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Melbourne’s behind-the-scenes look at 2009’s Mary and Max offered viewers a unique chance to truly witness the detail, dedication and work that really went into creating the world seen on the silver screen. Trees, characters, vehicles and entire ‘rooms’ were displayed to give us an insight as to how stop motion works at an industry level.

The room, although small, contained  over 50 plasticine characters and even a ‘skeleton’ (better known as a rig) for the characters. Trucks, bicycles, bubbles and entire sets were lifted directly from the movie and placed in one room at the convenience of the viewers. Watching the film alone doesn’t really give the viewer an impression of the detail sculpted on every piece of plasticine, this exhibition  lets its viewers get up close and personal with the props, so close you can see each hair strand places on the scalps.

Along with the large amount of props was running footage of the minds that created and brought  Mary and Max’s world alive. Sculptors, painters and prop makers briefly revealed tips and processes they each went through just to make a single character, it stretched for weeks . The dimly lit room created a comfortable yet exclusive atmosphere, the main source of light seemed to be several low light lights that were directed at the pieces which highlighted detail.

My only let down with this exhibition was the fact that there was so little displayed when so much was used  for the film. A room only a little bigger than your living room was all that was spared to display the props and characters. An animator of the film, Craig Ross, attended the exhibition but if was disappointed to see that he was the only one. Additional crew members attending daily would have given viewers a chance to talk to and understand what they each go through to create a feature length stop motion film.

Fans of Mary and Max would no doubt enjoy this once in a life time event, considering 90 percent of props and sets used in the film used were destroyed, seeing this exhibition for free (at ACMI) is no waste of time.  Adam Elliot (director) was able to salvage these masterwork’s and was willing to display them for a limited time and only in Victoria, touring plans are still undecided.

Two pesants, Matashichi and Tahei, bicker like an old couple as they walk through a barren desert on their way home from burry bodies from a clan war between the Akizuki and the Yamana. Failing to profit from the war the two roam the desert when a samuarrai soldier is killed infront of them. The two argue about the samurai’s possessions and everntaully part ways.

Each of them mannage to get themselves captured by the enemy clan and are forced to dig for a hidden treasure of the along with hundreds of others. An uprising occurs reuniting Matashichi and Tahei who then escape. Seeking warmth beside a fire they miraculously find gold hidden in a stick, now on the hunt for sticks the two confront an odd man watching them. They leave intimidated, the man follows.

Beleiveing that they had lost their pursuer Matashichi and Tahei head back to camp when the odd man sits at their fire. After an awkward introduction Matashichi and Tahei reveal their plans to slip by the enemy guard line to get back home, the stranger agrees with their plans and joins them. The next morning the stranger leads the two into a hidden fortress, the stranger then reveals himself to be Rokurota Makabe, a legendary general of the defeated Akizuki clan in hiding. Matashichi and Tahei do as the general orders when they find themselves being watched by a young woman, together they pursue the young woman but to no success. When questioned by the general Matashichi and Tahei are warned to stay away from her.

At a lake Matashichi and Tahei come face to face with the unknown woman and begin to question her, after hitting the men with a stick the young woman dissapears. Matashichi and Tahei suspect her to be Akizuki, the Princess of the Akizuki clan who now has a bounty on her head, dead or alive. The next morning Tahei returns from a nearby village after trying to cliam a reward for giving information about the princess location only find out that she has already been killed. This is good news for the general who makes his way inside a hidden cave to inform the princess that his sister was killed in place of her. Angry with recent events the princess acts as a mute to avoid suspecion as Matashichi, Tahei and the general head towards the guarded boarder to sneak through.

Along the track the general scouts ahead leaving Matashichi and Tahei with the princess, beleive that she is both dead and mute they plot to take the gold and the horses escape. Their attempt is foiled when they are spotted by the gaurds who then attack, witnessing this the general returns to the princess only to realise no one is there. Not long after the princess returns with the horses and their share of gold, the general realises Matashichi and Tahei’s betrayal and orders them to leave. The two stay with the general none the less fearing for their safety.

Convinced thier plan’s were ruined the princess, general, Matashichi and Tahei decide to head back to the hidden fortress only to find that it has been set a light by the enemy clan. With no other option they continue on their journey. At the enemy checkpoint the general causes a scene to act as a distraction so that the princess may pass, to their delight the guards are tricked and they pass safely.

Now in a Yamana village the four wonder the streets to learn they they are being hunted but soldiers. they stumble upon a young woman who was a member of the Akizuki being sold into prostitution. The princess orders the general to give their horses in trade for the woman in which the seller accepts. Now with a fifth member the group push a cart full of sticks on, a group of soldiers stop by and warn the group of the fleeing queen then ride off. Believing they had fooled the guards the group continues on the road only to realise the soldiers turn back. The general acts by killing one of the guards, the remainin guards run away on horse back to inform their superiors, general Rokurota chases them.

