If you were to only listen to James Cameron, the man behind the biggest grossing movie of all time Titanic, when he talks about his upcoming sci-fi flick Avatar, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It's been almost 15 years since he had the idea for the project, where at that point it was created to "push his digital-production company to the limits", but finally now in the early part of the 21st century there is the technology available to get his idea to come to life on the big-screen.
If you haven't heard, Avatar is being made with a revolutionary special effects technology (developed largely by Cameron himself) which blends "two unrelated technologies: e-motion capture, which uses images from tiny cameras rigged to actors' heads to replicate their expressions, and digital 3D."
Here's the overall gist of the plot:
In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. Those from Earth find themselves at odds with each other and the local culture.
TIME Magazine recently wrote an article about the 3D technology revolution (which you can read in its entirety here) but one thing to note is that Josh Quittner (who wrote the article) apparently got a bit of a look at the film, and he has nothing but amazing things to say about this much talked about technology that's being employed.
Here's what he had to say:
"I couldn't tell what was real and what was animated--even knowing that the 9-ft.-tall blue, dappled dude couldn't possibly be real. The scenes were so startling and absorbing that the following morning, I had the peculiar sensation of wanting to return there, as if Pandora were real."
In talking with Cameron, Quittner got an answer, after his being stunned by the footage he saw, that he wasn't at all surprised (cocky, there, Jim?):
"'[3D viewing] is so close to a real experience that it actually triggers memory creation in a way that 2-D viewing doesn't.' His [Cameron's] theory being that stereoscopic viewing uses more neurons."
Although I think Cameron is, perhaps, overselling what we are ultimately going to get with Avatar, I still tend to believe this is going to be something unlike pretty much anything we've seen before. Now that may sound at first like a bold statement, but when you consider the fact that the technology we have now has only become available fairly recently (with in the last few years), it really isn't.
Not that I'm saying it's not mind blowing just what can be done with special effects these days (if Transformers has to be given any praise, it's for what was pretty much the best example of visual effects in history - a title I'm sure Cameron wants to nab with Avatar), but it's just not been that long since visual effects got to the point we are right now, where we can make almost anything (there's still that "uncanny valley" issue with humans) look just as real as real life.
We're still three quarters of a year away from the release of Avatar, so we still have time to gear ourselves up properly for this "revolutionary" piece of sci-fi/action filmmaking (which, reportedly, has a whopping 1,000-plus people working on it, and sky-high budget of over $300 $200 million!). I fully welcome (as I'm sure everyone else does, too) the notion of a modern science fiction film revolutionizing the genre, but as they say:
I'll believe it when I see it.
Avatar is scheduled to be released on December 18th 2009.