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Avatar 3D: The Experience
Mike Treder   Jan 12, 2010   Ethical Technology  

First, there was 2001. Then there was Star Wars. Then there was Av  —  no, I’m not gonna go there.

It’s not just that James Cameron’s smash new hit, Avatar, is not nearly as good a movie as 2001 or Star Wars. It’s that I can’t even describe my experience of seeing Avatar in 3D as going to see a movie. It was ... different ... much more like being inside a video game or a virtual reality environment.

To me, that’s the most significant thing Cameron has achieved with his latest blockbuster. He has created something that, for me at least, feels wholly new.

And while I can agree with the critics who assail its shabby plot, cardboard characters, and questionable noble-savage mythology—but with a mighty white man come to save the day—and while I can find all sorts of reasons to fault it as relatively poor movie-making, I have to say that as a novel experience, it was sensational.

I consider myself something of a film aficionado, having seen literally thousands of movies over the last four decades, and nearly all of them on the big screen where they can best be appreciated. I have favorites ranging from the silent era, through the golden age of the 30s and 40s, into the auteur period of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and up through the present day.

And throughout that long history of cinema, I can count only a few times when my experience of sitting in a theater watching a movie made me think: this is something new, a sensation I’ve not encountered before.

The first of those times was back in 1968 when as a 14 year-old I sat in wonder gazing at the huge curved screen of the futuristic Century 21 Theater in San Jose, California, overwhelmed by the majesty of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.


I had a similar, though somewhat less powerful, experience in 1977 while watching Star Wars for the first time, and again in 1993 when I saw Jurassic Park. I remember saying at the time that while Jurassic Park was certainly not a great movie, it was one hell of a fun amusement park ride.

And that’s sort of the point.

In a very few cases, something that is presented ostensibly as a movie is actually experienced by (some) viewers as an event of a different kind, in a class outside or beyond standard cinema. This is not to say, of course, that the films I’m naming here (with the exception of 2001) should be considered great movies, because they’re not. They don’t rank with the the finest of Hitchcock or Bergman or Kurosawa, obviously. But they are great achievements in spectator entertainment.

When such a thing is achieved, and when audiences come in droves to buy tickets and enjoy the ride, studios naturally want to try to duplicate that success. So, they put out all sorts of copycat crap that may contain some of the same thrills, but that almost inevitably will fall far short of the transcendent newness that makes such experiences so uncommon and so precious.

Avatar is one of those rare treats. Go see it. See it on the biggest screen possible, with a big audience, and if you can, definitely try to see it in 3D. It’s a unique visual extravaganza.

Sure, the story-telling is hackneyed, at best, and the plot is utterly predictable (and derivative), but when you are on the surface of Pandora—wow, man, you may never want to leave.


(Whatever photos or screenshots you see from this movie, by the way, will not come close to capturing the experience of “being there” in 3D. That’s something else altogether.)

Mike Treder is a former Managing Director of the IEET.


Indeed, for a few people, the desire to stay in that world is almost greater than life itself:

Interesting article. Those who crave Pandora are a captive audience for Avatar-the-game, but the reviews of the game that I have seen are not over enthusiastic, certainly not like the reviews of Avatar-the-film (at least for what concerns the 3D technology used).

It seems they may have missed a good business opportunity. Perhaps they should have invested money to create and promote a top class massively multiuser Pandora-themed metaverse.

I’m sure a “a top class massively multiuser Pandora-themed metaverse.” is on its way.  Especially if they make a sequel to the movie.

Indeed, for a few people, the desire to stay in that world is almost greater than life itself. [IMG]

Here is a link to a blog I read sometimes ago. It was written long before I watched the movie this year (that’s why before I didn’t post any comment here because I couldn’t find the link… but yesterday I found it).  It’s an interesting ‘insight’, not only about the movie avatar, but about the virtual reality itself… smile

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