My thoughts on AVATAR Day

AvatarQuadPoster

The buzz surrounding James Cameron’s AVATAR flick goes on and on. Whether people like what they’ve seen so far or not, the marketing machine at Fox, including Cameron himself, know that any buzz is better than none at all. According to HDRoom.com, its trailer debut is the most watched on Apple.com trailer site, drawing over 4 million views its first day of availability. Most of you probably already know by now what this supposedly groundbreaking sci-fi flick is all about, I’ve blogged about it around Comic Con time last month and it’s been on my radar ever since.

After the ticket distribution fiasco where the Avatar site server broke down most of the day, I’m surprised that between my hubby and I, we ended up scoring 4 tickets to the free 15-minute sneak peek at the Rosedale IMAX. We arrived exactly 45 minutes prior to the screening as the email confirmation told us to, so I was sort of expecting a long line and hordes of people at the theater, but there’s none of that. It was just another Friday night at the theater, in fact, the place wasn’t even very busy. They’re pretty strict in checking the email confirmation. We had to show our photo IDs and they made sure our names were on their list. They also told us to get our snack or take bathroom breaks prior to going in as they won’t allow us to re-enter once the preview starts. Sheesh, it’s as if we’re about to see some top secret government footage or something.

In any case, once they whisked us in, the preview started with James Cameron’s introduction—in 3D no less—to what we’re about to see. He assured us that most of the footage shown are in the first half of the film, so there’s no spoilers. Thus, I don’t consider my summary below a spoiler, but if you’d rather not know anything about it before you see it in December, then read at your own risk.

The six clips shown were separate scenes much like the deleted scenes in your DVD, instead of a complete scene that runs 15 minutes in length. Here’s the breakdown:

Clip 1:
There’s a military briefing, and the movie protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) enters in a wheelchair as a Colonel was delivering a speech to warn the soldiers of the dangers in Pandora.

Clip 2:
Jake is in a lab with Sigourney Weaver’s character, where he observes a Na’vi creature in a blue tank, which based on the trailer is what he’d end up looking like. Weaver’s character Dr. Grace tells Jake to lie down in an MRI-like machine. Jake appears agitated or overanxious—well if you were in his shoes, you’d be, too—but the doctor keeps telling him to keep his head down for the procedure to work.

Clip 3:
Jake wakes up as his avatar, in the Na’vi body complete with a long tail, and so excited he could move his legs and walk again he ignores the lab technicians’ orders for him to sit down. In fact, as he’s barely able to control his own body, starts knocking everything over and tells the people on the other side of the glass, ‘this is great!’ before storming out of the room.

Clip 4:
We’re transported to Pandora, a 22nd century world on a distant alien planet filled with 1,000-foot trees, exotic, near fluorescent forests, fearsome predators and an indigenous people known as the Na’vi — tall, blue humanoids who are peaceful until provoked. Dr. Grace and Jake’s avatars are facing a gigantic rhino-like animal. With Grace’s direction, Jake’s able to ‘tame’ the creature, but suddenly a bigger and meaner creature appears and a chase through the jungle ensues. Jake tries as he might to outrun the obviously vexed and hungry beast, and the action sequence is pretty intense and keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Clip 5:
Jake is once again hunted by another creature, this time it’s a wolf-life lizard thing-y. A female Na’vi called Neytiri (voiced by Zoe Saldana) saves him but when he thanks her, she gets kind of irate and tells him in rather primitive English that he’s ignorant and stupid, and that she doesn’t intend to kill the creatures. Asked why she didn’t just let him die, she softens up and tells him that his heart is strong and fearless, but then gets piqued again and tells hims he’s stupid like a child, leaving Jake looking quite perplexed. I guess male/female mixed signals still exists even in a futuristic distant planet, huh?

