Slurpy Studios Animation Studio, London

Avatar Film Review

Avatar PosterFor the past month we’ve been allowing the hype surrounding Avatar build to a crescendo that was practically deafening us, and last night, finally, we succumbed.

We put it off because we really wanted to see it in Imax, but never found ourselves anywhere near one with any spare time. It’s embarrassing enough for anyone involved in film and animation to have to admit that they haven’t seen the film that the person they’re in conversation is raving about (“oh my god, you haven’t seen [enter completely obscure and probably Japanese film that no one really understands or particularly enjoys] – but I thought you were in to animation!”). It became clear quite early on that missing Avatar in the cinemas was going to cause a huge amount of future embarrassment for generations to come. So, in the name of research and to protect any potential offspring, we trundled off to the local cinema.

And we loved it. Of course we did. Everyone loved it, today it celebrated becoming the highest grossing film of all time, overtaking Director James Cameron’s last film Titanic which took something absurd like $1.8billion. I like to think that our fairly extortionate ticket prices (£12.50!?!?!?) contributed to that record.

“Fox have confirmed that Avatar overtook Titanic on Monday to become the highest earner at the worldwide box office. Total global receipts have reached $1,858,866,889, $16 million ahead of the $1,842,879,955 earned by Titanic in 1997/98. Purists will point, of course, to the effects of inflation and increased ticket prices thanks to IMAX and digital 3D screenings. But Avatar hasn’t finished yet. Next up will be Titanic $600 million domestic record, and $2 billion worldwide. More milestones beckon beyond that… at its current rate, Avatar has a shot at topping $750 million at the US box office and $2.5 billion worldwide. James Cameron has been vindicated again.”

(It should perhaps be noted that these numbers have not been adjusted for inflation, and neither has it been taken in to account that most people see Avatar in 3D and therefore pay more for their tickets. The announcement that Avatar overtook Titanic could infact be seen as another trick in the most impressive PR campaign that the world has seen since Obama’s election campaign.)

It’s an absolutely staggering film. The CG elements are introduced so subtly that Cameron takes you from reality to fantasy without you even noticing. Soon you’re having the same emotional and intellectual responses to characters who are nothing more than pixels, that you were with the flesh and blood characters that share the screen. It’s the sign of a good storyteller – one who can make you loose yourself so completely in the story that you barely notice that you’ve strayed a long way from the straight path of reality, but keep you feeling the emotions that you associate with real, living and breathing characters. James Cameron, director of Titanic, Aliens and Terminator 2, is nothing if not a great storyteller.

However, a huge amount of credit has to go to the special effects and animation teams of WETA and ILM. Most people know the story that James Cameron knew that technology had finally caught up with his vision for the film when he saw WETA’s character Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and it will be the ground breaking effects for which this film will be remembered. Cameron described it as a ‘game changer’ and as an animator I can imagine that a whole lot of the CGI studios are going to be looking to raise their game. With a budget of $280 million and an estimated time of 47 man hours per frame of animation (and there are 24 frames per second of film for the uninitiated), studios are going to have to take a big gulp and dig deep if they want to even consider competing with Avatar.

Avatar is far from an original story. Infact it’s Pocahontas. (Disney’s Pocahontas that is, not the real story where she was a child of 10). Here’s a plot spoiler that reveals some pretty compromising similarities. Change the odd name and skin colour and you’ve got yourself a pretty identical movie – talking tree and all!

Avatar PocahontasThis doesn’t really bother me. I like Pocahontas and I like Avatar – one of my old University lectures once said that there is only one original story and everything else is a knockoff. Incase you’re wondering, it’s “a stranger comes to town…”

(Of course it’s the … that’s the important bit.)

I’m not as loved up as some of the people in this really quite hilarious article who are quoted as saying

“It’s so hard I can’t force myself to think that it’s just a movie, and to get over it, that living like the Na’vi will never happen”

and “When I woke up this morning after watching Avatar for the first time yesterday, the world seemed … gray. It was like my whole life, everything I’ve done and worked for, lost its meaning,”.

(This curious side effect of the movie even has a name; ‘Post Avatar Depression’

I loved the time I spent in the cinema watching Avatar, loved the world and the people and the message. If it’s made even the slightest change in our attitudes to our wanton destruction of the Earth’s natural resources then I am over the moon, but mostly I just enjoyed the film. I think you’d have to be pretty determined not to enjoy it to come out of it with any other conclusion.

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Posted in Animation, Animation Review, CGI Animation, Film Review | Tagged , , , , | Posted by Katie Steed

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