After a brief chase the general finds himself sourrouded by enemy soliders lead by a Yamana general. The two generals engage in a lengthy fight; Rokurota leaves the victor. Meanwhile the princess, the young woman, Matashichi and Tahei make camp and lay in wait for the genral. Not long after a large group of people carrying large ammounts of stick’s pass by, the group slips in and follows the crowd. Now in the middle of the fire festival the group is reunited with the general but now are forced to throw their stick’s containg gold inot a huge fire, Matashichi and Tahei are hesitant but the genral throws the whole lot in. The group continues to dance and sing to blend with the crowd.

The next morning the group collects as much gold as they can carry, the sounds of the Yamana clan marching draw nearer. Matashichi and Tahei’s greed overwhealms them as they return to collect more only to be spotted by the Yamana soldiers. Matashichi and Tahei lead the soldiers straight to the princess, general and the young woman who are captured, Matashichi and Tahei some how mannage to avoid capture.

Now in a cell the princess, general and the young woman await death only to find that the defeated general of the Yamana clan appears. The princess sings him a song from the fire festival, now with the intent to help the princess the Yamana genral leads their escape across the border but at the cost of losing the all the gold.

Matashichi and Tahei are again walking along a barren desert, they too have crossed the border. A group of horses carrying sticks containg gold stagger toward them. The two celebrate as they beleve they are rich but all of a sudden are captured by guards. A strange man who reveals himself to be general leads Matashichi and Tahei to be Rokurota Makabe leads the two to Princess Akizuki who rewards them for their help and are later set free.Now on their way home the men begin to argue again this time ove who should have the piece of gold.

The initial setup of the movie beings in the year 2154 where the earth has depleted its natural resources and must now seek an alternate source of energy. Jake Sully, a former Colonel who is sent to the planet Pandora in place of his deceased brother with promise of functional legs.

On a quest to gain the trust and understand the natives known as the Na’vi way of life Jake’s consciousness is transferred into and avatar thus gaining him the opportunity to use his legs.  This creates the first inciting incident where Jack doesn’t need his legs repaired but to simply has to lay in a machine. Upon exploration Jack meets a female Na’vi known as Naytiri who then presents him to their clan and is later accepted by the natives to undergo training to become apart of them under the supervision of Naytiri.

By now Jake’s inner and outer bodies experiences are in constant conflict, should he betray the trust gained by the natives or the trust given from the soldiers.  After several weeks living with the Na’vi Jake begins understand and appreciate their way of life and eventually falls in love with Naytiri.

Through the mid point Jake takes a stand for the Na’vi by attacking the human trucks as they destroy the jungle, this provokes the colonel to wage war againt the Na’vi.  Several gunships are sent to destroy the natives home while Jake admits his betrayal to the tribe and is about to be executed. After the gunships destroy the tree Jake is left an outcast by both the humans and the Na’vi, losing everything he had gained Jake decides to win back the Na’vi’s trust by taming the largest creature and returning to them with a message of sorrow and retaliation. Re-accepting Jake the Na’vi unite with several other clans across the planet to fight against the human’s.

As the humans make their way to the tree of souls armed with guns and explosives the Na’vi intercept them and war breaks out. After hundreds of casualties from both sides the war is won by the Na’vi. The Colonel and Jake eventually confront each other  and engage in a fight to the death in which Naytiri fires two arrows into the Colonel killing him. The war is won and the humans are forced to leave the planet. The movie concludes when Jake is permanently placed inside the body of his Avatar and is finally part of the Na’vi tribe.

Im going to start off by saying that Avatar is without a doubt an enjoyable, fun moive. You will leave the cinema reasonably satisfied. This film mainly explores love and human nature with visuas that out do even the story which seems to be James Camerons main focus.

It’s a beautiful looking movie from the Navi to even the plants, facial features of the actors are flawlessly mirrored onto the Navi energizing them with life. Sure the visulas looked great but what good is an animated photo realistic movie without a strong story to stand along it. Man finds tribe, man falls in love with woman, man fights for tribe, does this sound familiar? Yes, its 1995’s Pocahontas.
Those of you who said 2010’s Avatar, i guess you were right too. Whats changed?

James Cameron dedicated 10 years of his life making this moive with nothing more to show other than a pretty picture. What a waste. One of Hollywood’s giants, one who created a cybernetic icon known as the Terminator and one of the greatest love stories on Titanic couldn’t really come up with something more origional. Maybe im being too harsh but my expectations were set much higher for a man of his caliber. Thats not to say there is no content in this moive, the battle for love is deeply explored as too is humans savage nature and greed which corrupt that world just as it has our own.

I would recomend this movie to almost anyone because of its money making formula, it works. You’ll have just as much fun learning and exploring the world of Pandora just as the characters do but dont expect any world changing messages or anything to challenge the mind.