Hollywood SF (Science Fiction) movies have seldom been loved by Koreans. Star Wars ranked third at the box office in the United States, but was a box office failure in Korea. But James Cameron? movie, Avatar, which was released on Dec. 17 changed the history of box office movies. In Korea, Avatar grossed more than ten million in the 38 days after its opening. On Dec. 27, Avatar broke the seemingly insurmountable record set by Titanic in a little over six weeks. Without being stopped, Avatar was nominated for nine sections, and renewed its record as the hottest movie in the shortest time, the highest profit of all movies, and the best of Three Dimensional (3D) movies. Avatar was also released in Four Dimensional (4D) theaters, which provided five-sensory experiences. Not only in Korea, but all over the world, Avatar reigned at the box office. Avatar ranked first at the North American box office for six weeks. It has also led the field in China, France, Germany and Russia. Avatar opened a new horizon of SF movies.
New World in Pandora
The background environment of Avatar is the planet in space, Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by the , a ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned species of sapient humanoids, who live in harmony with nature. Pandora is a happy place to live. The Na?i worship a mother goddess called Eywa. Jake Sully, a paraplegic and a former Marine, replaces his twin brother. His twin brother was a scientist trained as an avatar operator but his brother was murdered in a robbery. Dr. Grace Augustine is a head of the Avatar program. Neytiri is the daughter of the leader of the Na?i. Neyriti rescues Jake when he is lost in the forest and brings him to Hometree for her clan. And her mother, Mo?t instructs her daughter to teach Jake their ways.
Quaritch promiss Jake on his restorative treatment for his paraplegia. The treatment would enable Quaritch to vacate Hometree of the Na'vi and get access to the Unobtainium which is valuable resource to make money. As Jake starts delivering information to Quaritch, Grace becomes suspicious and relocates herself. For over three months, Jake grows close to Neytiri and the Omaticaya, so eventually Jake rejects Quaritch's agenda. After Jake is initiated into the Omaticaya, he and Neytiri choose each other as mates. And Jake disables and destroys the tribe's Tree.
Despite Grace's argument that the destruction of Hometree could affect the bio-botanical neural network to which Pandora is connected, Miles Quaritch decides to destroy Pandora. Miles then gives Jake and Grace one hour to convince the Na'vi to leave Hometree. Jake reveals his original mission to the Omaticaya, and then Neytiri accused him of betrayal. Jake and Grace? avatars are taken captured and then Quaritch forcefully destroys the Hometree. Jake and Grace escape in Quaritch for betraying the Quaritch. During the escape, Quaritch shot Grace and Grace was seriously wounded.
To regain the Omaticaya's trust, Jake tamed a Toruk, a powerful flying predator. Jake succeeds in claiming Omaticaya? trust and pleads with Mo?t to heal Grace. The tribe attempts to transfer Grace from her dying body. But she ends up dying. Just before Grace died, Grace says "I saw Eywa. Eywa exists." To fight against Quaritch, Jake unites thousands of warriors from many Na'viclans. Jake prays to Eywa before fighting. As the Na'vi is attacked, clans suffers many wounds and get heavy casualties. Jake destroys the bomber before it could reach the Tree of Souls which is the middle of connection in Pandora. Quaritch finds it and attacks the avatar link unit where Jake's human body was located. Suddenly, Neytiri kills Quaritch and saves Jake.
In the end, the clan performs the ritual that permanently transfers Jake from his human body into his Na'vi avatar.
A Side of Technique
Avatar starts with a scene where Jake Sully, the protagonist, dreams of flying in the sky while coming out of Pandora's jungle. The scene is the first scene of the movie with CG (Computer Graphics). After seeing the movie, many people wonder which scenes are real and which scenes are CG. The answer is that all scenes are CG with all real acts. James Cameron introduced a number of revolutionary visual effects techniques in Avatar. Cameron used full Performance Capture and Emotion Capture instead of Motion Capture.
A number of revolutionary visual effect techniques are used in the production of Avatar. Avatar is composed of computer-generated animation, using a more advanced version of the technique.
One of the techniques is Emotion Capture. The Emotion Capture stage is six times larger than that previously used, and an improved method of capturing facial expressions. To achieve the face capturing, actors individually wore skull caps installed with a tiny camera positioned in front of the actors?faces. The information of their faces is collected. Their facial expressions and eyes are transmitted to computers. These new techniques are made to achieve the face capturing. The method allowed the filmmakers to transfer 100 percent of the actors?physical performances to their digital counterparts. So Avatar resolved problems of previous 3D movies.
"I felt the Pandora was real world. It is likely to exist somewhere. Avatar brought a revolution of 3D movies,"said Noh Byung-ju, a film critic.
"3D movies before Avatar felt dizzy because of awkward scenes which was different from reality. But Avatar seemed more real and 3D,"said Han Young-ju, a Sophomore of the Division of Economics in Hanyang University.
It is true that SF blockbuster Avatar becomes top grossing film. But Avatar also has missed few points.
One is a side of the story. The story of Avatar looked like SF movies in the 1960s. It looked like a traditional, pure movie such as 60s SF movies. Furthermore, Avatar seemed to be wasteful set-up. With new technique, Cameron did not attempt to make creative story. It seemed to be outdated. "Camerons seems to be satisfied with happy ending fable because Avatar already had revolutionary technology. He did not think of making an amazing story. It seemed wasteful," said Lee Young-soo, a SF writer and columnist.
The flow of the story was predictable, especially in the introduction of Pandora, in the process of Jake? learning about the Na'vi "Honestly, I was bored at the beginning of the movie. Though CG is good to see, Avatar was a palpable story,"said Oh Ji-eun, a student of Seoul National University. As audience members felt, the story did not get out the old story. And developing method in movies is was not creative.
Cameron also used the story he had already used about the man made machines to make money by developing resources and the conflict with the native aliens. It appeared in Alien Two. In addition, Cameron cast one villain and a brave woman who falls in love with the main character. These things may make people become familiar while at the same time make them feel bored of the old things.
"Avatar is formal Hollywood SF story. Has James Cameron ever been known for not creative plot but just technique"said Lee Young-soo, a SF writer and columnist.
In spite of criticism, its spectacular scenes and outstanding image technique led Avatar to be a blockbuster. It is sure that Avatar revolutionized 3D movies and it will have some influence in the overall movie industry. It is surprising that a piece of movie will change the flow of a culture. It is likely to affect technical skill of Korean movie industry. So audiences try to expect movies using new visual technique and moving and creative stories to all movie industry through the Avatar.