January 7th I was fortunate enough to (once again) see James Cameron’s Avatar on the big screen. The major difference between my first viewing and my second was seeing the film projected in the Stag Theater at the Skywalker Ranch in San Rafael, California in Dolby 3D Digital Cinema. There’s nothing like a state-of- the-art theater to really set the hook for the 3D experience. The film also proves that improving image quality is perhaps the easiest goal to accomplish in this day of technical marvels. While the film works on the simpler and predictable levels (boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again) it relies entirely on its technological mastery to engage the viewer. Chemistry in casting is largely missing and you would care little if the world that the characters inhabit were dreary. Chemistry is the most elusive element to achieve and is the most often missed piece of the puzzle.
This screening of Avatar was introduced by George Lucas and following the film there was a small panel that included James Cameron and producer Jon Landau. During the panel discussion Mr. Cameron stated that the initial idea for Avatar came to him in 1996. Time was needed to await the technology to match the dream. The impact and the intent of the various cast members were discussed. The Colonel Quaritch character (Stephen Lang ) came under scrutiny and when led by the tone of an audience member’s question towards an opportunity to put down the military Mr. Cameron instead responded that his brother served as a marine for six years and that he holds the military in great respect for all its skills and sacrifices. He instead expressed criticism for the abuse of military power by governments. Expanding on this he made the statement that for thousands of years men have coveted the land of other men or what is under that land. The rightful owners of the land are branded “enemies” and a justification for war established. Refreshing to hear this point of view.
Mr. Cameron described the actual making of Avatar as taking two and one-half years claiming that he had had only three days off in the prior eighteen months before the release of the film. On the subject of story quality Cameron referred to the persistence of a story that allows for a movie to also become a book or video game and beyond…in a larger sense a film just initiates discussions. Questions can be resolved over many media outlets. He chose Star Wars as his example of persistent story. The presentation was held under the auspices of The San Francisco Film Society. Photos of the event can be viewed at http://wireimage.com/ItemListings.aspx?so=0,d&igi=410063&nbc1=1 
The fact that the film runs two hours forty minutes made for a subtle but mad scramble for the restrooms when the credits began. During the last hour of the film anyone suffering with bladder urgency had but to look in both directions down the row of seats making it clear that it was wiser to suffer rather than disturb all these committed cine-philes. 3D glasses function as blinders that seal off the watcher from contact with adjacent viewers. On the way out every viewer would need to be individually nudged, apologized to and climbed over. Then you gotta’ come back…Maybe he’ll consider an intermission next time…
My first blog entry dealt with the level of wages from competing countries…China specifically. Anonymous responded with a webpage entitled VFXWAGES that gives further detail on wage levels. http://www.vfxwages.com/news/2010/jan/11/working-in-china/ . Oddly enough they were posted on the same day. On the upside recently I’ve found that unemployment benefits can extend for as long as 99 weeks…when discussing this with a friend we simultaneously burst out in a modified version of “99 Bottles of Beer”…who says times are difficult?