Let me just say this up front… Avatar is amazing! It’s no wonder that Wired magazine said that this movie will change film forever.

When James Cameron first conceived Avatar, 15 years ago, the technology did not exist to make his dream a reality. He spent time developing the technology, even going as far as having to convince cinemas to upgrade their projectors to be able to screen the movie!

Plot summary

Jake Sully, former first recon marine now confined to a wheelchair, is sent to Pandora – a human outpost being mined for a rare mineral which is the key to solving Earth’s energy crisis. His mission: infiltrate the Na’vi, an humanoid race who have become an obstacle to mining the precious ore.

Because the atmosphere on Pandora is toxic to humans, they have created the Avatar Program, in which human “drivers” have their consciousness linked to an avatar – a remotely-controlled biological body that can survive the lethal air.

In Avator form, Jake can walk again. As Jake learns more about the Na’vi, he has to face conflicting emotions – loyalty to the marine corp over a sympathy towards the Na’vi.

The plot reminded me of Pocahontas and Fern Gully.

Production notes

After 4 years of production, it’s finally hitting movie screens in both 2D and 3D. If you have the choice, I’d recommend seeing the 3D version. After all, that’s what all the fuss is about.

The movie was shot using the same Fusion 3-D camera system first used in Cameron’s IMAX feature Ghost of the Abyss in 2003.

Gone are the cheap cardboard glasses with red and green lenses – the bane of anyone who wore ‘normal’ glasses for seeing. Cameron developed the digital 3-D stereoscopic technology that uses polarised lenses activated by infrared. The glasses handed out fitted nicely over my ‘seeing’ glasses, which I must admit, are quite small. If your fashion sense tends towards the giant bug-eye look, you might want to wear contact lenses.

Stunning 3D CGI

The film itself combines live-action and CGI imagery to create a visually stunning experience. To achieve that seamless integration, he came up with something called “Simulcam” – a revolutionary new camera able to superimpose CGI images over live images being filmed in real-time.

“We turned the set on the soundstage into a capture volume and turned the physical camera into a capture virtual camera, so we were able to integrate CG characters and environments into our live action.” [Cameron said…] “We have people in flying vehicles, and I can see what is outside the window, fed in, in real time.”

Hopefully the experience will be the same at home on blu-ray. The Blu-ray Disc Association has announced that the specifications for 3D Blu-ray have been finalised. I say “hopefully” because using the technology will require hardware upgrades for most people. Specifically, new HDTVs (that support stereoscopic 3D) and Blu-ray hardware and glasses for the whole family.

Also, apart from Avatar, there are few compelling 3D movies available right now.

All that aside, Avatar is definitely worth seeing – for all ages. There is no gratuitous violence, at least, no more than any of the Star Wars films.

Here’s the trailer:

Some links for further reading: