Saturday, December 26, 2009

"Avatar" same but different

Despite the hype, "Avatar" follows a very familiar movie formula: A member of an invading force learns the defenders' ways, culture and [ahem!] mating rituals; decides to "go native" and instigates an uprising against the invaders -- his own people. We've seen the same story in "Dances with Wolves" and "The Last Samurai" with little variation, and it's a little disappointing that plotwise, "Avatar" puts nothing new on the table.

But the plot isn't really the point of this particular movie. What truly amazes is the leap in movie-making technology that raises the level of immersion into the viewing experience. Viewed in 3D, the effects are truly astounding. Instead of seeing an image that looks composited from several 2D layers superimposed on each other, "Avatar" manages to create a 3D effect that actually looks like depth, or at least a finer gradation of depth such that transitions between different layers are not only possible but look natural too.

And with this new level of immersive reality, the thrills of falling from great heights or being pursued by things with sharp teeth are greatly heightened. At one point, the guy beside me gasped and jumped, and I was lucky not to get a faceful of melted cheese from the nachos he was munching on.

The story isn't the biggest thing for me. I think of "Avatar" as a just a preview of the new kinds of movies that Hollywood will soon be grinding out. Anyway, there's little choice in the matter. There's no way, with current technology, that movie pirates will be able to offer the same kind of viewing experience on our home screens. Take that, Jolly Rogers!

No comments: