Friday, December 25, 2009

AVATAR (IMAX 3-D): Redefining Cinematic Experience

"The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way it was the first time I saw Star Wars. The most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since Star Wars." - Steven Spielberg about Avatar
In all its verdant 3D splendour, James Cameron's Eco-fable Avatar left me spellbound like nothing before. This
jaw-dropping visual spectacle, which shows the full potential of the 3D medium, ushers us into a whole new age of film making. Would this turn out a crush and not real love, only time and the next 3D adventures would tell! But for now, the riot of colors and the 3D alternate reality on screen with all those painstakingly done details simply overwhelms us so much we would be ready to redefine cinema as a sensory experience rather than a story-telling craft for those 160 odd magical moments. That's how hard Cameron's imagination pushed the envelope.

Many a time, we feel technology mindlessly dominates the stories and characters so much so that the human element would be crushed beneath it.
In fact, we have come to believe that good special effects are those which are hard to notice. Avatar is the case where the technology is right in-the-face in form of 12-foot tall, golden-eyed, gazelle-like blue indigenous people and other never seen before fauna on lush extraterrestrial moon called Pandora. And it engrosses and connects with us so well we don't feel we need to connect with the story. Heck, I didn't even care if there was one. At least till I left the IMAX 3D theatre. Avatar redefined cinematic experience for me.

One viewing may be hopelessly inadequate fo
r us to take in all of Avatar in its 3D glory. The lush flora complete with filtered sunlight in middle of wild forests to the most imaginatively created wildlife to the floating mountains all scenes one after the other look like paintings of Van Gough. Cameron showed everything that can be imagined can now be realised on screen without making anything look like gimmickry. How much of this groundbreaking experience is due to skilled color composition and how much due to real hardware developments - like in camera would determine what this new generation 3D cinema would throw up. But for now, Avatar shows the future of 3D action movies. When the Na'vis speaks and the subtitles float in a wonderful 3D layer, we realise 3D is no more about some odd thrill but that it is as real as it can get. The range of subtle emotions Na’vi warrioress Neytiri's character displays and our emotions it elicits speaks volumes of how real the 3D and VFX technologies elevated the experience into.

Once I descended from the highs back at home, the more I think, the more I get to realize that Cameron indeed got away with a simplistic bland story - corporate greed destroying mother earth, and cliches political - "we will fight terror with terror", “When people are sitting on stuff you want, you make them your enemy” (an allegory to Iraq and Afghanistan and the premise for the wars there) and business - “One thing stockholders hate worse than bad press, is a bad quarterly statement”. But then with something around $500 mn at stake, Cameron must have felt it safe to stick with his tried and tested simple storyline method. As is his wont, he comes out with all guns blazing in the climax to steady Avatar as the next big popcorn blockbuster. A dream of 12 years, ironically, would have a predictable climax, albeit an all-enveloping visual experience. This is precisely what stops us from calling this a masterpiece. But then making one may not be Cameron's priority as is his ambition to be re crown himself the king of the world. He may well be re crowned next year, Avatar may well sweep the Oscars in all technical departments. Till then, we can all give him a collective WOW.

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