Avatar: The Movie (Extended HD Trailer) Video — Avatar — Film Review — Leona Lewis: “I See You: Lyrics Music Video — Avatar: pictures of James Cameron’s fantastic new world — Avatar Music Soundtrack Video — Sigourney Weaver: ‘Avatar will change what people want in the cinema’ — James Cameron’s Avatar Interview Video — Avatar review: ‘James Cameron just got slack’ — James Cameron’s Avatar The Game: Walkthrough Video — Avatar: The Game will follow its own path through the alien jungle
New “Avatar” movie & James Cameron will go to the Oscars as nominees
Just left the ‘World Premiere’ of “Avatar,” and while the standing ovation the film received at its conclusion is probably just the requisite politeness; I can report that this is another rare example where the quality of the movie does indeed exceed the hype and “Avatar” will most certainly be among the 10 ‘Best Picture’ nominees for the Oscars; and James Cameron will also be a Best Director nominee. I think it is also possible that actress Zoe Saldana, who has the most challenging of roles in the film, may rack up an additional acting nomination as well.
The movie may owe more than a few plot points to the story of Pocahontas, and there may be some grousing at a fairly heavy-handed treatment of corporate greed and our lack of American energy independence; but the key question, is Cameron able to deliver a movie that packs the entertainment value and emotional punch of ‘Titanic.’ The clear answer is ‘Yes.’ The Oscars will not ignore this film.
My Truth – Sam Rubin (KTLA)
THR – By Kirk Honeycutt
A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world.
As commander-in-chief of an army of visual-effects technicians, creature designers, motion-capture mavens, stunt performers, dancers, actors and music and sound magicians, he brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is “Avatar.” And he did it almost from scratch.
There is no underlining novel or myth to generate his story. He certainly draws deeply on Westerns, going back to “The Vanishing American” and, in particular, “Dances With Wolves.” And the American tragedy in Vietnam informs much of his story. But then all great stories build on the past ( “Avatar” premiered Thursday in London).
After writing this story many years ago, he discovered that the technology he needed to make it happen did not exist. So, he went out and created it in collaboration with the best effects minds in the business. This is motion capture brought to a new high where every detail of the actors’ performances gets preserved in the final CG character as they appear on the screen. Yes, those eyes are no longer dead holes but big and expressive, almost dominating the wide and long alien faces.
The movie is 161 minutes and flies by in a rush. Repeat business? You bet. “Titanic”-level business? That level may never be reached again, but Fox will see more than enough grosses worldwide to cover its bet on Cameron.
But let’s cut to the chase: A fully believable, flesh-and-blood (albeit not human flesh and blood) romance is the beating heart of “Avatar.” Cameron has never made a movie just to show off visual pyrotechnics: Every bit of technology in “Avatar” serves the greater purpose of a deeply felt love story (watch the trailer here).
The story takes place in 2154, three decades after a multinational corporation has established a mining colony on Pandora, a planet light years from Earth. A toxic environment and hostile natives — one corporate apparatchik calls the locals “blue monkeys” — forces the conglom to engage with Pandora by proxy. Humans dwell in oxygen-drenched cocoons but move out into mines or to confront the planet’s hostile creatures in hugely fortified armor and robotics or — as avatars.
The protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a crippled former Marine who takes his late twin brother’s place in the avatar program, a sort of bone thrown to the scientific community by the corporation in hopes that the study of Pandora and its population might create a more peaceful planet.
Without any training, Jake suddenly must learn how to link his consciousness to an avatar, a remotely controlled biological body that mixes human DNA with that of the native population, the Na’vi. Since he is incautious and overly curious, he immediately rushes into the fresh air — to a native — to throw open Pandora’s many boxes.
What a glory Cameron has created for Jake to romp in, all in a crisp 3D realism. It’s every fairy tale about flying dragons, magic plants, weirdly hypnotic creepy-crawlies and feral dogs rolled up into a rain forest with a highly advanced spiritual design. It seems — although the scientists led by Sigourney Weaver’s top doc have barely scratched the surface — a flow of energy ripples through the roots of trees and the spores of the plants, which the Na’vi know how to tap into.
The center of life is a holy tree where tribal memories and the wisdom of their ancestors is theirs for the asking. This is what the humans want to strip mine.
Jake manages to get taken in by one tribe where a powerful, Amazonian named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) takes him under her wing to teach him how to live in the forest, speak the language and honor the traditions of nature. Yes, they fall in love but Cameron has never been a sentimentalist: He makes it tough on his love birds.
They must overcome obstacles and learn each other’s heart. The Na’vi have a saying, “I see you,” which goes beyond the visual. It means I see into you and know your heart.
