kottke.org posts about Avatar

Avatar sequelsOct 27 2010

James Cameron has announced that there will be not one but two sequels to Avatar, scheduled for 2014 and 2015.

The science of AvatarMay 04 2010

James Cameron spoke about the science of Avatar at Caltech last month; Discovery has a summary.

"We tried to make it not completely fanciful," Cameron told the crowd, which filled the auditorium. "If it was too outlandish, there would be a believability gap." So while Pandora features floating mountains, that might not be so far-fetched, Cameron said, considering Earth has developed high-speed "bullet" trains that levitate on magnetic fields. Of course, the "reality-based" scenario did have its limits. "We figured that to actually lift mountains, the magnetic field would have to be strong enough to rip the hemoglobin out of your blood," says Cameron. "But we decided not to go there."

No word on whether he addressed the Na'vi's lack of technological advancement.

100 different versions of AvatarMar 26 2010

To cover every possible screen and audio option out there, James Cameron produced over 100 different versions of Avatar for distribution to theaters.

In some cases, a single multiplex required different versions for different auditorium configurations. Creative decisions involving light levels also led to additional versions. 3D projection and glasses cut down the light the viewer sees, so "Avatar" also had separate color grades at different light levels, which are measured in foot lamberts. "If we had just sent out one version of the movie, it would have been very dark (in the larger theaters)," Barnett says. "We had a very big flow chart with all of the different steps, so we could send the right media to the right theater."

Pre-order Avatar on Blu-rayMar 17 2010

Avatar is already available for pre-order on Blu-ray (and DVD). Release date is April 22.

Homeless Oscar picksFeb 23 2010

Greg Sloane, who calls the streets of New York home, thinks that Avatar should win best picture at the Oscars.

"I hope 'Avatar' wins so they keep it in theaters longer," he said. "It's three hours long, so you get more time to sleep."

rating: 4.0 stars

AvatarDec 29 2009

One of the most difficult things to get right in movies about aliens or the future is matching the cultural and technological sophistication of a people with their environment and history. In Avatar, the Na'vi are portrayed as a Stone Age tribe, living in relatively small groups and essentially ignorant or uninterested in technology beyond simple knives and bows. But the Na'vi are also very physically capable, obviously very intelligent, aware of their global environment, well-nourished, healthy, omnivorous, adaptive, and even inventive. They have domesticated animals, are troubled by few serious natural predators, can live in different environments, have easy access to many varied natural resources (for sustenance and building/making), and can travel and therefore communicate over long distances (dozens if not hundreds of miles a day on their winged animals).

And most importantly, the Na'vi have regular and intimate access to a moon-sized supercomputer -- a neural net supercomputer at that -- that connects them to every other living thing on their world and have had such access for what could be millennia.

It just doesn't add up. The Na'vi are too capable and live in an environment that is far too pregnant with technological possibility to be stuck in the Stone Age. Plot-wise it's convenient for them to be the way they are, but the Na'vi really should have been more technologically advanced than the Earthlings, not only capable of easily repelling any attack from Captain Ironpants but able to keep the mining company from landing on the moon in the first place.

Has 3-D already failed?Sep 02 2009

With the announcement of releasing Avatar only in 3-D, James Cameron was supposed to cram 3-D down the throats of theater owners, movie goers, and everyone else. Except that didn't quite happen and Avatar is being released in 2-D as well. Kristin Thompson sees other cracks in the plan for 3-D's future domination of cinema.

One of the main arguments always rolled out in favor of conversion is that theaters can charge more for 3-D screenings. Proportionately, theaters that show a film in 3-D will take in more at the box-office because they charge in the range of $3 more per ticket than do theaters offering the same title in a flat version.

But what happens when, say, half the films playing at any given time in a city are in 3-D? Will moviegoers decide that the $3 isn't really worth it? Even now, would they pay $3 extra to see The Proposal or Julie & Julia in 3-D? The kinds of films that seem as if they call out for 3-D are far from being the only kinds people want to see. Films like these already make money on their own, unassisted by fancy technology.

Thompson briefly mentions Pixar as well, saying that they don't seem too keen on 3-D (or at least not as keen as Cameron or Katzenberg). But the zeal with which the 3-D-ness of Up was promoted was tacky and not at all typical of Pixar, a company that spent the last twenty years insisting that their films were not about the technology but about the same things that the makers of live action films were concerned with...real moviemaking stuff. To trumpet this 3-D technology that doesn't enhance films in anything other than a superficial sense seems like a step backwards for them.

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movies James Cameron

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