Clip 6:
Jake, Neytiri and a group of Na’vi people gathers in a path underneath a waterfall as Jake prepares to tame a dragon/pterodactyl. He asks which one of the large group he’s supposed to take, and Neytiri tells him that it’s one that tries to kill him. Just like a cowboy trying to tame a wild horse, Jake undergoes back-breaking struggles to get the creature still enough for him to ride on top of it. The agonizing process is proven worthwhile as he’s finally able to fly off the edge of the cliff, and actually ‘steer’ it to fly straight.

The preview was met with a somewhat reserved applause, not the thunderous enthusiasm Cameron is hoping for, surely. I personally think it’s a much better experience to see it in 3D than seeing the trailer on my Mac. I haven’t seen a lot of movies in 3D, the last one I saw was Superman Returns a couple of years back, but even that was only partly shot in 3D. So I slightly dread that I’d get a headache watching even the 15-minute preview in the 3D environment. Fortunately, I was so immersed in it once the preview started that I actually forgot I was watching something in 3D, that’s how seamless and well-made it was. Not sure how they’ll distribute the movie with less than 400 IMAX theaters in operation worldwide though, or whether people would be charged the IMAX price to see it. In any case, this flick is definitely one that takes advantage of the three dimensional technology to the fullest, and best viewed and appreciated in that environment. No wonder a lot of people, including me, were underwhelmed by its trailer released online last Wednesday, the richness of the visual and the lush color scheme just didn’t translate as well without the 3D aspect. The jungle environment with its fluorescent trees and glowing plants/insects are just breathtaking to look at and the flying sequence is just magnificent to behold. Kudos to Cameron, the whole thing looks pretty darn realistic and blends the real world and CGI seamlessly.

Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana as Na'vi creatures
Sam Worthington & Zoe Saldana as Na’vi creatures

The expression of the Na’vi humanoids were pretty lifelike and their movement graceful, which is important to help the audience to see them as more than blue cartoon figures. Which brings me to my hope for what the actual movie to be. So far I’m rather indifferent about the Na’vi creatures and there’s little info about them to feel otherwise. But as the story centers on the battle between them and the humans who invade their territory—with Jake trapped in the middle of it—it’s crucial that we care for these characters, or the grandiose of all that computer technology will fall flat. My hope is that in the actual movie, I’d come to understand the journey of Jake and the whole Na’vi race and be blown away by the story as much as the visual spectacle. Based on what I read about James Cameron’s vision of the movie, he too seems to understand there’s got to be more than high tech mumbo-jumbo to get people hooked in this, that it requires a well-written story to take a curiosity-driven hype to something worth watching or further, a memorable epic. So even though this high-tech stuff has been the only angle he’s taken to promote the movie, I expect that the final result will be far more than that.

In conclusion, I was feeling ‘meh’ after seeing the debut trailer, but the sneak peek sort of get me excited and optimistic again about Avatar. So in that regard, it did what it’s intended to do. But for now though, I’ll let this subject rest on Flixchatter until the film actually comes out December 18th.

So those of you who sees the trailer or the IMAX preview, care to share your thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “My thoughts on AVATAR Day

  1. rockerdad

    Impression: IMPRESSED!

    Of course, I wanted to see more. I think the reserved applause was because of the withheld climax in each scene — they really tease us on this one.

    Like most Cameron films, this one is sure to be around 2-3 hours of escape, maybe even 4. We are sure to get our money’s worth.

  2. Mike

    Hmmm. Not sure about this movie. It kinda reminds me of that really bad Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks, only the whole movie is about that one character. I don’t for one second believe the blue guys aren’t 3D animations – so right away I’m not buying this. Flying dragons? Where those flying dragons? I want my World of War Craft back!!!!!!!

    1. rtm

      Ha.. ha.. some people were talking about that, too, some even said they look like smurfs or something. I didn’t like the trailer at first for the same reasons you did, but once I saw the 3D version in IMAX, I was blown away by it and made me want to see more of it. I don’t think this is a movie for everyone but I’d reserve my judgment until I see it, especially when they promise a good story line on top of all the hi-tech stuff.

  3. Pingback: My entry to the Five Senses Blogathon |

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