In his months with the Na’vi, Jake experiences their life as the “true world” and that inside his crippled body locked in a coffin-like transponding device, where he can control his avatar, is as the “dream.” The switch to the other side is gradual for his body remains with the human colony while his consciousness is sometimes elsewhere.
He provides solid intelligence about the Na’vi defensive capabilities to Col. Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the ramrod head of security for the mining consortium and the movie’s villain. But as Jake comes to see things through Neytiri’s eyes, he hopes to establish enough trust between the humans and the natives to negotiate a peace. But the corporation wants the land the Na’vi occupy for its valuable raw material so the Colonel sees no purpose in this.
The battle for Pandora occupies much of the final third of the film. The planet’s animal life — the creatures of the ground and air — give battle along with the Na’vi, but they come up against projectiles, bombs and armor that seemingly will be their ruin.
As with everything in “Avatar,” Cameron has coolly thought things through. With every visual tool he can muster, he takes viewers through the battle like a master tactician, demonstrating how every turn in the fight, every valiant death or cowardly act, changes its course. The screen is alive with more action and the soundtrack pops with more robust music than any dozen sci-fi shoot-’em-ups you care to mention (watch the “Avatar” video game trailer here).
In years of development and four years of production no detail in the pic is unimportant. Cameron’s collaborators excel beginning with the actors. Whether in human shape or as natives, they all bring terrific vitality to their roles.
Mauro Fiore’s cinematography is dazzling as it melts all the visual elements into a science-fiction whole. You believe in Pandora. Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg’s design brings Cameron’s screenplay to life with disarming ease.
James Horner’s score never intrudes but subtlety eggs the action on while the editing attributed to Cameron, Stephen Rivkin and John Refoua maintains a breathless pace that exhilarates rather than fatigues. Not a minute is wasted; there is no down time.
The only question is: How will Cameron ever top this?
James Cameron’s new 3-D blockbuster Avatar has a host of stunning effects. The director gives some of his favourites
Times – Kevin Maher
James Cameron, the 55-year-old blockbuster director, describes his latest movie, Avatar, as “very personal for me”. The self-proclaimed “king of the world, and maker of popcorn classics such as The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss and Titanic, says the 3-D science-fiction parable Avatar has been with him for ever. “It was the dream project that I’ve always wanted to do,” he says, referring to the outlandish tale of 9ft blue-skinned Na’vi warriors on the fantastical planet of Pandora. “It was the chance to put together all these vistas and cool creatures that have been knocking around inside my brain since I was a kid.”
The dream, naturally, doesn’t come cheap. So far, the cost is counted in 15 years of fitful development and a production budget that, at modest estimates, has surpassed $350 million (£214 million), including a new 3-D camera system called 3-D Fusion, which gives a crisper, more realisitic image. Most of the budget has gone on labour, and Cameron is keen to emphasise the vastness of the undertaking — up to 800 artists working full time for four and a half years on the movie’s record-breaking 2,500 effects shots.
The high cost will be reflected in prestige ticket prices: most UK cinemas place a £1.90 surcharge on screenings of 3-D movies, while some, such as the Cineworld theatre chain, also make an additional 80p charge for audience members who wish to purchase and keep their 3-D glasses.
Cameron, however, is confident that the price is right for Avatar. “It’s a great 2-D film first of all,” he says. “But if you choose to pay the extra money and seek it out in 3-D, you’ll have a much more enriched experience.”
Typically, the Avatar plotline is audacious, and follows a paraplegic marine called Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who lands on the hostile planet of Pandora, then “remotely inhabits” the cloned body of a Na’vi, falls in love with a local female called Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and eventually organises an armed rebellion against his military paymasters.
The ambitious process of bringing this story to the screen has been rewarding, transformative (“I don’t yell at everyone any more”) and exhausting, Cameron says. But would he do it again? “I don’t think so,” he says, laughing. “If the film is a huge hit we’ll convince ourselves that it was all worth it, and start thinking about a sequel. But right now, honestly, I really couldn’t tell you.”
I don’t want to steal the thunder of the dozen world-class concept artists who worked on the movie, but this one is mine. It’s of a Thanator, who is the king predator of the ground in Pandora. I had this murky picture of him in my mind when I wrote the script — a big, black, shiny, armoured six-legged panther. Of course, you can’t depict that literally, so you think: “How can I make that alien?” And you come up with these flexible bone shields around it and sensor quills.
Where it says on the drawing “operculum” at the bottom, that’s essentially a nostril, which is based on the way a stingray has a flapper valve on the top of its head. There are lots of bits of nature in here, stuff that I’ve seen. The single-plated tooth is based on a dinichthys, an armoured fish from the Triassic period. You have to be kind of crazy to have fun with this stuff, but it is fun. It’s me as a kid in school, drawing alien creatures during class. That’s exactly where it comes from.
