World of Avatar Inspires Fans, Turns Putin Blue

For MTAvatar is the highest grossing film in Russian history, making 3 billion rubles ($98 million) in sales by Jan. 31.

Local fans of the box-office smash “Avatar” are continuing to flock to see the tale of the blue aliens and glow-in-the-dark jungles, but they are also learning to speak the language of the 10-foot-tall creatures, created by James Cameron, and writing their own sequel to the movie.

Although “Avatar” has slipped to second place in the Russian box office, it still hit total ticket sales of more than 3 billion rubles ($98 million) as of Jan. 31, according to web site Film.ru, making it the highest grossing film in Russian history.

And some fans are returning to see the film again and again.

“The film made a huge impression on me. I’ve already been to see it five times,” said Andrei Teplinsky, 15, head of the “Avatar” fan club with more than 21,000 members on Russian social networking site Vkontakte, who said he is planning a sixth trip soon to one of Moscow’s two IMAX theaters.

Russian fans of the movie have, like many around the world, fallen for the lush fantasy world of the film’s alien planet. “I would give away anything (except my soul) to live there. I’m already looking for any way to learn the Na’Vi language,” one devotee wrote on the page set up by “Avatar” fans on Vkontakte.

Teplinsky is also writing a sequel to the film with four friends. “The action will take place on Pandora,” he said. “Neytiri and Jake will have a baby. And we’re thinking about adding a few animals.”

The film, which is 60 percent computer graphics and 40 percent live filming, follows the adventures of a disabled ex-Marine, Jake, who gets a second chance at life when he travels to the distant planet, Pandora, and joins in an experiment that involves inhabiting a blue, alien body.

Russian fans have translated the alien language on web site Na-Vi.ru. The language was developed by a professor from the University of Southern California especially for the film and has a vocabulary of about 1,000 words.

Na-Vi.ru also has an encyclopedia of information about the fictional planet, Pandora, as well as detailed explanations on how to transform yourself using Photoshop into a blue-skinned Na’Vi avatar using a photo of Matt Damon as an example.

Russian newspaper Moi Rayon went a step further, turning President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blue for a story on the film: Medvedev is alien Jake, and Putin — his thinner girlfriend.

The film is also drawing out people who would normally just illegally download the latest film.

“I didn’t watch a pirated copy of the film on purpose, even though I had a chance to,” said Nadezhda, as she came out of watching the film, “so that I could see it for the first time in the theater. [The film] was beautifully done.”

There are no theaters in Moscow showing “Avatar” in English, and it seems unlikely that there will be in the near future.

“Experience … shows that the number of viewers wanting to see the film in English is negligibly small, and the box office from such showings doesn’t even cover the expenses of the original copy,” said Vadim Smirnov, head of marketing at 20th Century Fox CIS.

Local theaters that show films in their original language, such as Pioneer and 35MM, focus more on art-house movies, and "Avatar" is not the type of film that they would normally show. However, Dome Cinema still has hopes to be able to persuade Fox to let them show the film in English.

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