On a lighter note, I went to see James Cameron’s latest blockbuster Avatar last week.
There’s two distinct aspects to this movie and I’ll tackle them separately.
Definitely the weaker of the two. If Cameron spent 15 years planning and making this movie, I’d bet he spent only a short period of that time on the plot. Whether it’s a thinly veiled rebuke of US foreign policy or just lazy writing, the theme of Avatar has been done before and done better. Poor oppressed naive people (country) brutalized by big, greedy corporation (bigger country) but learn to fight back thanks to a member of the latter who falls in love with a girl from the former and switches sides. Ho hum. Didn’t see that coming. Little guy defeats big guy and everyone walks off into the sunset where everything will be unicorns and rainbows forever. Gag me with a spoon.
Oh my God! This movie will define the exact moment when movie making changed forever. A cinematic masterpiece that has to be seen in 3D. There’s a metric crapload of CGI on display here but it doesn’t take long before you can no longer tell where it stops and “reality” begins. I won’t be spoiling anything to say that the story revolves around a race known as the Na’vi who inhabit the planet Pandora. They’re 10 feet tall and blue. Yep, gotta be CGI and they are. But they look so dam real that you start looking at them as real. The integration of motion capture to get the actors’ facial features and mannerisms is so seamless that I couldn’t pick out anything that looked in the least bit fake or out of sync.
The landscape is both beautiful and terrifying. Some of the scariest movie critters ever imagined are on display here and they will scare little kids (and some big ones as well). More impressive are the smallest of creatures, gossamer in construction and flawless in movement. Floating mountains, flying creatures and fearsome war machines are all rendered with complete believability.
3D has finally achieved all the promise that started with those cheesy cardboard glasses with the red and green cellophane that let you see spears coming at you. Today’s version comes with cool Blues Brothers inspired black frames with gray lenses. The “let’s scare you with something coming directly at you” tricks are still there but they’re completely separate from what makes this new technology so powerful. Things appear at the corner of your vision and drift into frame – in front or behind the action. In your face but not in-your-face if you get what I mean. A scene where the forest is burning and embers float by blew me away. You feel like you’re actually there and the embers are falling on YOU. It’s done so well that it’s really impossible to describe. You have to see it.
Story aside, this is a great piece of art. Cameron and crew have made a movie that will be talked about for years. It will recoup all the money that it cost and then some. It will clean up on the technical awards at the Oscars. It will make you glad that you saw it – just make sure you see it in 3D.
Story: 4 out of 10
Visuals: 11 out of 10