This is a photograph of a bust, cast from the actress Zoe Saldana, who plays Neytiri. Around the mouth, the jaw, and even up into the cheekbones, this character is essentially Zoe. The only place she’s changed is around the nose and the wide spacing of the eyes. It took several hundred million man-hours to achieve, but in the end 100 per cent of Zoe’s performance is mapped on to her CG character. Normally, the gap between a real human performance and a replicated CG performance is called “the uncanny valley”. Well, I told everyone when we started this project: “If we’re still in the uncanny valley when we are done, then we’re dead!”
And so we spent a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of human energy to get to the other side of the uncanny valley. And I promise you, we’ve absolutely done it. Of course, there are some shots that are an 8 out of 10. While others are a 10. However, there’s a whole bunch in there where the knob goes right up to 11.
This is a very important spot in the film. It’s called the Tree of Souls, and it’s a big input-output station, if you like, where the Na’vi are able to communicate with the big global biological network of their world. It was inspired by some of the bioluminescence I’ve seen underwater.
I’ve been a diver since I was 16, but you don’t have to go deep down to the abyssal depths to see these things. Even on a night-time dive, at 25ft you can see a phantasmagoria of forms and colours that you couldn’t dream of during the daytime.
When you’re down two or three thousand feet, just drifting downwards through the water column, if you turn off the lights on the submersible and look out, you’ll see things swimming by that can’t even be classified, creatures flashing with all different hues, purples and reds, quite amazing. So one of the things I did when working with the concept artists was to try and capture this wonder at the sense of nature that really is around us.
Here we’re standing on a bough at somewhere around the 250m mark, up inside a Great Tree. We came up with this idea that there were two scales of trees — the normal jungle canopy, which was up to 100m, and then this other species of trees, called the Great Trees, which are the ones you see dotting this landscape. They have a deep significance in the story and are where Neytiri’s clan have lived for 10,000 years. There is an environmental theme here, and I think the through-line from this to my other films is Man’s relationship to the environment and to technology.
Avatar is not only about how our technological civilisation has depleted and destroyed our world, how we take what we need without giving back, without a sense of stewardship. But it’s also about how this attitude is going to be applied to the next planet we visit, which here is Pandora. But, unlike Earth, Pandora pushes back. Strongly. In this context the Na’vi are aspirational characters; they represent the freedom of spirit that we don’t have any more.
A Samson gunship is being attacked by a Banshee. This is from the movie’s climax, which has so many layers of performance, or animation, and of live action all thrown into the blender that it’s practically a mini-movie in itself. It takes place in the floating mountains, where intense magnetic fields throw the ship’s instrumentation, forcing them back into a Second World War-style combat mode. Which is simply a way of creating a situation where you’ve got pterodactyls fighting helicopters and who wouldn’t want to see that?
And yes, I have small intimate scenes within the film, and within all my big films. But I couldn’t do a whole movie on a small scale. There are a lot of film-makers who could do that better than I could, but couldn’t necessarily do what I do. I’ve got to have something that’s going to capture my imagination, and challenge me, and push me. The goal here is not to change the medium as we know it. That may, sometimes, have been the effect, but it’s not the cause. For me, the cause is always, “What would be really cool to do?”
These floating mountains are a surreal Magritte-type image that the eye accepts quite willingly. The rocks look real, the clouds look real, and all the subsets of the image look real, even though it’s a nonsense image. We found that a shot like this, a wide vista without anything in the foreground, doesn’t need to be in 3-D. Which was fine with us, because the 3-D in Avatar is conservative, in the sense that it’s not constantly jabbing you in the eye, taking you out of the story. Instead we made sure that the 3-D supported the story and immersed you in it. We worked for years to eliminate what we call “brain sheer”, which is a bad 3-D effect that causes your eyeballs to try to fix it, which causes eye strain and ultimately headaches. We’ve eliminated it totally in Avatar. And yet I think the movie has already had the greatest impact it will have — in anticipation of a commercial hit the exhibition sector has put in an extra 3,000 3-D-compatible screens in the past six months, globally.
Avatar is on general release from Dec 17
The star of the Alien films and Avatar talks about feminism, ‘wild men’ and why being tall stopped her from playing romantic roles
Guardian – Ed Pilkington
One of the first things that people think about when the name Sigourney Weaver pops into conversation, along with her braininess and patrician elegance, is her height. You only have to think of the scene in Infamous when she dances with Toby Jones playing Truman Capote, in which his head reaches somewhere around her navel.
