James Camerons Avatar, in theaters December 18th

Last night I had the privilege of attending one of a few extended preview’s in IMAX 3D for James Cameron’s upcoming film (his first in 12 years) “Avatar”.

Now I’m going to go into some detail about what I saw yesterday; before the preview began James Cameron came on screen to introduce it and state that all the footage was from the first half of the film so there were no major spoilers. However, if you are one of those people who really freaks out about even the smallest of spoilers I recommend you do not read on.

I’ll start out by saying it was beautiful, which is not really what I expected. The trailer shows a few shots of the beauty found on the planet known as ‘Pandora’ however watching a few scenes from the 16 minute preview we were really able to get a taste of just how lush, rich and beautiful the landscape on this planet, which was created with computers from the ground up, really is.

The first scene was almost completely live action, I’m not sure if there was, CG at all. It was basically in introduction to the planet ‘Pandora’ a crusty, battle scared head of security informs a group of incoming marines that his job is to protect them from the hostile world outside the perimeter fence. He says that, at least for some of the marines he will unfortunately fail in his duties. This is when Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) rolls down the isle in a wheel chair.

The computer animation is really top notch, there were moments in the jungles of Pandora where I found myself wondering if James Cameron had not just taken his revolutionary stereoscopic camera system into a real jungle.

The CG was amazing, however, I felt it took some getting used to. In the second scene they showed the paraplegic vet Jake Sully is first taking on his na’vi body (This is where the title ‘Avatar’ comes from, basically his brain is transfered into the body of Pandora’s indigenous species), I was not too impressed. This may have been because I had never seen a picture of the Na’vi before so perhaps I was expecting something different. I felt the CG Na’vi mixed with the live action humans was just a tad fake looking however this initial feeling may pass after watching even more of the film (December 18th!).

The next scene was high adrenaline chase which began as Jake squares off against a strange creature indigenous to the jungles of Pandora, the creature is frightened away by an even larger and scarier beast which Jake runs from. Although the chase was impressive the two creatures struck me as kind of plastic looking, and my disappointment began to mount, until…

The Next Scene, Jake is rescued from a pack of scavenging beasts by a Na’vi woman my mind really began to think that all this CG was real! The best was yet to come.

The Pandora jungle by day, as I said, looks pretty much like a jungle here on Earth, however, come night fall the Jungle plants are illuminated with a beautiful and mysterious phosphorescent glow. My expectations for this film were gone, it was something I had never imagined. I no longer wanted to see James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, no, I wanted to take a space ship to Pandora and actually walk around in this beautiful jungle (despite the beasts which rip you to shreds and hostile native peoples).

The final scene shows Jake along with some other members of the local Na’vi tribe trying to tame some kind of flying creature that resides high in the cliffs on the outskirts of the jungle. The Na’vi tell Jake that the beast will choose him, and he’ll know because it will try to kill him. Once again I found my self blown away during this action packed scene by how real the animation looked.

After the final scene, we were treated to about thirty seconds of epic battles, flying machines, military gunfire, explosions and all the makings of a great trailer. Today I watched the actual trailer for the first time thinking that it would be mostly a collection of clips from what we had seen in the preview. While there were certainly a lot of repeat clips, the trailer actually contained a lot of material not in the 16 minute preview.

“Avatar” looks amazing and well worth the wait, however as I said the whole experience takes a bit of getting used to, I worry that a 2 minute and 30-second trailer just won’t be enough to get people thirsty for more. Which is part of the reason I think Twentieth-Century Fox and James Cameron decided to have an event like “Avatar Day” to generate positive word of mouth?

“Avatar” hits theaters on December 18th and also stars Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Zoe Saldana, and Giovanni Ribisi

Be sure to check out the trailer


My Latest Purchase

My Latest Purchase

In June I made a life changing decision, I decided to never again (never is a long time, but I’ll try my best) purchase music or movies on the iTunes store. I don’t have cable so I may still purchase a TV show or two just to keep up, but music and full movies are out.

Why? What is the method to my madness?

Well, it all began a few years ago when iTunes started releasing movies. It was cool and novel but tragically iTunes could just not match the glory of a DVD or Blu-Ray case, a hard disc and all the special features that went along with them. Perhaps for some, the movie is all they want, but I can’t bear to forego my making of, still gallery and director’s commentaries. So I decided I would not buy any movies with the iTunes store. (Back when they first added movies I got ‘Clue’ and ‘Rocky’ just to test it out).

However, recently I have been thinking more and more about the music component of the iTunes store. I like it, but quite frankly it’s too easy, I just sit on my computer and get music, I feel like if I want music I should walk or drive (easier then walking not as easy as sitting on the computer) down to the local music shoppe and actually buy a CD which spins in my disc drive and scratches when I drop it. I guess you could say then that my main problem with iTunes is the lack of hard media, you know, CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs. That is one of two major issues that I have.

The other issue I have is something that I had been sitting in the back of my mind for a while but I really started thinking about after reading J.J. Abrams article in the May issue of Wired. It was an amazing issue and J.J. Abrams’s article was the crown jewel of the issue. Be sure to check it out. Basically J.J. basically stated that our lives are becoming too easy, you can get all the music you want without leaving your house and experiencing something new, you don’t hear music you haven’t heard before (maybe you don’t even like), you don’t see strangers flipping through CDs, you just sit at home and stare at your download’s progress. It’s easy, and the problem with that as the old saying goes “no pain no gain”. However that’s even becoming archaic because downloading music on your computer is just the opposite it’s “no pain all gain”, which is sort of a shame because if everything in life was free and easy people would become fat hermits who lived out of there beds (we’re not too far away from that). We have no social stimulus of any kind when we buy music online.

Now, please dear reader, don’t take this hate for purchasing media from the iTunes store as hate for iTunes. In my opinion, iTunes is possibly the best program of the last ten years. I know there are a lot of haters, but I am certainly not one of them. It is really the best program to organise and listen to your music collection. And if I had to buy a song from the iTunes music store a month to keep iTunes I guarantee I would.

So in the interest of actually working up a sweat, smelling nasty smells, being stuck in traffic and occasionally getting a headache, I now purchase all my music at Borders and The Beat Goes On (which is a great place for cheep used CDs in the Kitchener/Waterloo area). It’s obviously not as easy or as convenient but I get a hard disc with album artwork and personal credits, I get fresh air and a chance to experience something I otherwise would not have.

Abrams, J.J. “The Magic of Mystery”. Wired May 2009: p76

Image: brucespringsteen.net

2017 Update: Netflix, Spotify, and half a dozen other services have drastically changed the landscape. I still hit up the Beat Goes On when I can but I have to admit I subscribe to Spotify Premium and still use my parent’s Netflix account haha. Also, Borders Books is dead.