Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Avatar" - James Cameron Dreams of Electric Actors

This is the first of in a series of short posts about James Cameron's new blockbuster Avatar.

Make no mistake about it, out of the gate Avatar is a landmark science fiction film.  People may argue whether it succeeds as a work of story-telling, but no one can deny that Cameron has orchestrated a combination of cutting-edge movie-making techniques to realize a vision of an alien world in a realistic and compelling way that will serve as the standard of comparison for science fiction films for years to come.

In this regard Avatar springs into the world full-blown, much as Stanley Kubrick's 2001, A Space Odyssey did in 1968 - so different from its predecessors that it startles us, and demands we revise our expectations for the medium.  Everything that came before is revealed to have been nothing more than cardboard spaceships sporting sputtering sparklers and bow-legged actors cavorting in foam-rubber monster costumes.

It's important to keep in mind that science fiction films, as much as they aspire to be movies about ideas, first and foremost strive to fabricate believable visions either of the future of our own planet or of the landscapes of others light-years away.  With Avatar Cameron has triumphed by creating a marvelous new world for both his characters and his audience to inhabit.

In addition Avatar will likely establish itself as a watershed in the relentless march of cinema from its reliance on flesh-and-blood actors to the routine use of what may come to be called "synthetic" players.  The melding of live action and CGI (computer generated imagery) through the use of motion-capture technologies will give way to the construction of genuinely autonomous virtual actors, informed, perhaps, by the smoky voice of Marlene Dietrich or the smoking curves of Marilyn Monroe.

So, with Avatar James Cameron has allowed us to glimpse another future world, one in which the film director has become a painter of characters, methodically composing actors from a palette of performers, some living, some dead, and some drawn solely from his or her imagination.

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"Avatar" - James Cameron Dreams of Electric Actors by Marc Merlin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at thoughtsarise.blogspot.com.