Then there’s the story about how she acquired her name. She was christened Susan, but when she was 14 she decided it didn’t suit a person like her who was 6ft tall in her shoes. So she seized on the name Sigourney, having spotted it in The Great Gatsby. Sigourney seemed to her to be long and curvy: much more appropriate for someone her size.
I knew all that well before I met Weaver in a hotel in Los Angeles. So it sounds silly to say this, but I was, well, surprisingly surprised by how tall she is in person. As I entered her suite, she rose to greet me. Then she carried on rising. And then she rose some more. When finally she came to a halt, standing before me at full stretch, I knew how it must feel to be Ronnie Corbett.
The impressive thing about Weaver is not her height per se, but how comfortably, proudly even, she wears it. She is dressed in a black evening grown and high heels that accentuate it, as if saying to the world: “If you have an issue with my height, then that’s your problem, buddy!”
I ask her whether being tall has been a plus or minus in her career, and am surprised yet again, this time by her answer. “Height has absolutely kept me from working with conventional directors,” she says.
Really, I say. No conventional director would take her on, not a single one?
She smiles in affirmation. “And I haven’t got parts in conventional love stories because of my height.”
Doesn’t that make her angry?
“I’m very happy with the opportunities I’ve had,” she replies, adding in a smooth, theatrically sexy voice: “Maybe I’ll only do love stories from now on.”
The upside of such blatant discrimination is that the directors she has worked with, she says, have all been what she describes as “wild men. And I’m very grateful for that.”
She name checks Ridley Scott, her director in Alien; Peter Weir, who directed her in The Year of Living Dangerously; and Ang Lee of The Ice Storm. The other “wild man” she mentions is James Cameron, whom she has just got back together with on set after a break of more than 20 years. She plays a big role in his massively expensive and almost equally massively hyped new fantasy film, Avatar.
Her character is a scientist called Grace, who is involved with human exploration, and exploitation, of a distant planet called Pandora. Early on in the film she rubs up against a former marine to whom she takes an instant dislike. In one scene she prepares the marine for his transformation into an “avatar” – a hybrid being that is created from the fusion of his genetic material with that of the alien humanoids who populate Pandora. “Just relax and let your mind go blank,” she tells him, then adds with withering nonchalance: “It shouldn’t be hard for you.”
It is a classic Weaver one-liner, delivered disdainfully through her thin, slightly puckered lips, and made all the more crushing by the fact that it comes with a flick of her hair that has been dyed a startling flame red. You half expect Sam Worthington, as the marine, to curl into a ball and start blubbering like a baby.
For thousands of movie buffs and sci-fi enthusiasts, that scene in Avatar will be like a homecoming. This is the Weaver they know and love: spikey, brittle, intelligent, the Weaver who could take on the universe’s most dangerous alien and live to make the sequel. The Weaver who in 1979 went from obscurity to overnight stardom in the role of an inexperienced but resourceful spaceship officer named Ellen Ripley.
The irony, though, is that Weaver’s enduring association as the star of the Alien movies almost prevented her landing the part of Grace. Cameron and his producer Jon Landau were keen to avoid any parallels between Avatar’s vision of the future and Aliens, the second film in the Alien series, which Cameron and Weaver made together in 1986. Landau told me that they initially ruled Weaver out of the casting list for that reason. The early drafts of the Avatar film script coincidentally featured a scientist called Grace Ripley, but they promptly changed the character’s name to Grace Augustine.
In the end, though, the film-makers put their qualms to one side and handed Weaver the role. Not that she didn’t sympathise with their anxieties – in fact, her desire to keep Alien firmly out of the picture explains that striking flame-red hair.
“I didn’t want anyone to be thinking about Ripley in this new world,” Weaver says. “So I decided on the red hair. It seemed right for Grace, who is such a natural beauty, but doesn’t bother with herself. So she has unkempt red hair, an expression of her energy.”
The wish to avoid the Alien connection is quite understandable, particularly for Weaver, who has had to carry the burden of those four films for years. Though her work since then has been very varied – from the slapstick of Ghostbusters to the intensity of Death and the Maiden and the dark pathos of The Ice Storm – her name still tends to be glued to the memory of Ripley.
But then the Alien films were revolutionary, not least in their portrayal of women. Before Alien, female screen actors were (largely) condemned to play the victim, cowering in the dark from their (male) predators. Then along came cool-as-ice Ripley, spitting out those classic one-liners and dragging Hollywood into a new era. Take the moment at the end of Alien, as the spaceship Nostromo explodes in a huge ball of fire, when she exclaims: “I got you, you son of a bitch!” Or that moment in Alien: Resurrection, when she casually flings a basketball backwards over her head, sending it soaring 20ft through the air to slam effortlessly into the hoop (yes, she really did do it).
