cameron’s vision. Here we are on the eve of its theatrical release, and I thought that before seeing the film for myself, I would comment on why I feel so many have condemned the look of the film before seeing it, why I have stuck by it, and why those naysayer’s have been biting their tongues over this past week.
First a thought on the initial reaction when the trailer for Avatar premiered. Following a massive unveiling at Comic Con, the Avatar website turned into a countdown clock that found many of us eagerly salivating over the release of the first images of Cameron’s newest creation. Finally the day came, the seconds vanished, and the trailer buffered onto the screens of thousands. I watched with great excitement, and found that while it might not have looked like I expected, I still couldn’t wait to travel to Cameron’s world this December. The reactions elsewhere were not so optimistic. The terms I heard most often referring to the trailer were Smurfs and Ferngully. People thought the film looked like a cross between these two animated tales because the aliens in the film are blue, and the setting is very rainforest like. I would hear this over and over and over. People were promised a film that would change the way we look at movies. During test screenings with Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, perhaps the only two filmmakers that can hold a candle to Cameron’s special effect sensitivities, we heard reports that they said this will change everything for the medium of film. So here we had great promises, and sadly many felt that these promises sorely lacked in the evidence of the trailer. But here’s the thing.
James Cameron KNOWS Special Effects. James Cameron KNOWS storytelling. James Cameron KNOWS the future. What do I mean he KNOWS the future? Am I saying that yes, we will find ourselves in the midst of a robot war via Cameron’s clairvoyant telling of The Terminator? No. I’m saying that Cameron KNOWS what the future of filmmaking will hold, and he is taking us there film by film. We cannot judge Avatar by its trailer. Avatar is a 3D film, meant to be seen on digital 3D screens. The greatest Effects companies, WETA and ILM helped create not a movie, but a functional world for Cameron to direct within. Motion Capture technology was used to extents never thought possible. Here, Cameron had a new camera and new 3D technology created just so that he could deliver his vision of this world the way that HE saw it in his dreams. He even had an entire alien language created by linguistic experts for the creatures in the film. His storytelling is nothing if not thorough. And his directing, well Cameron was able to direct live actors behind green screens while actually watching the background and images via live motion capture technology, something completely new and momentous. A team of MIT looking computer animation masters sat behind Cameron’s directors chair, exhaustively rendering live images so that Cameron could see the virtual world he was directing in before his very eyes, live and in real time. This in itself is a game changer. In fact, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg are using the same technology for their new collaboration on the Tintin movies, and I’m sure many others will soon as well. There you have it. The Future of filmmaking, and Cameron created it.
I can understand why the trailer may have disappointed some, and for a long time after its release, fans who once anticipated Avatar with great fervor, slowly came to care much less. The budget of Avatar, in the high two-hundred thousands , and the promise of never before seen wonders couldn’t reignite the flame that once drove the mere idea of Avatar towards the inevitability of success. Finally however, the film was screened this past week for critics, and it turns out, Avatar is not the critical bomb many have come to anticipate. Quite the contrary actually, it turns out in fact that its receiving quite fantastic reviews. It was even nominated for a Best Picture Golden Globe which carries with it talk of a possible Oscar nomination as well. Really thou, what it comes down to is whether or not I, or you reading this will like it. Has Cameron indeed created his Star Wars? Am I plagued by a case of blind optimism? Perhaps yes, but I will see tonight, and hopefully I can see the future too.
Written by Tony Nunes