Hettrick: Avatar premiere observations

Hettrick: Avatar premiere observations

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Scott Hettrick

I just got back from the U.S. premiere of “Avatar” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Hollywood Boulevard was shut down most of the day to set up the blue carpet for the mega-event — king of the world James Cameron’s first fictional feature film since 1997 when “Titanic” set and still holds the all-time box-office record with $1.8 billion worldwide. (I always felt Cameron has been blasted unnecessarily for proclaiming he was king of the world when he won that Oscar — while most felt it was an egotistical boast, I took it as an appropriately fun reference to a key line in the movie.)

Blue carpet arrivals in front of Chinese Theater for Hollywood premiere of "Avatar."
Blue carpet arrivals in front of Chinese Theater for Hollywood premiere of "Avatar."

I can only provide a very slight taste of the atmosphere in front of the Chinese Theater with these photos and 25-second video since cameras and cell phones were prohibited past the security checkpoint on the blue carpet.

AvatarPremiere12-16-09 004So much has already been said and so many reviews have already been written about the much-anticipated movie since it premiered last week in London that there is little point in weighing in with any lengthy comments so I will provide a few observations and anecdotes (below the following video).

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Tonight’s premiere of the 2 1/2-hour fantasy epic started nearly an hour late but no one left early or fidgeted either from tiredness or discomfort due to the 3D glasses for the RealD digital projection. One woman who was worried that the 3D might bother her said afterwards that it was never a problem and did not distract her at all.

In fact, the 3D effects were so subtle that I noticed several times when I took off my glasses that many of the images — especially close-ups — looked completely in focus like 2D and not blurry as most 3D movies are when viewed without the glasses.

Some ads for the movie last weekend very prominently displayed and differentiated theaters showing the movie in three different 3D processes — RealD 3D, Digital 3D, and IMAX 3D. The distinctions in the 3D (mild distinctions in picture sharpness or ghosting, for instance) may be too subtle for the average moviegoer to notice or consciously choose to drive further or pay more to see one over the other. In addition to a proprietary 3D process, IMAX, of course, offers much bigger screens and the audience sits much closer to the screen, resulting in a perception of being more enveloped or immersed in the movie.

As for reaction to the movie itself, some people in the audience told me afterwards that even though they appreciated the creativity, artistry and inventiveness, that everything about it was too long, especially the final battle scene, and felt that Cameron really over-indulged throughout. Also, some noted that it was a rather simple alien planet version of a typical Cowboys and Indians story, with elements reminiscent of other films like “Jurassic Park” and an obvious story with one-dimensional villains — evil miners and mercenary military personalities.

On the other hand, a middle-aged mother not officially associated with the film but a confessed sci-fi fan — her favorite movie this year was “District 9,” followed by “Star Trek” — said before the movie that she was really looking forward to “Avatar.” Immediately after the closing credits she said she liked it even better than she hoped. She was also glad that Sam Worthington was shown often as his human self in addition to his blue avatar since she thinks he is “quite attractive” to look at.

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