Weaver as Ripley didn’t just break through a Hollywood glass ceiling, it shattered it into myriad shards and by so doing opened the way for later generations of female actors. As Winona Ryder, who starred alongside her in the fourth of the Alien films, Alien: Resurrection, put it: “Sigourney is the one person who has shown us you can do it all.”
I ask Weaver whether she was aware of the significance of what she was doing during the filming of Alien.
“I was aware more than our producers were that we were making a feminist statement because our producers were like, ‘Let’s make the girl the hero. No one will ever think that will happen!'” she says.
For most of the time on set, though, she was far too focused on survival to have smart ideas about the role of women on the big screen. This was the first big film role she had ever had, and she learned on the job. “I didn’t know what I was doing at all. And I think that was useful for Ripley, because her secret was that she didn’t know what she was doing either. She couldn’t let anyone see that she didn’t know for sure if she was making any of the right decisions.”
Which is a fairly good description, Weaver says, of how she herself coped. “I remember the first week, Ridley [Scott] said: ‘Can you please not look into the camera.’ I said: ‘I’m trying not to, but you keep putting it right in front of me.’ Of course!”
There’s another reason why Weaver didn’t dwell on any higher meaning, and that was because she wasn’t really that interested in working in film in the first place. Her sights at that time were set on following her English mother Elizabeth Inglis into a career in theatre, and her big ambition was to join a repertory company such as the Guthrie Theatre in Minnesota.
When Ridley Scott plucked her from an off-off-Broadway stage and jabbed a camera in her face, she consoled herself with the thought that it would be a useful time-filler until she started at the Guthrie. “I thought, if I have to make a movie, then this is a good one to do.”
Over time, though, she learned to love cinema, with a little help from her agent, the late Sam Cohen. “He really felt that film was an art form, and I needed to feel that for a long time.” The money improved too, which must have helped. For Alien she was paid a paltry $30,000, but by Alien: Resurrection her fee had risen to $11m.
Now, having just turned 60, she finds herself working with Cameron again, an experience that she says has been all-too easy. “We are like an old married couple. I am a perfectionist, and I love working with Jim because I know he is going to stay longer on set than I will. He operated on every shot, holding the camera sometimes upside-down, hanging by a leg.”
Avatar is the first film Cameron has made since his blockbuster to beat all blockbusters, Titanic, 12 years ago, and everything about it is epic. It cost almost a quarter of a billion dollars to make. Each frame of the film took 100 hours of computer time to animate. Cameron invented new camera technology that focuses on actors’ eyes, allowing him to capture and animate their emotions as well as their movements – Cameron calls it e-motion capture technology.
The result promises to be something of an acid trip, taking you inside another world, replete with floating mountains and pink, flying jellyfish. Its half-human/half-alien avatars are remarkably convincing despite their blue skin, Spock ears and swishy tails.
Weaver appears in the film partly as Grace in human form, and partly as Grace’s avatar, which was created using digital manipulation of footage shot of the actor dressed in a black leotard. In the story, Grace’s avatar was created about 20 years before the start of the film, so what you see on screen is a distorted image of Weaver to make her appear at least two decades younger.
That must be quite something, I say – to see years shaved off yourself. “It was perfect, but also scary because she looks just like me and that was a shock. Not only am I years younger, but I’m 9ft tall and blue. With a tail.”
Avatar is certain to win plaudits for its technical wizardry, but does it work as a film? “It will pick you up and shake you like a little rag doll,” Weaver says, with such conviction in her voice that it doesn’t sound as if she’s repeating the party line. “I’m not too much of an emotional creature, but I was weeping by the end. I remember reading the script and thinking, I love this but how can he ever do this. Nothing like this has been done before – floating mountains!
“I think for a certain generation it will change what they want to happen in the cinema. It is as big as sound. I hope it won’t impact every movie, but for the big movies it raises the bar – it throws the bar away.”
Praise indeed. For Weaver, the power of the film is enhanced because it addresses one of her great off-camera passions – protection of the natural world. She regularly speaks at environmental rallies or to legislators about the threat to marine wildernesses, which she fell in love with as a child growing up by the sea in Long Island Sound.
She grows impassioned as she explains to me her mission, thumping the hotel table between us as she speaks. “People say ‘I want a coal plant’ [thump], ‘I don’t want it to be more expensive’ [thump], ‘We will have to worry about it later’ [thump], but they don’t realise there might not be a later. That we might just have miles of weeds and nothing in the ocean, that we are at a point perhaps of no return.”
The premise of Avatar fits precisely into that description. Earth has been denuded, and humans have travelled to Pandora to despoil it of its natural abundance instead. The scramble for minerals pits the humans and their hybrid avatars against the indigenous humanoids, known as Na’vi.
