Friday, August 21, 2009

Avatar Day


OK, maybe not.

I'm not sure why I decided to put in a ticket reservation for tonight's showing of a preview reel from James Cameron's AVATAR. The offer arrived in my inbox Monday morning, and without thinking about it I went to the site to register.

But why? I don't make it a point to track down every tidbit of information about upcoming films prior to seeing them--I'd prefer to be, you know, surprised--so going to a theater to watch about fifteen minutes from a movie that won't be released until four months from now really doesn't make any sense. I confess, though, that hearing all of the hype piqued my curiosity enough to want to see what is supposedly such a big deal.

Let's get the obvious out of the way upfront. There's no way of telling how well the six scenes and brief montage shown for Avatar Day actually work within the context of the entire film. Seeing the footage in IMAX 3D provides a better gauge of the visuals than a trailer streamed online, but at this point they're just disjointed scenes of pretty pictures.

In the filmed introduction Cameron informed viewers that all of the footage was from the film's first half and contains no spoilers. I have a feeling I know what the film is about, more or less, but I'll keep my trap shut because there's no point in hypothesizing now.

The Avatar Day scenes contain enough exposition to clarify a general storyline, but the most time is dedicated to effects-heavy sequences, which is what those in attendance likely wanted to see most urgently. The avatars' confrontation with some alien animals and the hero's attempt to do something akin to bronco breaking of a dragon-like creature look impressive, but what else is there to say about them?

Correct or not, my initial impression is that AVATAR appears to be a mostly animated film about the long and slender blue cats which serve as avatars for the soldiers and that are also the planet's natives. I've heard a little grumbling about the character design, but I reiterate that judgment should be reserved until the film, not snippets, are seen. My feeling on the 3D is what it always is: 3D injects an inital "ooo" factor and then dissipates.

What's the benefit of the studio doing a national campaign like Avatar Day rather than rolling out this footage at Comic-Con and then putting it online? Beats me. My guess is that anyone who attended these screenings was already committed to seeing the film on December 18. Sure, it snags some preview coverage--I wouldn't be writing about AVATAR otherwise--but is it worth the expense of renting all those IMAX 3D auditoriums nationwide to help get the word out to those who are unaware of the film? Apparently someone thinks so.

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