By Rodney Appleyard
Last Friday evening, Sydney’s film press gathered together at the Imax at Darling Harbour, Sydney, to watch an exclusive 15 minute glimpse of James Cameron’s 3D movie Avatar, billed as the film that will revolutionise the film industry.
You could feel the buzz of excitement in the preview theatre shortly before the footage began playing – no surprise considering it is one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year.
The audience was made to feel special for being allowed into the sneak preview, and the announcer from 20th Century Fox, fuelled expectations.
“In this epic adventure, James Cameron takes us into a spectacular world beyond our imagination. On the distant moon of Pandora, a reluctant hero, played by Australian’s own Sam Worthington, embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery, as he leads a heroic battle to save civilisation.”
The film was first conceived by James Cameron 14 years ago, when the means to realise his vision did not exist. Following production work over the last four years, Avatar promises to deliver a fully immersive cinematic experience of a new kind.
Before the exclusive 15 minutes were played, a video presentation featuring James Cameron was shown to the audience.
“As fans, I know you’ve been waiting for an Avatar trailer,” he said. "But today, we are going to do something way beyond that. I’m here to present our worldwide, Avatar day special preview.
The clips are all from the first half, so there are no major spoilers. It’s the 22nd century and Jake Sully, a disabled former marine, journeys to an alien world of beauty and danger. Prepare to enter the world of Avatar.”
The great thing about the movie, which cost $US190 million to create, is that it is the first film to shoot all of the live action in 3D. But as good as the story and ideas are, not all of the 3D scenes are mind blowing.
There is one scene when the main character battles with a dragon like creature, before mounting it and flying through the air amongst stunning mountain scenery. This scene really does have you at the edge of your seat and makes you feel completely immersed in the characters’ world. It gives you a feeling of weightlessness, which you have to give Cameron credit for.
However, too often in the clips that were shown, you still experience that strange feeling when you watch 3D technology that does not feel like it has been fully developed. Some of the action scenes happen too fast, leaving the audience with a blurred impression, unable to know where they should look.
On the one hand, this could be down to the use of the technology. The team from Pixar, who created UP, only used 3D when it was needed and deliberately made sure they did not push it too much in people’s faces.
They did not want the 3D technology to get in the way of the story. So they were careful to apply it when it added something to the scene. As a result, UP is a seamless 3D experience that many people feel is a much richer experience than watching it simply in 2D.
One of the problems with these Avatar clips is that as much as they do genuinely take you deeper inside a new world, many people will find some of the scenes in this movie too hectic. Therefore, it is hard to see Avatar having the universal appeal it is planned for.
As for revolutionising the film industry, it is also difficult to predict this will definitely happen when the experience does not appear to be a perfect 3D experience just yet.
You have to admire Cameron for having a fantastic crack at it, and he will of course inspire other quality directors to make future 3D epics. But it is too soon to say that this film will change cinema in the same way that colour sound and technicolor changed TV and film.
Maybe the final movie will be enough to win people over completely, but judging by this experience, there is still a way to go before a live action 3D film will really take cinema to the next level.