Thursday 14 January 2010

AVATAR - The Prologue

As a prelude to my Avatar review proper, I thought it would be a good idea to reprinted the short piece I wrote for The Rattle in reaction to the first released trailer for Cameron's opus.

And so after literally years of news snippets, rumour and outright hype, here's what I made of that first peek into the world of Pandora...

So at last it's here, our first look at Avatar, I was hoping to be wowed by the footage. and I hate to say it, but I really wasn’t that impressed. For quite a while I’ve had the suspicion that more time and money has been spent faffing about with the 3D technology than on the film itself and this debut trailer has only lent weight to that feeling. Now as a first look, it would seem they are going to be selling Avatar on the spectacle of the piece so there very little in the way of story presented here. But on the strength of the visuals, I have to say this movie is really going to need one helluva plot.

To begin with I’m not sold on the look of the avatars and the Na'vi themselves, which are basically just blue fellas with googly eyes and faun ears - sort of like the bastard offspring of Mr Tummnus and Blue Man Group. And the supposedly exotic and alien world they inhabit – a big bloody forest. Are these designs really best they could have come with? On the plus side the humans’ hardware looks fantastic, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

But the biggest concern I have is the way all of this is realised – a lot looks exactly like the usual blatant CGI. The trailer features several creatures attacking in exactly the same way all CGI monsters do these days – we have an alien predator that looks like He Man’s Battlecat pouncing with the same tired oddly weightless and somehow too quick fashion, and doing that annoying roaring in some guy’s face that seems to be compulsory for all movie creatures now. And we have even larger monstrosity lashing down to grab a guy in an equally clichéd CGI fashion. And the battle scenes have the same we’ve seen this all before patina too. Where the hell is the Cameron flair for action?

Don’t get me wrong it looks exciting enough, but also it looks like any run-of-the-mill effects heavy blockbuster. The design and effects work seem to have taken a back seat to developing the much trumpeted ‘illusion of depth’. And considering the low proportion of cinemas equipped to deliver it in any sort of 3D, this could well be a big problem for Avatar. So no matter how eye popping it all looks in 3D, ironically the alien world, its inhabitants and battles seem flat and uninspired.

Avatar may well be reinventing the wheel in terms of 3D technology but I’m worried that as a film itself it may well flounder into clichés. I hope I’ll be proved wrong but from this first look I still have the nagging feeling Avatar will be “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

Right then, so that was what I thought of the trailer. Prophecy or puff piece? Find out in my full and frank review of Avatar in all its IMAX 3D

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