Lowdowns on High Brows


Avatar Sneak-Peek Footage Review

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Finally after waiting for years passively & for days impassively (since I got the news that Avatar-Day was happening in India), the blessed day (28th August) was upon me when I’d get to watch a sneak-peek of Avatar. For Aliens alone I’d worship James Cameron but he also made the first two Terminator films & the underrated Abyss along with one of my biggest guilty pleasures, True Lies & as for Titanic, well I have mixed feelings about it but then nearly everyone who loved Cameron’s earlier work does.

For the past 14 years Cameron’s kept this project on hold simply because he didn’t have the “right” technology to see his vision come to life & boy ‘o’ boy based on what I’ve seen on the big screen every minute of those 14 years seems to be worth the wait. Forget pushing the envelope this blew the goddamn thing sky high.

Now I’m no fan of 3D & despise having to wear oversized snorkeling goggles each time I have to watch one of the new wave of 3D movies. Plus most of the 3D is gimmicky & adds little to the story other than to have the makers shoot certain scenes so as to have all manner of things hit you right in the face you so that you can go “oohhhh” & “aaahh” the first time you see that. Plus wearing the damn contraption over my eyes gives me a headache within 15-20 minutes so not only is it uncomfortable to wear but to bear too.

However the 3D aspect didn’t worry me too much when I thought of Avatar simply because of James Cameron & knowing that something that’s being touted as the next leap in technology made by him would surely have more than just spinning yo-yos in my face.

The sneak peek started with James Cameron giving his two cents about the preview & the movie. It was right at this moment when it first hit me that I was actually seeing that entire monologue in 3D. The realization which hits you at the first moment about the quality of the image you are observing always makes you doubt your eyes & that’s exactly what happened then, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.

The preview started with a scene showing Stephen Lang’s character of Col. Quartich walking up and down what looks like a military mess, & giving a pep-talk of the kinds which we are used to from battle hardened veterans in these kinds of movies. He looks very much like what Corporal Hicks from Aliens would if he had survived for another thirty years in the Marine Corps(A huge scar which was likely caused by a claw runs across one side of his head). Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who’s a paraplegic comes in halfway through the talk & the two look at each other in a manner which hints at a past acquaintance or more.

The next scene involved Jake’s consciousness being transferred to his avatar which is a Na’vi (the indigenous population on the planet). These sequences feature those amazing looking display devices which can literally transfer data between them just on the wave of hand. The sequence also features Sigourney Weaver & she plays a doctor who’s handling the transfer of Jake’s consciousness to the Avatar. After being put into some kind of large sleeping capsule which is inserted into a CAT scan sort of machine, he awakens in his new body. Here the “wiggle your toe” moment from the trailer takes place plus he kind of realizes the existence of his tail too. An important aspect in this scene was the difference in sizes is made very clear , the Na’vi are roughly about 10 feet in height & tower above the humans. This contrast in heights is beautifully conveyed by the framing of the scene & the camera angles in these shots.

All the scenes from here on take place exclusively on the planet Pandora where Jake along with Sigourney Weaver & that guy from ‘The Hottie & the Nottie’ (Shudders) are in their Na’vi avatars. They have encountered various life forms on the planet one of which happens to be something like hammer-headed prehistoric rhinoceros as big as an elephant which Jake has to face-off against without firing a shot at it. Jake also gets chased by a six-legged carnivore which you might have seen in the trailers too, but this was an extended heart-pulsating scene. Small effects like the grass being kicked up, the insects buzzing around & various smaller details are so amply magnified that the sheer beauty of it all becomes more than a little distraction from the main action on screen. You’d not want to miss anything which is on display.

The next scene involves the first appearance of Jake’s likely love interest in the form of the very pretty Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri who’s a Na’vi & steps in just at the right time to save Jake from some wild dog like creatures. She ends up shooting one & scares the other ones away. As she walks away Jake tries to follow her only to be rebuked as she blames him for the death of the animal she had to kill unnecessarily to save him. The writing of the scene does come off as a little cheesy but I guess the scene was intended for something else entirely. It takes place during the night & the flora-fauna on Pandora is bioluminescent (glows in the dark) & not just a simple green glow but bright florescent hues of purples & blues & greens & reds. It looks fabulous in 3D is seriously an understatement to describe the “wow” factor in those scenes.

The last scene involved a passage of rites amongst the Na’vi tribe which involved Jake now dressed in Na’vi garb having to tame a pterodactyl like creature. Jake literally has to wrestle with the creature to bend it to his will. The landscape featured in this scene is truly breathtaking & so picturesque that you’d actually imagine yourself there.

This was followed by a montage of various action scenes from the film involving the marines battling the Na’vi over land and air. The scale of the battles on display is so enormous that it is sure to make the even the most ardent cynics of the movie want to watch it at least once when it comes out in December.

The all ready released trailer rounded up the entire sneak peek & when the lights finally came on again, only one though echoed in my head, “Holy Crap!!! I want to watch this once again right away.” I literally wanted to run back in and watch the entire thing again and again till my eyes hurt. Thousands of images of an epochal beauty had run past my eyes and barely a fraction of them had registered properly but what a visceral experience it had been. I just hope that the content of the movie is able to match the visual beauty on display.

To sum up the entire experience I’d like to point out the first line Col. Quartich utters “You are not in Kansas anymore!”, & nothing could be more allegorical to the Wizard of Oz & nothing truer than that comparison. Just like Dorothy was transported by a tornado to a world like she hadn’t seen before, James Cameron transports you to a world like no other you’ve experienced before, just the way he promised he would. So as I end this piece I’d like to make a reference to The Matrix, a movie I absolutely adore, paraphrasing something Cypher so eloquently puts it before Neo makes his first jump to the real world, “Buckle you seat belt Dorothy, cause come December 18th, Kansas is going bye-bye.”

Bollywood Aaj-Kal : Part 2

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We continue our journey into the ever-changing times & tones of Bollywood in ‘Bollywood Aaj-Kal’. Enjoy!

More 'Bollywood Aaj-Kal' on it's way soon.....

Bollywood Aaj-Kal

Monday, August 3, 2009

In thinking of an idea for a teaser campaign for our website (moviesum.com) we discussed every crazy idea which we thought we could pull off. Finally the idea which seemed the most interesting to explore within the limited time-frame which we had was the idea of ‘Bollywood Aaj-Kal’. Over the years as everything around us, Bollywood too has changed in more than a million ways & yet in parts has carried the very essence that makes it stand apart from other movie industries around the globe.

In our series of ‘Bollywood Aaj-Kal’ we look to take a humorous look at some of these changes in the new Bollywood compared to the “good old days”. Enjoy!

Watch out for more soon....

The Thin Red Line

Monday, May 25, 2009

To Hear but Not Heed
To Sight but Not See
To Touch but Not Feel
To Talk but Not Say
To Covet but Not Crave
To Rue but Not Lament
To Bear but Not Tolerate
To Believe but Not Trust
To Accept but Not Adopt
To Be Glad but Not Happy
To Love but Not Care
To Prize but Not Treasure
To Buy but Not Own
To Hide but Not Lie
To Control but Not Possess
To Die but Not Live
To Leave but Never Arrive