Two days ago I saw James Cameron's film Avatar. Released 12 years after his previous feature film, Titanic. I am writing about it because the film moved me so. I'm not sure it will affect everyone the way it did me. I think I got very lucky in this regard as it hit a mark on a handful of themes. If a movie hits even one of these themes, its an entertaining film. This film hit two or three and hit them hard. I was in open-mouthed wonder at some of the user interface and ship technology at the start, and again at the sheer force of beauty on planet Pandora. As a real story progressed with the marine being taught the ways of the Na'vi, I enjoyed the ride. I cried when Home Tree was destroyed.
I thought Id write about some of my thinking during the movie and after.
One striking similarity is to the Night Elf race in World of Warcraft. The Na'vi look like them with their slender bodies, pointed ears, and minimal dress. The bodies of the navi move with tremendous fluidity and strength, like yoga gurus.
When I saw Toy Story for the first time I was amazed. Pixar had taken animation to the next level. Watching Avatar I had the same feeling. This is a brave new world of photorealistic animation.
My best short description of this film is it is Princess Mononoke plus The Matrix plus Minority Report rolled into one. Primarily Mononoke because the bulk of the story is the tremendous sense of love and unity that humanity, we imagine, had with the earth and with each other when we lived a more organic life. The Matrix comes from the total connection between a human mind and a being outside its body. In The Matrix the connection was to a virtual character in an electronic world. Avatar is quite different because the target body is in the same reality as the human. And Minority Report because of the fun user interface/heads up displays used in the base, also because of the extreme action scenes at the end of the film.
My largest criticism is the final third of the film. It becomes a shoot-em-up, blow-em-up action flick. Basically when the head researcher dies, the movie swerves off the road and crashes. The body-transformation and the circles of seated Navi connected to the ground becomes too woo-woo to take the film seriously. It was so good up to that point.
I just saw a making-of video for Avatar which made a great point - the actors are much more than voice actors. They physically acted out every scene in the movie. Through motion capture the CG characters repeated that same performance. Wireframe full-size winged beasts for instance were built and the actors rode on those and had their motion captured along with the dialog. The CG has nothing to do with artificial intelligence and everything to do with very good observation, very good skeleton simulation, and very good physics simulation.
Thats all for now.