Dead eye. One of the biggest things I notice about all CGI movies are theeyes. They're dead.
James Cameron has solved that by using motion capture to specifically record the actors' emotions from the eyes.
But I'm not here to talk about how he made it. Mostly because it's beyond me. I only understand the reasoning behind it like solving dead eye. Sounds like a disease.
So here's a list of what I truly loved about the movie as a whole:
- No over usage of CGI as a replacement for story.
- No over usage of 3-D. In acting there's a fourth wall, the wall removed so the audience can watch. Rule is to never break the fourth wall. But many 3-D movies do because it's 3-D.
- All of the actors did an incredible job.
- It didn't feel very heavily directed.
- Clear plot, clear themes, clear characters types.
- And most important of all, there was a good story.
I don't know if it's because I've been so obsessed with story and writing for the past few years, but there were some parts that were predictable, only because the story required it. Certain key supporting characters died, certain story elements had to happen to drive the plot, the theme and climax. The ending was definitely predictable, and I mean the ending after the climax. But what was strange was I wanted that ending. I desired it myself. And I know why. Cameron made it important, subtly.
Jake Sully is a paralyzed war veteran. Without saying it or making such a big deal about it, he wants his legs back. When he takes over his avatar, he runs out into the open with pure joy. He's laughing, yelling, and sprinting, then he takes a moment and digs his toes into the dirt. That tiny scene was aforever moment.
At that point I was certain Sully was going to be permanently place in his avatar body. I knew it before I watched the movie. When it happened it was wholly satisfying like eating a warm chocolate cookie. There were little things like the digging toes in that emphasized the need for that ending. It really speaks to how Cameron doesn't over do things like using the technology both given to him, and invented by him. He's a storyteller at heart, knowing how to use little things to make certain story elements big.
I've experimented with that in writing myepisodes.
Trying to make something big by making it a big deal is a big big mistake. In one of the writing seminars the teacher made fun of beginner writers when they write about the first serendipitous moment between two lovers. Paraphrasing here:
"The world stopped as I gazed into her eyes. The ticking of my watch slowed and the flakes of the first snowfall hung in the air. The hustle of the streets silenced and I felt my heartbeat yearn to feel hers."
I must admit, when I first heard that I wanted to rush to my manuscript and make sure I didn't do something similar.
The whole point here is that James Cameron played it well when he told his story. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the technology. I didn't feel overwhelmed by the directing. Another words, I didn't feel his hands in the movie (an example would be the first three episodes of Star Wars). The actors were awesome. For example, Sigourney Weaver's character as the dedicated scientist didn't play up to stereotype. Sam Worthington's performance as Jake Sully felt relaxed, which contrasted well to his avatar character (nicely done, communicating a message). There was a scene where he watched his brother's cremation, which felt false. But at least it wasn't forced like having flashbacks. And it was OK being false, since it was a small scene, despite requiring to be emotionally heavy.
Avatar is what storytelling should be like, whether computer imaging is involved or not. I left the theater totally uplifted and inspired and still feel the same as I type these words. I can't wait for the sequels.