Remember when you first saw Star Wars, and started learning the rules of the Force for the very first time? Or how about Blade Runner or Minority Report, when you first peeked over the shoulders of Rick Deckard and John Anderton, looking out at their futuristic cityscapes?
Over the last six months, as I’ve talked Avatar with a good many people, conversations invariably drift back to the look of the thing – focusing on 3-D computer graphics and the blue-skinned aliens frolicking through the forests. But only recently have I begun to fully appreciate how Avatar will offer that unique thrill, of discovering a whole new realm of reality for the very first time. It’s clear that James Cameron has processed all this down to the smallest detail – from the layout of the galaxy to the terrain of planet Pandora, the diversity of its ecosystem and the behavioral patterns of its inhabitants.
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The more I’ve had a chance to learn about Pandora, the more ambitious this whole vision seems to be. That’s why I was psyched when HarperCollins sent over a link to a browsing program that allows users to skim the new guide Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora, which went on sale just before Thanksgiving. Scrolling through the dense and layered back story, I was actually rather captivated, to read about how scientists first discovered this hospitable satellite of Polyphemus, about how it was the planet’s strong magnetic fields that led mankind to first discover the lucrative and extraordinarily powerful mineral known as unobtanium.
I know some people out there are starting to suffer from Avatar fatigue, but I find myself getting more excited, the more I read about it all. Learning about the various species of plants and animals, translating English words into the native Na’vi language, and then reading about the latest military equipment being dispatched to aid with the Pandora situation, it becomes clear that two prominent civilizations are about to go head-to-head.
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I used to focus on the special effects and the battle scenes, but now I’m starting to go beyond all that. With Avatar, I’m just stoked to explore this 3-D world, to check out what these creatures and exotic fauna can do. I’m wondering what sunsets look like in this corner of the universe, and what it’s like for humans to cross Pandora’s terrain by foot or by air. I’m starting to get revved up for all these smaller details that are so often overlooked by filmmakers. Maybe it’s a good thing, that Cameron’s been working on this thing for the better part of a generation.
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