Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Avatar" - a terrific film and a great leap forward in filmmaking

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to catch a sneak peek of “Avatar,” James Cameron’s first feature film since his blockbuster, “Titanic.”

It was eye-opening (and jaw-dropping) for so many reasons. Frankly, I was more than a tad surprised. I had seen trailers for the film and thought it looked as flat as the story seemed. Then, at the preview in Las Vegas (for Autodesk, the design software company that played a significant role in bringing “Avatar” to life), co-producer Jon Landau shared a series of clips – in 3D – that blew the audience away.

While I thought the story still seemed a tad thin, I found the 3D experience – which immerses the viewer in a way no film ever has – breathtaking. It left me wanting more.

And more I got.

I caught a 3D showing of “Avatar” today and I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever watched (and felt a part of).

I won’t detail the plot or even argue the intent of Cameron’s film (which he wrote and directed). Let me just say that from start to finish, it was One. Big. Wow. What’s more, the story worked. It contained some aspects that seemed very “Cameron-ish,” but aside from a few caricatures here and there, it was exciting and fresh.

As a wise man said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” and perhaps there is nowhere it is truer than Hollywood. So as you watch “Avatar,” you do get the feeling you’ve lived through parts of it before. It had touches of “Dances with Wolves,” “Last of the Mohicans” and a host of anti-colonial movies. Yet Cameron and his team were able to make a film that was familiar yet fantastic (in every sense).

What Cameron has done, besides deliver what will undoubtedly be The Next Big Blockbuster, is to change the way films will/can be made. He created a world that is so beautiful and wondrous an seemingly real that you really do wish you could be there to see it in-person.

There are a number of criteria that make for a successful film: the acting has to be natural; the images memorable; the sound penetrating; and the story engaging. What’s more, a truly great film must cause the viewer to get lost in the picture. In other words, you have to forget you’re watching a movie and feel you’re a part of it.

Cameron’s “Avatar” succeeds on all these levels and more. Most importantly, viewers of his latest film don’t just lose themselves in it – they become one with it.

James Cameron...

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