I used to have a deeply-tanned, anorexic neighbor in her
60’s that filled most her days by sunning beside the apartment pool.  Every now and again, she would dive into the
shallowest part of the pool and just sort of float on the surface; like a
buoyant turd squeezed from the ass of a sea turtle.  Why am I bringing this up?  Because Avatar Day reminded me of this woman
and her pool diving.  Avatar Day didn’t
make a big splash or cause too much noise and the miniscule ripples it did
create faded away fairly quickly.

Yes, Avatar Day came and went with relatively little
fanfare.  It began with websites crashing
and ended with a bunch of shoulders shrugging.

I could go on and on about Avatar’s budget, the long development
time, the promotional problems, the public’s perceptions regarding the trailer
and everything else that has very little to do with the actual experience of
watching the film on a big screen in 3-D.  But all that shit is boring.  When
it comes down to it, people want to know if the preview footage was impressive
or, in the least, enjoyable.

But before I get into that, I need to talk about the context
of the viewing situation, mainly because I like to ramble on about shit nobody
cares about.  It makes me feel important.  So, in order to see the 16 minutes of Avatar
footage, I had to register online, get an email confirmation that included my
name and a code, then go to the theater on Friday (they recommended arriving 45
minutes early) and show up with a print-out of the email and a photo ID.  This was enough to get me and a guest
inside.  Also, it was stressed that no
recording materials were allowed during the screening.

All IMAX theaters North and South of me were sold out, so I
looked inland and found one that still had tickets available.  Since I didn’t know where this theater was, I
used Google Maps and Yahoo Maps to get directions.  Somehow I received two completely different
routes and, after banging my head between my car door for five minutes, decided
to go with the Google Maps directions.

My girlfriend and I got to the theater about an hour early
and there was a line of about 15 people already waiting.  As we stood for what seemed like an eternity
(we were in front of three teenage girls who yammered at high decibels about
Disneyland, alcoholic parents and the Twilight books and films…which
made me seriously consider breaking out my pair of brass knuckles so I could
hammer away at my nutsack in the hopes of self-sterilization; so, in the
future, I would never be cursed with children like these), the line finally
started moving and we were led inside.  This
was good for several reasons, especially since we were sandwiched between the
annoying, talkative teens and a woman who had the worst breath I have ever had
the misfortune to catch a whiff of.  It
was like she sucked clean the armpit juice from a fat, sweaty Cajun man and
spit the steamy concoction straight into my face.  I tell you, it stung like acid.

Anyway, for some inexplicable reason, there was a snack
jockey in the theater, selling massive buckets of popcorn and sodas the size
and girth of Kirstie Alley’s cankles.  The preview was 16 minutes long…how much fucking popcorn and soda do you
really need?

Anyway, I would say that the theater was probably a little
over a third full, but not quite half-way full.  I guess it would be “thalf-way full.”  Did you just see what I did?  I
merged the words “third” and “half” and created a new word.  Man, I’m a goddamn genius.  So, the lights finally dimmed and everybody
strapped on their 3-D glasses and James Cameron appeared onscreen, briefly
explaining that the footage we were going to see was from the first half of the
film and was spoiler-free.  Like many
other bloggers, journalists and sexless dorks have reported, these scenes were
the same ones that were previewed at the San Diego Comic-Con a few weeks back.

These included Stephen Lang briefing a bunch of military
dudes about the planet Pandora and the Na’vi (alien species) ways of killing
with poisonous arrows (no special effects here, except for Lang’s scarred face);
Jake (played by Sam Worthington), undergoing the Avatar program transformation,
with help from Sigourney Weaver’s character Dr. Grace Augustine (I really dug
this scene, the awkwardness of Jake as he stumbles around the room in confusion
and adjusting to his new body was well-realized); a chase scene on Pandora
involving Jake and a couple of big fucking creatures (fairly intense and
well-done, you get the impression that Jake is cocky, especially since he
screams “That’s what I’m talking about bitch!” to a cowering creature…who is
backing away from something behind Jake); Jake getting attacked by weird
canine-like creatures at night, only to be saved by a female Na’vi named
Neytiri (played by Zoe Saldana) who is upset by Jake’s intrusion into her
world; Jake trying to tame a pterodactyl-like creature so he can “ride” it; and
a quick smattering of clips that appeared in the teaser (like the mechs
stomping around, the military guys shooting the pterodactyls, and Jake and
Neytiri about to kiss).

So, was it any good?  Yes.  The 16 minutes flew by and,
while I was not completely blown away by the footage, I did get pulled into the
story within the limited amount of time.  The 3-D was uniquely effective; instead of objects being “thrown”
towards the screen, the visuals were more layered and immersive.  I guess they were more “natural.”

It also seems that many are concerned with the look of the
Na’vi and the CGI appearing unnatural.  I
found that, on the big screen and in 3-D, the visuals were bright, colorful and
fairly photorealistic.  The designs and
execution were definitely more impressive than what the teaser
communicated.  I especially liked the Sigourney
Weaver Avatar, which looked extremely similar to her.  Never though, at any point, did I find Sam
Worthington’s character or Zoe Saldana’s
character looking “real,” even though they did look impressive (especially in
the scene where Jake wakes up in his new body.  Quite often CGI looks weightless, but here, one could sense the heft, height
and body mass of this character).  If it
means anything, several people in the theater kept “ooooooooing” and
“aaaaaaaaaing” throughout the preview and, when it was over, many
enthusiastically clapped.

Is the movie revolutionary?  I don’t know.  Do I want to see it
when it comes out?  Yes.  The preview definitely stoked my interest and
made me want to see more.  Whether or not
Avatar translates well to 2-D screens, I don’t know.  I guess it all depends on how well Cameron
can deliver an exciting story.  As it is,
I would think that the 3-D experience would be the way to go when viewing the
film.  It added depth and immersion that
I have yet to experience in a theater (keep in mind that the last film I saw in
3-D was Jaws 3-D when I was about four…man, what a piece of floating sea
turtle shit that was).  So there you go,
that was Avatar Day for me.

You’re welcome James Cameron and Fox!

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