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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Obligatory Avatar Review

Yesterday I went out with my wife and nephew to see Avatar.

Not in IMAX. No, apparently, that sucker's sold out 'til August.

So we went in for a noon showing, expecting to sneak in and sneak out without it being too much of an issue.

Heh. Wow.

Guess it's a good time to be a theater owner 'cause DAMN it was packed. Like, insanely packed; Little-children-getting-their-feet-trampled-by-line-butting-assholes kind of packed (poor kid...).

Anyways, on to the show. (minor non-plot spoilers peppered throughout)

Just so you know, I'm coming to this as somewhat of a 3D aficionado. I've always been a fan of the concept and I generally search out films that have it -- it may not end up being the 'waaaaave ooooof theeee fuuuutuuuure' that some have made it out to be, but when it's done right it can be a breathtaking experience (check out Wild Ocean 3D in IMAX).

For a great number of people, James Cameron's last film was Titanic but for me (though they're technically not 'movies') 'Ghosts of the Abyss' and 'Aliens of the Deep' are still somewhat resonant in my mind's eye. My fascination with the deep is almost as intense of that of outer space and so when I sat down and was transported into Mr. Cameron's forays beneath the waves, I found his love for the abyss quite infectious.

And I think that's what ultimately sold me on Avatar.

In this film I found that it was his connection to Pandora, his openness to expressing its beauty and its utter vulnerability that grabbed me.

This was a world he intended to share from the get go.

Unfortunately, the world is far more interesting than the story taking part in it.

Now, let's pause for a moment here. Since I've yet to see Avatar in IMAX, I'm going to hold off on getting into the real gel of the 3D of it -- 'cause, truth be told, when I was sitting there in my 5th row center seat I became acutely aware that I was missing subtle flourishes that had been added. Flourishes that Mr. Cameron had obviously meant to be seen in the larger format.

But in the context of the (smaller) non-IMAX showing, I'd have to put the 3D down as 'breathtaking'. His decision to have the Human world be cold and sterile and limit the 3D effects to things like computer screens and such actually makes the pulsing 'life' of Pandora all the more vibrant. Here the 3D isn't used to thrust a sword at your face (though that moment does exist, of sorts) it's used to show distance and perspective -- to enhance a sense of closeness. The world hums beneath our protagonists' feet and, thanks to Mr. Cameron's deft use of his new 3D tech, we can almost feel that hum ourselves.

Simply put -- and if I haven't made it clear by now -- visually, Avatar is sumptuous.

Mr. Cameron's known for having an eye for detail and my eyes threatened to burst in my attempts to drink it all in. His realization of an entire alien biosphere is, hands down, phenomenal -- hell, even if I'd end up being eaten by a Thanator, I want to visit this world just so I can see it with my own eyes.

If this is what alien worlds look like, sign me the hell up.

That said, what bothers me the most about this film is that this vibrant, multi-faceted world is shackled to a story that is so utterly black and white.

I predicted every major turn of the movie long before they actually hit, even how it would go down and who'd be responsible... if I wasn't in the middle of having my eyeballs scraped off the side of my skull I'd have been yawning my way through this rubber band of a tale.

On the bright side, the world is there. It's built and -- if we believe the glimpses we get from other parts of the planet -- there's more to see. There are other stories to be told here, other characters and tales and environs to explore. All things that I'm sure'll be brought up in the inevitable sequel.

One which I'm hoping will clock in at a brisk 100 mins or less.

'Cause I know I've heard people talk about the length of the film but I don't know how much it really hits home until your 9-year-old nephew taps you on the shoulder to show you the time.


(apparently he was keeping track)

We went in for the 12pm showing and after the commercials and the trailers and the movies, we got out around 3:20pm.

Again, it must be a great time to be a theater owner.

All-in-all, Avatar is the rare kind of blockbuster that deserves its fanfare; Visually, this is Mr. Cameron's 'Starry Night' in glorious 3D.

While the script certainly isn't going to win him any awards, his passion and wonder for this planet is infectious, leaving us with a childlike wonder and a need to touch and splash and play.

I can't wait to go back.


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