(I've updated this review a bit after watching the movie.)
If you're blown away by the visual quality of the Pandora, as shown in the trailers, you'll be glad to see that majority of the art in this book are on the environments. There are also designs for the plants, animals, vehicles and the Pandora inhabitants, the Na'vi. Weta Workshop is also roped in to provide some models and help in designing the Na'vi. The creativity behind the design and the scale of work is of course amazing.
The downside is there are only 108 pages, which is underwhelming considering that every set and prop in the movie is made totally from imagination. They certainly could have packed more pages but the price is also lower for that matter.
This book didn't include as much preliminary designs as I hoped, like the iterations they had to do to get to the final designs. The only area where there are iterations are the character designs for the Na'vi. The rest, like the flora, fauna, vehicles and sets look pretty close to the finalized designs.
Most of the art in this book look computer generated (not that it's a bad thing) and there are very few pencil sketches. Quite a few pieces created with mixed medium are a bit jarring to me, like mixing photos with digital painting for backgrounds. Again, nothing wrong with mixing medium but some of the styles just clash and calls for attention in the wrong way.
The writeup talks mainly about the design concepts and very little on the production. Stereocopy, which James Cameron is an advocate of, is used, but it's only briefly mentioned.
I'm intrigued that James Cameron actually wrote the script in 1995. But he had to wait until 2006 before technology was (deemed) advanced enough (for him) to make the film. I thought technology was already available when Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released in 2001. So what technology are we really talking about here? It's not mentioned but, well, this isn't a making-of book. I'll definitely be getting the disc when it comes out.
Overall, this book looks like a rush job. Page 82-83 has an image of the flying Ikrans printed upside down. I can't imagine how it's possible to place a picture on a page (on the software) without looking at the picture. There are very slight pixelation with the really big pictures, something I don't normally see with other movie books.
It's a nice book but more for Avatar fans. But be prepared to be underwhelmed, especially after you've watched the movie.
3.5 out of 5 stars
(More pictures are available on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)