I don’t think I can add anything new to the screeds of commentary about Avatar. I can see why there are so many fawning articles about it, and also why the US Right aren’t overfond of it. Impressive as 3D films are, they’re still going to be a fad unless technology eliminates those stupid glasses. If it ever becomes possible to just walk into a cinema and sit down and watch a 3D film without the impractical headgear, every film will be made in 3D. It’ll become more than just a clever gimmick trotted out every thirty years when the film industry panics about the latest competition.

Okay, one thing I’ll say about Avatar is that it’s a bit futile to complain about the plot. Any film that costs that much has to reach as wide an audience as possible, therefore a story to match the extraordinary invention of the visuals is out of the question. Simple economics, really. Mass audiences are only as smart as the average 14 year-old American boy. Have you talked to a 14 year-old boy recently?


8 Responses to “Avatar”

  1. Hmm, have to say in retrospect, there’s still a lack in the CGI of the characters – while motion capture has got the facial expressions down and they made sure that the eyes look alive (a real problem with the perceived uncanniness of the figures in Polar Express I take it), I’m still not convinced.

    There are two reasons. First, (apart from the market-required anthropomorphism) I didn’t get any sense of muscle and bone moving under skin – the Na’vi looked like they were made of homogenous material like plasticine; there was no dynamic interaction of firm and fluid structure, and the musculature hadn’t really been sculpted, just that a generic or caricatured human body had been attenuated. Is this a limitation of the software? Granted, it would add a whole new dimension of complexity to get the interaction of bone, muscle and fat, but was it related to the fact that little if any life drawing is taught these days?

    Secondly, the skin itself lacked resolution. I’m not sure if it’s a modeling problem or not, but except with the explicitly older Na’vi characters, they generally lacked believable textures. Everyone has fine hair on supposedly bare skin and everyone accumulates the texture of small wrinkles and imperfections and that patina is essential to the perception of life and animation – the movement of those textured surfaces adds to the perception of animation when an expression does change – even the crinkling about the eyes is visible even in the very youngest child.

    I’ve heard too that the subtle translucence of the skin and how it transmits light has long been a major problem for realistic CGI, but that someone somewhere had cracked it. I didn’t see that here though… but even though the intended effect was obviously meant to be weird and over-the-top, they did get the translucence for Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen .

    Then again, young people today do look uncanny to me – they have no wrinkles and so look like low-resolution CGIs of themselves.

  2. Coco Miles Says:

    They DID model the interaction of layers of bone, muscle, fat and skin. Here’s a link to an article that’s full of tech-y detail about various processes: CG In Another World

  3. Interesting article, especially details like the animators taking into account the subsurface colouration of their blood.

    I’ve been reading more articles about this film… I’m glad I’m not at the sad extremes of either the suicidal faction of the Avatards* or the critics vibrating with hatred that the storyline isn’t Shakespeare.

    (* What did these people do with their lives before, say, December?)

  4. thomsedavi Says:

    My position is ‘the trailer didn’t catch my interest, so why should I go see it?’

    I even watched six minute-long segments on YouTube, looking for something to catch my interest, just so that I could have an excuse to see this film everyone is talking about… all I got was slightly bemused when Sigourney Weaver asks, ‘what are you doing here without any training or knowledge?’ and Sam Worthington replies, ‘because I got sick of doctors telling me what I could or couldn’t do’.

    I’m assuming Sigourney Weaver noticed that he didn’t actually answer her question but wisely decided not to pursue the matter it any further.

    I acknowledge the technical accomplishments of the film, but I also understand that technology is going to progress regardless, and I’m not going to fork over cash every time someone thinks they have reached a particular milestone. Especially when a trailer and six minute-long clips don’t engage my interest.

  5. Well then, I’m impressed that they did. Thank you for the link. Perhaps the problem might be that it has to be exaggerated for it to be perceived in a relatively unfamiliar form, or there was a bit of self-censorship? We know that real flesh jiggles a bit, especially, you know, bits that are generally covered and restrained unless there’s a ‘wardrobe malfunction’. I didn’t see one nipple and I’m the sort of man who notices these things.

  6. There are 758,000 Google results for “avatar nipples”.

  7. Coco Miles Says:

    I think you’re exaggerating your mammary awareness. I’m with the 758,000… plenty of nipple if you’re looking in the right places.

  8. The nipple fu is strong in this one.

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