I am pretty old-fashioned when it comes to movies.
For me the most important thing in a movie is the story. No amount of special effects can compensate for a weak plot or cardboard characters. That is why I am no fan of Star Wars, or Titanic. That is why Avatar didn’t do it for me.
Avatar, the little movie directed by James Cameron of Titanic fame, is visually stunning. The representation of the world Pandora amazingly vivid and some scenes, specially the ones where the characters soar through the skies, are breathtaking. But the story itself is lacking.
For those of us who had children in the 1990s to compare Avatar with Disney’s Pocahontas is inevitable. You have the indigenous Princess, the daring/handsome outsider and the outsider’s people threatening the New World. There is even a talking willow in Pocahontas, the living tree in Avatar.
Yes, special effects are not my thing. Yet, when I saw that visual effects wizard Mark Foster would be talking at the County Theater about, well, visual effects I couldn’t resist. For one, his credentials were impressive. He has worked, among others, on Titanic, Apollo 13, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Last Airbender, The Road and, of course, Avatar.
Another reason I went was because I don’t know anything about visual effects and wanted to understand a little better ‘how they do that.’
I’m glad I went.
I still don’t totally understand how they do those amazing tricks that give us ten feet tall blue people, water horses rushing down a riverbed, a rocket being sent into space, or a palace out of ice. But I learned a little more about the different techniques, the difference between special effects (effects made on the set and recorded live, like an explosion) and visual effects (things changed later on production or added in the computer like the crocodile in Peter Pan).
It was through photography that he drew me in, as photography has an important role on his work in The Road.
Mr. Forker showed us still photos corresponding to different stages of the production to illustrate how he created the eerie atmosphere in The Road. I loved it when he explained the way different shots were changed, images added, houses moved from right to left, graffiti painted on the side of a broken bridge, and a still picture of two ships in New Orleans became the haunting, apocalyptic image of an ocean at the edge of the world.
Quite impressive, indeed.
I can’t wait to rent the movie. For the story, of course.