Michael Biehn was considered for the role of Col. Quaritch. He met with James Cameron three times and saw some of the 3D footage, but in the end it simply came down to the fact that Cameron didn't want people thinking it was Aliens (1986) all over again, as Sigourney Weaver had already been cast.
James Cameron, the man behind such masterpieces as Terminator, Aliens, and Titanic, had an idea in 1994. This idea would involve computer generated actors and would cost somewhere in the range of $100 million to make. This idea was Avatar.
Set on the fictional world of Pandora in the year 2154, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) has been selected to participate in the Avatar program after his brother was killed in action. The goal of the program is to communicate and form a relationship with the indigenous life forms called the Na’vi. Earth is deteriorating and the human race has come to Pandora in hopes of setting up a colony. The planet is a dangerous place though, where everything will try and kill you.
While in his Avatar, Jake experiences a world like no other. After getting carried away exploring, he becomes surrounded by dangerous Viperwolfs when spending the night deep within the forest. When all seems lost, he is saved by a female Na’vi named Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). Despite being an avatar hybrid, Jake becomes engulfed into the Na’vi culture and develops a relationship with Neytiri. Constantly switching between human and avatar, Jake must decide which life is reality as things heat up between humans and Na’vi.
Before we get to the film itself, we need to talk about the effects. Cameron had developed a Fusion Camera System for shooting in digital 3D. For Avatar, he used a modified version of this system to create visuals like no other. But is it substantially different from what we’ve seen in previous 3D films?
Avatar looks fantastic, period. Whether you want to attribute that to the spectacular 3D effects or just the computer generated graphics is up to you. When the film begins, it does take some time before you become adjusted to the 3D. It does look different than what’s been done before. Images are crisper and everything pops, not just the characters on screen. As the film goes on, you become engulfed in the world and culture of Pandora, almost like it was a reality.
Aside from the 3D, it’s the Na’vi culture that creates the image that what you’re watching is real. Cameron and the rest of the team have gone to great lengths to develop an entire history for Pandora. The Na’vi have their own language and traditions. You can actually go to the store and buy a book that will detail Pandora down to every plant and animal. It’ll even tell you stuff that doesn’t get discussed in the film, that’s how detailed it is.
Performance-wise, Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña deliver. The fact is half the time you’re looking at 9 foot tall blue creatures with tails; it doesn’t really cross you’re mind at all. This is especially well done with Saldaña as she doesn’t have a human counterpart. The Na’vi emotions and facial expressions are spot on as well. Sigourney Weaver, who plays botanist Dr. Grace Augustine, practically looks the same in her avatar form. Throw in some supporting appearances from Joel David Moore and Michelle Rodriguez and you are set.
Cameron has a lot to live up to after Titanic, the biggest blockbuster in film history. Avatar delivers but I doubt it will be anywhere close to those figures. The three hour length might be off-putting for some but it doesn’t drag on one bit. Avatar is definitely the must-see movie this holiday season though, and if you have the chance, watch it in 3D. It’s worth the few extra bucks.