Tonight, I saw Avatar.
I have heard quite a bit of buzz about this film, I think it’s pretty hard to avoid. From what my sister occurred (and she’s my super plugged in secret movie expert,) people were saying that the film is visually stunning, and had no plot. Some other friends who I saw it with had heard similar things. I have to say, I disagree totally and completely.
The film is gorgeous — more on that in a minute, but the reason that I enjoyed it so much was because I was drawn into the story and the characters. It is not a revolutionary story, in fact, the basic story is a mythic journey of a type that’s been told for thousands of years. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s told in a new and interesting way. So, probably the single most important thing I can say is that as a whole film worked beautifully for me, and I loved it.
As a projection designer I’ve done quite a bit of graphics work of various sorts over the years, including some 3-D modeling and rendering — so I was very interested to see what the “breakthrough 3-D technology” in this film did. Well I have to say it is an absolute breakthrough — for the first time in a heavily computer-generated film, I didn’t spend most of the film analyzing what was computer generated and what was photographed. I just believed. It was magic.
It’s also hard for me to overstate how beautiful the film is, there is so many moments which are just absolutely gorgeous. There’s so much art, care and beauty in this film — it’s wonderful.
We saw the film in a new IMAX digital 3-D theater. The digital IMAX is a new kind of theater, typically found in multiplex cinemas. The screen is not as big as in the traditional film-based IMAX theaters, however the digital picture is absolutely stunning — extremely bright with beautiful color, and none of the flickering or instability which can happen with traditional film projectors. Due to the show being sold out, we were forced to sit extremely close to the screen — maybe four or five rows back from the front. I would not have chosen to sit this close if there had been a better choice, however I have to say the experience was excellent. By being so close to the screen, it really filled my field of vision creating a very immersive experience. The seats were comfortable and structured in a way that it was natural to look up at the screen. The whole thing worked out very well. I should also note that the theater had an excellent sound system, and as somebody who spends a lot of time working with audio, it’s something am rather sensitive to. I really appreciated a sound system that was good enough that even I didn’t notice it — I have to say that that’s both rare and surprising.
For the most part the 3-D was done beautifully, it’s as if the screen disappears and you’re looking through a portal into a real three-dimensional world — just beautiful and amazing. The only real negative I had about the film involved the 3-D however. In photography and filmmaking it’s very common to use depth of field effects to lead the attention of the audience; that is to say having the foreground and background slightly out of focus so that only the subject is sharp. In traditional photography and filmmaking this works very well, I found it a little bit distracting in the 3-D however, when there was something floating in the air between me and the main subject, and it was out of focus, it felt unnatural because everything else was so real. It may be that as more and more filmmaking is done in extremely realistic 3-D that this sort of technique needs to be rethought.
Overall though, even I have to admit that that’s a pretty nitpicky detail. If you haven’t seen Avatar, and has even the slightest sense that you might enjoy it go see it in a good 3-D theater. This is a film that should be seen on the big screen and in 3-D.
Have you seen Avatar? I’d love to hear your opinion of it!