Along with what was apparently a smaller number of film geeks than was expected, I dutifully showed up at the local RealIMAX “quasi-IMAX” screen (see my earlier article on RealIMAX versus IMAX) to see 16 minutes of James Cameron’s much discussed, ultra-expensive Avatar footage unveiled, in all of its 3D glory.
Avatar is about the challenge and dilemma facing a soldier who has “gone native”. That is, their mission was to represent their own nation and culture while living within another culture and people. There are a number of brilliant films that have addressed this topic, importantly with the protagonist gaining a sympathy, liking, and eventually identification with the foreign culture, including some of my very favorites, notably Lawrence of Arabia, Dances with Wolves and A Passage to India, just to name three.
In one striking sequence, shown above (that’s Sully’s avatar in the center of the image), Sully must fight a pterodactyl-like creature and force it to succumb to his will and thereby become his mount, his means of air travel on the planet. Think “wrangling that crazy mustang” from a classic coming-of-age Western, but very alien, and you’ve got the gist of the scene. It’s breathtaking and the realism of the creatures, the humanoids and even the landscape rendering is quite literally astonishing.