Avatar (and Papyrus)
I saw Avatar last night (in full 3D IMAX glory) and really enjoyed it. It reminded me of how I used to feel when I would play video games as a kid — not so much because of the graphics or anything like that, more because of how in it I felt. I remember when I used to play Zelda for example, my imagination would just take over and for those couple hours I lived in that universe (I was a nerdy kid). Avatar is like this; it is very easy to forget you are watching a film and think you are actually physically along for the ride, as there are no visual limitations to give you any indication otherwise. There were moments when you could hear the whole theater let out audible gasps as something incredible came on the screen. The first time you see one of the giant mining machines is pretty amazing. Of course the plot follows an extremely predictable trajectory, but seriously who cares. When things look this cool I am willing to make concessions on freshness of plot.
I saw the film with a few friends, one of whom is an interaction designer. He was mesmerized by all the crazy user interfaces the characters were manipulating. The spherical and detachable computer screens were a favorite. Meanwhile I couldn’t get over the choice of typeface for the subtitles; Papyrus (or some variant, essentially the same thing). The rest of my friends thought I was a huge nerd when the first thing I said out of the theater was “What was with that subtitle font!?” It is crazy to think (in my opinion) that $280 million went into this movie and they chose the one font that is at the end of most typography jokes (save maybe for Comic Sans). I know it probably fit better than a super clean sans serif (and I can’t imagine there weren’t hours of discussion over this point), but seriously, Papyrus?
Further: Kottke describes another interesting issue, regarding the realism of the Na’vi’s technological development. I don’t necessarily agree with his point (I think they were as advanced as they wanted/needed to be given the physical and spiritual qualities of their world), but he makes an intriguing argument.