Though Cameron was so averse to implying any link with Aliens that he almost ruled Weaver out of the picture, there is one pointed similarity between Avatar and the Alien series. In Aliens the real bad guys of the movie are the bosses of a greedy firm on Earth, referred to as the Company, which is mining minerals in space and wants to preserve the aliens no matter what in order to exploit their genetic potential. In Avatar, the bad guys are the bosses of a greedy firm on Earth, referred to as the Corporation, that is exploiting the planet of Pandora for similar gain.
So it’s all about the Company, then. Weaver leans forward, an intense look on her face, and with another thump on the table says: “Now it’s time for us to take back the fort. We have to save those people from themselves, as people left to their own devices won’t make wise choices – they can’t see that far ahead.”
So is the Company winning?
Her eyes flash and there’s steel in her voice. Another classic Weaver one-liner is on its way.
“I think it has won.”
The Titanic director’s monstrously-hyped creation does look fantastic but, in trying to cover all the bases with militarist sci-fi, vacuous eco-waffle and an intra-species love story, it’s too baggy
Guardian – Andrew Pulver
Any lingering suspicions that James Cameron has become the Al Gore of Hollywood will be firmly extinguished by his new, monstrously-hyped creation. For a while, it looked like he was giving us a reasonably sweet-natured blockbuster, suggesting that the natural world has, like, the power to heal us all, or something. Then Cameron sends in the helicopter gunships and starts blowing shit up, big time. Way to undermine your own message.
Avatar, for anyone who’s had their head in the sand for the last few months, is the first film in over a decade from the man behind Titanic, still the all-time box-office champ. The success of that film presumably allowed Cameron to write his own cheques for this one, and it’s a project that’s been stewing on the back burner for at least as long, waiting for the special-effects industry to catch up.
And whatever the truth behind the rumoured hundreds of millions spent on it, Cameron certainly gives Hollywood a lot of bang for its buck. Avatar, in all conscience, looks fantastic – a near-seamless melding of fantasy extraterrestrial landscapes and cutting edge computer-generated imagery, all inserted beautifully into the high-testosterone camerawork which Cameron has made his specialty.
But what is this highest-of-high-end image-making aimed at? Cameron has constructed a fable that combines militarist sci-fi, alarmingly vacuous eco-waffle and an intra-species love story that is presumably designed to cover all the bases. The central character is one Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine who is assigned to a mining colony on the alien world of Pandora, where he joins a band of nerdy scientists trying to establish friendly relations with the locals; this they hope to achieve by fusing their brains with specially developed beings (the “avatars” of the title) that are a blend of human and alien DNA.
The locals turn out to be spindly blue 10-foot humanoids with distractingly twitchy ears – suggestions that Avatar is somehow channelling Ferngully are not all that wide of the mark. Sully quickly falls for the non-specific mystical rabbitings of the tribe, involving memory-harbouring trees, intimate relationships with flying lizards, and other such prog-rock-influenced stylings. It really is like a Yes album cover come to life.
Sully’s position is made considerably more tricky by the genocidal glee of his human military commander, who – in a plot move shamelessly similar to Cameron’s earlier film, Aliens – is prepared to cause mass casualties in the service of the sleazy mining-corporation executive.
There are heavy-handed attempts to implant contemporary references (at one point, the marines are told to fight “terror with terror”), but there’s no mistaking what Avatar is taking aim at: the founding myth of America, and the incursions of European colonists into indigenous civilisations. The Na’vi, the tribe with whom Sully fetches up, are a sort of grab-bag of generic tribal characteristics – a little bit African, a little bit Amerindian, the equivalent of one of those worldbeat restaurants that serve up teriyaki tortilla and the like.
To his credit, Cameron is a skilful narrative organiser, and fairly soon he has you rooting for the aliens, not those pesky human invaders. (This may not be the most tasteful approach though, to use on an American audience that still doesn’t appear to feel especially guilty about what happened to the indigenous people on their own continent.)
Be that as it may, Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can’t in all honesty say it pulls it off – it’s baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack.
James Cameron’s 3D $250m blockbuster Avatar premieres, and it’s gripping (if a little cheesy in parts)
Guardian – Mark Brown
Today it arrived with 20th Century Fox choosing London to launch Avatar, Cameron’s sole movie in 12 years – the last being Titanic.
Cameron said he was just relieved the movie was finally out there. “We can hold our heads high. We got the picture done by the skin of our teeth. It’s been a four-and-a-half-year process and it’s a relief to let people see it, to quit talking about it, to forget the rumours.”
And there have been a lot of rumours. Rumours that the budget was double the stated amount, more like $500m; that the 3D effects were making people nauseous; that the film, two hours and 40 minutes long, was a complete car crash.
