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Mixed views over whether blockbuster will help with the rebirth of 3D cinema; Titanic director's latest movie to feature new take on old idea.

Byline: Darren Devine

ONE of the most expensive films ever made could be about to revolutionise the movie world, Welsh industry experts said yesterday.

As Hollywood stars attended Avatar's UK premiere last night, it was claimed the pounds 300m production would mark the coming-of-age of cinema's recent 3D revolution.

Critics say the sci-fi film, which took Titanic director James Cameron four years to make, marks a giant leap forward from the days when lurid 3D movies were watched through cardboard glasses with coloured cellophane.

The love story, telling of an intergalactic battle on the jungle-covered moon of Pandora, becomes the most high-profile this year to use the recently resurrected technology. It follows in the footsteps of Disney's A Christmas Carol, Up and The Final Destination.

Reviewer and broadcaster Gary Slaymaker said today's cinematic offerings have moved on immensely from the first wave of major 3D movies in the 1950s.

Slaymaker said: "It does actually add more depth to a film and not just in the 3D thing - it brings out an extra dimension in the story telling. For example they released a 3D version of Toy Story [14 years after the "flat" version in 1995]. They'd obviously managed to go back and do some 3D work on it, but it hadn't spoilt the original.

"Last year there was a U2 concert in 3D and that's a hell of a thing to watch because you actually felt you were in the audience."

Critics have suggested Avatar's special effects could prove as much a landmark moment in cinema history as Star Wars in the 1970s and War of the Worlds almost 25 years earlier.

In the movie Jake Sully journeys to Pandora as part of human efforts to source valuable minerals from its forests and finds himself in conflict with the indigenous humanoid race of Navi people.

Daniel Llovet, co-founder and marketing director of Cotech Sensitising, which manufactures the plastic lenses for cardboard 3D glasses, believes the technology is now a much firmer part of the film industry than in the past. And it could even become the way we watch our televisions in future, he said.

Mr Llovet, whose Tredegar-based firm will begin making the newer generation of glasses next year, added: "Next year you'll be able to get 3D TVs.

"Then all you'll have to do is purchase a pair of glasses and you'll be able to see 3D on your TV.

"But at the moment people have got recently-purchased flat screens and they are not going to throw them away so I reckon it will take about five to six years."

However, some industry experts remain sceptical. Film lecturer Dr Nathan Abrams says gimmickry, no matter how advanced, will never be a substitute for the cornerstones of great cinema - well constructed plots and plausible characters.

He believes that as in the 1950s and 1980s when a spate of sequels were made in 3D, including Jaws, Friday The 13th and Amityville, the latest generation of the technology will prove to be a fad.

Dr Abrams, of Bangor University, said different "viewing platforms" like the internet mean it's possible to piece together films on websites such as YouTube and this makes a 3D revolution unlikely.

He said: "We've witnessed in cinema the development of all different types of technologies and fads, but what underlies it all is the need to construct good narratives and stories with believable characters we want to watch.

"And if you need a gimmick to sell a film - and I see this as a gimmick - there's a problem with the film.

"If the underlying film is good most people are happy to watch it in 2D."

CLICK ON Get the latest on the Welsh arts scene in The Arts Show WalesOnline.co.uk /video Landmarks of cinema - from animation, to the talkies, to 3D The first animated film was created by Charles-emile Reynaud and shown in 1892 in Paris using a system similar to a modern film projector.

Modern film-making as we now know it started three years later with the invention of the motion picture camera by Frenchman Louis Lumiere.

Then, in 1896, the Edison Company's Vitascope projector became the first commercially successful projector in the US.

Meanwhile it may surprise cinema-goers who think 3D movies are a relatively recent innovation that the first such movie of its kind actually dates back nearly 90 years, when The Power of Love was shown to a paying audience at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel.

The first feature-length movie originally presented as a talkie, or with sound, was The Jazz Singer, released in October 1927.

Westworld, starring Yul Brynner, became one of the first movies to use computer generated imagery (CGI) in 1973.

Following a recent resurgence in the production of 3D films, James Cameron's Avatar, released in the UK next Friday , becomes the highest profile release in this current movie trend.

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STAND OUT IN THE CROWD: Avatar had its premiere last night, and many experts believe it will hail a new golden age for 3D cinema STAR: Sigourney Weaver arrives at the premiere
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 11, 2009
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