Sunday, January 3, 2010

Avatar - Why I liked this movie

This movie is about humans attempting to take over an alien world - an earth-like moon, Pandora, in search of Unobtanium. The story line is familiar - one that we have known since the beginning of civilization - whether it is the British conquering India or Europeans settling in North, Central and South America. They came, they took whatever they wanted and displaced and marginalised the indigenous people. If anything, James Cameron (the director) is saying that human tendencies don't change.

The indigenous people, the Na'vi, are one with nature in Pandora - a lush, tropical paradise. This planet, with its floating mountains, is especially beautiful at night when the flora and fauna catch the light of a nearby gas planet and the rainforest glows. Seeing this is 3D is a visual treat.

I liked this movie for its creative use of Computer Graphics and cutting-edge digital technology. We have seen all kinds of techniques used to make humans look like aliens - including rubber masks and make up. This is inherently limiting because the proportions of the body and the size and spacing of the eyes and cannot be changed. We have also seen the other extreme - where dinosaurs (Juarassic Park) and characters (Toy Story) are completely computer generated.

The Na'vi characters in Avatar are Computer Generated - thus allowing for fundamentally different proportions. However, they resemble the actors who play them - including capturing their facial expressions accurately. This was accomplished by using an "image-based facial performance capture" system - thus making the characters more believable.

So ... don't go to see this movie for stimulating dialogues or interesting characters. In fact, the main characters in Avatar are as stereotypical as they get - Colonel Quaritch could have walked out of a Marvel comic from the 1960s. See it to appreciate the use of digital techniques to transform us into a make-believe world.

Just as Star Wars ushered in a new era in film making back in 1977, look for Avatar to spawn a new generation of digital movies.

1 comment:

akn320 said...