Thursday, January 07, 2010
Went this afternoon to see the movie of the moment, and the future of movies: James Cameron's "Avatar." A satisfying experience, despite piles of eco-ethnic cheese and the by now uninteresting irony of a high-tech critique of technological society. It's epic! But what struck me was that the moon Pandora is really the planet of Miyazaki Hayao. Peel away the primitivism, the Pocahontas story, and the chase scenes and male hero necessary for an American hit movie and it's the world of the sublime "Nausicäa of the Valley of the Winds" with iridescent submarine-like plants and a wise forest whose roots and tendrils connect everything with a mass of Laputa's floating mountains above for good measure. The 3D works better in slow than in fast scenes (for one thing, your eyes aren't popping and snapping), and tricks used in 2D to conjure depth - especially things cropping up between us and the scene - actually make it seem less real. In mass scenes the blue Na'vi looked a bit too much like "Ants" to me, and the face of the avatar of hero Jake Sully (who slips into Aussie English at key moments: it's hard to be a double avatar as a Yank-Na'vi!) a bit like Shrek, but these are quibbles. It's a good time. And, in beautifully realized 3D, it's the shape of things to come. As in "Coraline," the 3D is most effective when not poking you in the eye, and most pleasurable when self-referential, as when we seem to be seeing through screens projecting 3D images of their own, but it'll soon seem as unproblematically "real" as a 3D world on a 2D screen. It'll probably be just a few years before not only films but our own camera-work are in 3D. I gather the first 3D digital cameras come out in the Spring, and monitors which can show them are on their way too. It's unnerving, somehow. Perhaps it'll seem less so when someone makes a film in 3D which isn't about a world fundamentally at odds with our own.