The Guardian can reveal that the last two are untrue. The film does not make you feel sick and it is not a disaster. All journalists watching the movie in Fox’s Soho headquarters had to sign a form agreeing not to publish a review or even express a professional opinion online or in print before Monday. So by saying Avatar was really much, much better than expected, that it looked amazing and that the story was gripping – if cheesy in many places – the Guardian is in technical breach of the agreement. It is not a breach, however, to report that other journalists leaving the screening were also positive: the terrible film that some had been anticipating had not materialised. It was good.
There is, though, a certain amount of suspension of disbelief needed when watching Avatar. Cynics might sneer at the plot. The film, set in 2154, revolves around a paraplegic marine assigned to a planet where brutish humans are forcing the natives from their homes to mine a precious mineral, unobtanium, which is the only thing that will keep Earth going.
To get it, they need to blast away an agreeable species called the Na’vi, blue humanoids about 12ft tall, with tails and pixie eyes. Sam Worthington as the paraplegic marine pretends to be a Na’vi through avatar technology. At first, he is on the nasty human military side but he falls in love, gains a conscience and so on.
Perhaps most surprising was the politics. At one stage the deranged general leading the attack, with echoes of George Bush, declares: “Our survival relies on pre-emptive action. We will fight terror with terror.” Cameron agreed there was a connection to recent events, but there were also references to Vietnam and to the 16th- and 17th-century European colonisation of the Americas. “There is this long, wonderful history of the human race written in blood. We have this tendency to just take what we want.” And that’s how we treat the natural world as well.” There’s this sense of we’re here, we’re big, we’ve got the guns, we’ve got the technology, therefore we’re entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That’s not how it works and we’re going to find out the hard way if we don’t kind of wise up and start seeking a life that’s in balance with the natural life on Earth.”
The film will open at cinemas next week and was given its world premiere in London tonight with Cameron joined by his the actors Sigourney Weaver, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldano in Leicester Square.
Audiences will be able to watch in normal 2D or in what Cameron called the “turbo-charged” version, 3D. Some industry observers are hoping that audiences will be so blown away by the effects that 3D – already being used – will start to become the norm, and a line will have been stepped over.
“We need something that kick-starts public enthusiasm for cinema as an experience as people start watching on smaller and smaller devices like iPhones. We need something to reverse that trend so I’ve set as my goal bringing the movie theatre back to it being a sacred experience and 3D is part of that.”
If it does well – and there seems little doubt that it will – then can we expect more? “We’ll see,” said Cameron. “But yes, I have a story worked out for a second film and a third film.”
Los Angles Times – Gerrick Kennedy
Security is intense these days at the Montreal offices of Ubisoft where more than 200 employees are working overtime to put the final touches on the new James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game, which is due to hit store shelves Dec. 1.
“The bunker” is how Patrick Naud, the executive producer of the game, referred to the area for the team dedicated to the creation of a 3-D gaming experience that matches Cameron’s ambitious film project. Cameras, guards, extra locks and some fairly scary employee contracts have all been put into place to protect the game that looks to be one of the most intriguing releases of 2009.
“We’re just finishing the last production for the PC version,” Naud said. “From then on it’s just waiting for the game to come out. We’re hoping people get as excited about the game as we are.”
Cameron has been on a quest to make the “Avatar” film for more than a decade and there’s plenty of curiosity considering the massive success of his last feature film, “Titanic” in 1997, and the industry chatter about the film’s innovations in 3-D and visual effects technology. Naud and his team hope to create a video game that is also a potential “game-changer,” as the film is being billed by industry observers.
“We met James three years ago,” Naud said. “That first meeting was so that he could approve us. We wanted to expand the world and we didn’t want to do a game of the movie. We didn’t want to have the boundaries of having to follow the film.”
Naud, like many of the collaborators working with Cameron on “Avatar,” spoke with excitement in his voice about the director and his years-in-the-making epic. Ubisoft, though, has followed a different path through the alien jungles created by the Oscar-winning director’s script and film.
“We had an idea what we wanted to do,” Naud said of his company’s pitch. “There were two main concepts: doing the game of the world, not the movie, and giving the players the choice to choose sides. We felt in the beginning of the project there is a big part of the story that’s not told.”
The film follows the adventure of a Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who is sent to the distant moon Pandora, where, given control of a towering, blue-hued alien body, he is supposed to gather intelligence about an alien race who lives atop valuable natural resources. After learning the ways of the Na’vi tribe, though, Sully finds himself wondering which side of the impending conflict he belongs on.
