Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The people of New Zealand Paid for AVATAR (Twentieth Century Fox) James Cameron blockbuster

Seeing Avatar in 4-D
By TOM PULLAR-STRECKER - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 25/01/2010

OPINION: Few taxpayers who have seen Avatar would have guessed they
had already paid the ticket price in the form of the $44.7 million
government grant awarded to the film's producers.

It certainly adds another dimension to the viewing experience.

Indirectly, the very private Weta Digital is probably the biggest
single beneficiary of the largesse from the public purse.

Its reputation may be its biggest drawcard in winning work from
Hollywood, but it may be that the grant was required to get Avatar
over the line for the company.
It would be hard to quantify the benefits of bringing big productions
such as Avatar and The Lord of the Rings to New Zealand.

A fair slice of the spending on Avatar would have gone on kitting out
Weta Digital's brand spanking new Miramar datacentre with imported
computer hardware.

Weta had 700 people working for it in March last year when work on
Avatar was at its peak, but many of its graphic artists are
contractors who flit from country to country.

It's anyone's guess what proportion of their pay cheques would be
recycled into the economy.

Film New Zealand acting chief executive Sue Thompson notes that film
productions have had a huge spinoff for tourism, although that is
probably more true of The Lord of the Rings trilogy than it will be
for Avatar. Godzone became Middle Earth, but marketing it as Pandora
might be stretching it.
The more amorphous reputational benefits shouldn't be dismissed,

Weta may enjoy being behind the spotlight more than in front of it,
but New Zealand's involvement in the production has not gone unnoticed

It is the country's highest-profile industrial achievement.

It is possible that the movie industry may become a game for high
rollers, too rich for Kiwi taxpayers to stay at the table.

The hope has to be that the film industry's undeniable momentum and
the country's natural advantages - its skills base and the lifestyle
it can offer young, creative people - will mean that New Zealand can
get away with offering lower subsidies than competitors, or at least
not further fuelling the arms race over production grants.

The media in South Korea is expressing some cynicism over the ability
of its government to buy its way into the industry.

Encouragingly, Weta Digital spokeswoman Judy Allen reports a strong
pipeline for the year ahead, with work on The Adventures of Tintin,
The Secret of the Unicorn, The Hobbit and other projects.

There is some irony in Sir Peter Jackson's acquisition of the film
rights to Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines novels.
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In the books, which are both nostalgic and futuristic, cities have
become mechanised but impoverished, travelling an increasingly
scavenged Earth in search of other cities they can conquer and scrap.

Civic competition in the film and special effects industries hasn't
quite come to that, but it's closer to the bone than the cliched
depiction of economic motivators in big business on Pandora.


AVATAR takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery

AVATAR takes us to a spectacular new world beyond our imagination, where a reluctant hero embarks on a journey of redemption and discovery

James Cameron's epic motion picture, Avatar - in theatres December 18th worldwide. Starring Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez

"Avatar" director James Cameron talks about not one, but two sequels he has in mind for his latest blockbuster.

Director James Cameron made Titanic, the highest-grossing film in history

1. Avatar
2. Production year: 2009
3. Country: USA
4. Cert (UK): 12A
5. Runtime: 161 mins
6. Directors: James Cameron
7. Cast: CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana

Any lingering suspicions that James Cameron has become the Al Gore of Hollywood will be firmly extinguished by his new, monstrously-hyped creation. For a while, it looked like he was giving us a reasonably sweet-natured blockbuster, suggesting that the natural world has, like, the power to heal us all, or something. Then Cameron sends in the helicopter gunships and starts blowing shit up, big time. Way to undermine your own message.

Avatar, for anyone who's had their head in the sand for the last few months, is the first film in over a decade from the man behind Titanic, still the all-time box-office champ. The success of that film presumably allowed Cameron to write his own cheques for this one, and it's a project that's been stewing on the back burner for at least as long, waiting for the special-effects industry to catch up.

And whatever the truth behind the rumoured hundreds of millions spent on it, Cameron certainly gives Hollywood a lot of bang for its buck. Avatar, in all conscience, looks fantastic â.. a near-seamless melding of fantasy extraterrestrial landscapes and cutting edge computer-generated imagery, all inserted beautifully into the high-testosterone camerawork which Cameron has made his specialty.But what is this highest-of-high-end image-making aimed at? Cameron has constructed a fable that combines militarist sci-fi, alarmingly vacuous eco-waffle and an intra-species love story that is presumably designed to cover all the bases. The central character is one Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic marine who is assigned to a mining colony on the alien world of Pandora, where he joins a band of nerdy scientists trying to establish friendly relations with the locals; this they hope to achieve by fusing their brains with specially developed beings (the "avatars" of the title) that are a blend of human and alien DNA.The locals turn out to be spindly blue 10-foot humanoids with distractingly twitchy ears â.. suggestions that Avatar is somehow channelling Ferngully are not all that wide of the mark. Sully quickly falls for the non-specific mystical rabbitings of the tribe, involving memory-harbouring trees, intimate relationships with flying lizards, and other such prog-rock-influenced stylings. It really is like a Yes album cover come to life.Sully's position is made considerably more tricky by the genocidal glee of his human military commander, who â.. in a plot move shamelessly similar to Cameron's earlier film, Aliens â.. is prepared to cause mass casualties in the service of the sleazy mining-corporation executive.There are heavy-handed attempts to implant contemporary references (at one point, the marines are told to fight "terror with terror"), but there's no mistaking what Avatar is taking aim at: the founding myth of America, and the incursions of European colonists into indigenous civilisations. The Na'vi, the tribe with whom Sully fetches up, are a sort of grab-bag of generic tribal characteristics â.. a little bit African, a little bit Amerindian, the equivalent of one of those worldbeat restaurants that serve up teriyaki tortilla and the like.To his credit, Cameron is a skilful narrative organiser, and fairly soon he has you rooting for the aliens, not those pesky human invaders. (This may not be the most tasteful approach though, to use on an American audience that still doesn't appear to feel especially guilty about what happened to the indigenous people on their own continent.)Be that as it may, Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can't in all honesty say it pulls it off â.. it's baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack.

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