James Cameron talks Avatar

Cameron holds forth on colonialism, CGI faces and why his characters are better than Gollum...

A slight hiccup on board in Avatar

Marketsaw have highlighted a chat between James Cameron and the Phillipine Daily Inquirer, where the Great Man (yes, despite what many DoG readers may think, I do believe he is a great man!) reveals that the edit of Avatar is now finished, and talks a little about the increasingly controversial design of the Na’vi warrior race featured in the recent 16 minutes of IMAX previews and in the trailer that was released the previous day…

On the closing stages:

“In the most important respects as a director, I’m 100 percent done because the film is shot and edited…My job for the next few months until we deliver at the end of November is more as a visual effects person, working to make sure that the shots look real, that they’re all up to an even standard.”

On the Na’vi:

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“[The studio] asked, ‘Do they have to have tails?’ We’re very happy with the way the Na’vi worked out because what we found is the tail and the ears show the characters’ emotional state. A cat owner knows that you can tell a cat’s mood by what its tail is doing. Just as we created a verbal language, we created a vocabulary for the tail and the ears.”

On Pandora

“Pandora is a very Earth-like world in the sense that it has trees, foliage, wildlife but you can’t breathe the air as a human being. So the human presence on Pandora is confined to what is called the base which is actually a mining colony. If you want to go out and interact with the indigenous people of Pandora, either you have to use breathing equipment or you have to use these Avatar bodies.

“These bodies are a way of remote projecting your consciousness into a biological body. So the thing to keep in mind is that it’s not like ‘The Matrix’ or any other virtual reality film where a character goes into a virtual body, into a virtual world. This is a real, tangible physical world and you’re inhabiting a biological body.”

On colonialism

“…We’re basically telling the story of the Americas and to a certain extent some of the other areas in the world that were conquered by the British, Dutch and so on, but we’re really telling the story of what happens when a technologically superior culture comes into a place with resources that the conquerors want.”

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“The photo-realism of facial CG for humanoid characters had to improve significantly. Peter Jackson forming WETA and doing the Gollum character in the Lord of the Rings films demonstrated to me that technologically, it could be done. We were going quite significantly beyond what Peter had done with Gollum because we have multiple characters based on different actors.

“Gollum was largely a key-frame, even at that time, even though the performance was based on what Andy Serkis has done. By key-frame, I mean that animators actually sit there and animate it. I didn’t want it to be animation. I wanted it to be performance. I wanted it to be what the actors did.

“If I showed you what Zoe, Sam and Laz had done, you’d see that it’s exactly what the characters do. These aren’t characters by committee. They’re characters that are performed by the actors. Their body and facial performances are captured.”

Check out the complete interview here.


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