With Cameron’s blessing, Ubisoft Montreal created its own storyline set two years before the events of the film. In the game, players take on the role of Abel Ryder, a code breaker sent to Pandora. There they enter the Avatar Program, which creates the alien-human hybrid bodies, like the one used by Sully in the film. Players are then faced with a choice: Side with the noble Na’vi or work for the Resources Development Administration, the armed human enterprise planning to mine Pandora’s coveted minerals.
Naud said game developers wanted to challenge themselves more after Cameron asked why the game couldn’t be 3-D like the movie. Although Naud assured gamers it’s not needed for game play, he says gamers who do have a DLP setup that supports 3-D vision, or a 3-D-vision capable flat-screen TV, will have the bonus of experiencing the game much like they would the film.
Nintendo users will also experience the game differently as the Wii and Nintendo DS games follow their own story lines, separate from the other platforms.
“Play as a young Na’vi warrior whose village and family have been destroyed by the RDA, you’re seeing it from this different perspective,” Naud said. “It uses the Wii balance board and the MotionPlus that was released this summer. Something we felt was a nice addition.”
Naud said that Cameron realized the potential the video game has to strengthen the “Avatar” brand and that the filmmaker approached his relationship with the game creators in a collaborative manner that Naud said is far from the norm in the film-based game sector.
“It’s not the type of relationship we have with a licensor,” Naud said. “Some studios might want to be more protective of their characters. It’s not everyone that sees it as an extension of the brand. Some see it as a way to get more revenue. We had the liberty to create new characters, new worlds. He knew of games, but he didn’t know what made a game great. He trusted us. He told us to ‘go all in.’”
Commenter “zimzim” says:
Are you kidding me???? this is a movie adaptation of legendary sci-fi author Poul Anderson’s famous short story, “Call Me Joe” Cameron might be a good move maker, but he’s NOTHING like an original storyteller, he’s ripped off every sci fi movie he ever made…
Per Wiki: Call Me Joe (1957) is a science fiction story by Poul Anderson. It is the story of an attempt to explore the surface of the planet Jupiter using remotely controlled artificial life-forms. It focuses on the feelings of the disabled man who operates the artificial body. The Science Fiction Writers of America selected Call Me Joe for The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.
Plot Summary: Joe is awakened in his den, when a pack of predators is attacking him. Using his great strength, and weapons made from sculpted ice, he kills the animals and, exultant, bays at the moon above him. A vital component shorts out, and “Joe” reverts to being a human, Ed Anglesey, wearing a special headset on a space station orbiting Jupiter. Anglesey furiously repairs the equipment to restore the connection.
It transpires that such equipment failures are happening more and more often. All technical attempts at repair have failed, and instead a psionics expert, Cornelius, is brought to the station to determine if Anglesey himself is the problem.
Anglesey uses a wheelchair and is bad-tempered. He dislikes all his colleagues and is disliked in return. He is allowed to stay on the station only because of his ability to establish a telepathic connection with and thereby control Joe, a creature designed to survive the hostile conditions on the Jovian surface. Cornelius conjectures that something in Anglesey’s mind rejects or fears Jupiter, and the resulting feedback keeps destroying the delicate equipment.
Eventually Cornelius is allowed to share a session with Anglesey during an important part of the mission. A set of autonomous female Jovians, similar to Joe but lacking a human controller such as Anglesey, has been launched from the satellite and will soon land on Jupiter. Joe, still controlled by Anglesey, is to be the leader, and father, of a new race that will live on the planet. During this session, Cornelius becomes aware of a third mind – that of Joe himself. Anglesey’s mind has been steadily transforming itself into Joe and shrinking in the process. Cornelius was looking at the problem from the wrong end – it was not Anglesey’s fear of going to Jupiter and becoming sublimated into Joe’s stronger character which was causing the blowouts, but his fear of leaving Jupiter and the freedom Joe’s whole and healthy, though non-human, body allows him. Anglesey’s existence is poor and constricted compared to Joe’s, and the environment has shaped a personality that no longer wants to be human.
Seeing himself from Cornelius’s perspective, Joe becomes fully self-aware. He ejects Cornelius from the loop and shuts down what is left of Anglesey. Cornelius revives on the station next to the hollow shell of Anglesey’s body. Far from being dismayed, Cornelius realizes that this is the way of the future. From now on people with diseased bodies and even the aged can be recruited for the Jovian program if they have the necessary talents. Eventually they will leave their bodies behind and become Jovians in the flesh, functioning as the priesthood of the new race.
Worst Previews: Is “Avatar” a Film Version of “Call Me Joe” Short Story?
LA Times: AVATAR COUNTDOWN
HotAir: Film review: Avatar
Updated Related Links, Response to Commenter “zimzim”, Added My Truth Link & Call me Joe pic – end