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Avatar” Breaks Into New Territory

Above: The logo for "James Cameron's Avatar"

If you've followed movie hype over the last few months, you would know that this holiday season isn't so much about Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, but more about the release of James Cameron's "Avatar."

Just as the holiday season is starting up, so is the blitz for the film's December 18 release. The blitz isn't so much about a single 3D movie as much as a synergetic marketing force that crosses the boundaries of cinema, video games and the Internet.

An image from the film "Avatar," featuring a digitized version of actor Sam Worthington.
Enlarge this image

Above: An image from the film "Avatar," featuring a digitized version of actor Sam Worthington.

Few movies have garnered as much media hype as Cameron's sci-fi epic. For Cameron, this will be his first feature film since the release of his Oscar-winning 1997 box office giant, "Titanic."

Cameron said in a featurette for the Fox Movie Channel, that his original plans to make the film in the mid-1990s were halted by the technology available at the time. The project was shelved and re-opened almost five year ago when the technology finally became available.

"Avatar" tells the futuristic story of the struggle between colonizing humans and the indigenous people of the world of Pandora, the Na'vi. A human/Na'vi hybrid, called an avatar, must quell the friction between the two peoples.

Over the summer, Cameron revealed 20 minutes of 3D footage during San Diego Comic-Con International that wowed an already excited crowd. Cameron said numerous times that he had to invent new filming methods and technology to accomplish his vision of the lush tropical world of Pandora.

Today, Cameron, along with stars Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana, teamed up with MTV and Facebook to have a live question and answer session over the Web. Fans asked the director and its stars an array of questions about the movie, its production and its fictitious realm.

On Tuesday of this week, "Avatar: The Game" was released on nearly every video game platform imaginable.

The game is being met with tepid reviews for a lack of coherent storytelling, but the technology and development by Ubisoft Montreal is a rarity for movie titles licensed to the video game world.

Since the Atari 2600, games based on films have been notoriously bad. Titles are often licensed out as a sort of marketing afterthought to under performing developers that make a generic product. In the case of "Avatar," Cameron sought to have the development of the video game, which serves as a prequel to the movie, concurrent to the production of the film.

According to an interview with the Gamespot during June's Electronic Entertainment Expo, 3D models, sound effects and the world of Pandora were ultimately shared between the game's developer and the film's staff over the four-year production cycle.

A screenshot from Ubisoft Montreal's game, "James Cameron's Avatar: The Game."
Enlarge this image

Above: A screenshot from Ubisoft Montreal's game, "James Cameron's Avatar: The Game."

One feature in the video game that is getting a lot of attention is actually way ahead of its time. "Avatar: The Game," boasts stereoscopic 3D visuals for 3D-enabled HDTVs. The functionality, which is available for console systems like the Xbox 360, allows players to get an immersive view of the game not seen before.

Unfortunately, the number of 3D-enabled HDTVs around the United States are very few in number. So, "Avatar: The Game" may be worth picking up again in a few years when the technology becomes more widely available.

The reviews of the game have shown that while "Avatar" is better than most movie tie-ins, it is still not perfect and won't fundamentally change the realm of movie licensed-video games. Time will also show, though, if the concurrent develop of video games and movies will yield a more perfect product.

Now excuse me as I go play "GoldenEye 007" for the Nintendo 64…

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