Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar Review

I went down to Bangor yesterday with my mother and sister to see Avatar in 3D at Bangor Mall Cinemas. The line for the ticket booth was all the way out the front door when we arrived. Hoping that the 11:50 showing of Avatar was not already full we waited in the cold till the line shortened enough to get inside. Once at the booth and after paying the premium price for 3D tickets we received our 3D glasses and proceeded to theater eight. Modern 3D is still pretty new on the block, especially up here in Maine so there are very few theaters with 3D equipped projectors.

We found a decent seat near the front and popped on the bulky plastic glasses (which by the way are much more comfortable than the pathetic red/blue paper ones). From the previews before the film to the credit roll afterward, everything was in 3D. It took some getting used to but after a few minutes it lost the disorienting effect for the most part. In the trailer for the new Alice in Wonderland film the Cheshire cat face came out of the screen and floated towards me (50 seconds in). To paraphrase my sister (who apparently doesn't like being quoted) the old Disney pink and purple cat was creepy enough. The new cat is downright scary.

Anyway, enough about the previews, the actual film was very impressive though it was obvious that James Cameron (director) doesn't like cutting scenes from his films. I suppose he can do whatever he wants though, he helped design the camera used to film Avatar. The technique he used to capture the footage is fascinating. Read more on that here or watch a short clip. The nearly three hour long sortie in a theater chair, which normally would get uncomfortable, was nearly unnoticeable. Cameron successfully pulled me into his world. I give the film a 9 out of 10.

The plot line was as I expected from the previews; Paraplegic progresses to planet Pandora and proceeds to preserve the primary populace's place of prayer. Okay, I was going to do that for the whole plot overview but just that sentence almost killed me. Anyway, the plot was very believable in terms of characters. Jake Sulley, the star, had a personality that was easily related to. He reacted in realistic ways rather than being entirely the typical bravado-filled Hollywood hero. His personality developed realistically. I immediately became attached to his character emotionally because he was unable to walk on his own but when he is in his Avatar he was able to run through the canopy. There is a very uplifting scene when he is able to walk for the first time.

The dialogue was very witty at crucial points when I didn't even realize I was tense. For example there is a scene where Jake has to approach a flying beast and try to tame it. One of the Na'vi (the native blue people) tells him that the beast must choose him. "How will I know if he chooses me?" Jake asks. "He will try to kill you." the Na'vi responds. "Outstanding." The simple fact that Cameron chose the word "outstanding" rather than the typical "great" or "wonderful" lent a realistic dimension to Jake's character that wouldn't have otherwise been there. This is just an example of course. I know it may seem small, but it's the little things that get me.

The science was beyond ridiculous, but hey, that's where the fiction in science fiction comes in. Mainly the floating mountains (never explained) and the long distance consciousness-transfer. Everything else had at least a pseudo-scientific explanation. Oh, and the mineral the humans are trying to mine is dubbed "unobtainium." Really? I suppose it gets the point across, but I would've called it Pandorium, considering the pandemonium it causes and that it presumably can only be found on Pandora.

The story paralleled some of the challenges faced by the Native American culture as European countries invaded the New World. I don't want to give anything away to you poor souls who haven't had the opportunity to see this masterpiece yet but I will say that the ending, while fulfilling and most uplifting, did not have the impact it could have. If I were Cameron, I would've gone for the shock value of an opposite outcome. The resulting discussion from such an outcome would've been much more poignant and, again paraphrasing my sister, maybe made people go out and do something about the state of the world.

One final note about the film. If you are going to see it, either see it in regular 2D in theaters or see it in full IMAX 3D (the only IMAX in Maine is in Saco). While the 3D I saw in Bangor Cinemas was good whenever an object moved offscreen that had been "close" to your face it seemed to disappear from view. This was mildly disorienting  In IMAX, since your field of vision is almost entirely covered by the screen this problem would be negligible. No matter how you see it, you NEED to see this movie. With a great story, great character, phenomenal special effects, and an important message, this movie is near perfection.

For more on Avatar and James Cameron, watch this interview (part 1) and (part 2) from 60 minutes. At one point Cameron says something that is very important to me.
"I think the moment you're making a film, no matter how crude, no matter how small or cheap the film is, you're a filmmaker."
This may seem rather redundant, but the message behind it is clear. If you are making movies, you've got a shot at the big time. 

I could go on and on about this film and how it was made and all that jazz but you are going to see the film anyway and be infected with the same fervor to know more about it so I don't have to tell you do I?

I have been entertained and it is good.

I actually have a schedule as to what I'm going to be blogging about the next couple of days in addition to my daily activites. Amazing I know! Tomorrow I will introduce you to rockets that go BOOM.....and bring me the latest internet news.

The day after that I will be serving up a nice big platter of interesting links for you to explore.

And the day after that (I know, crazy prepared) I'll be listing a whole ton of movies that I've seen and want to see and that you should see and how trailers are amazing and and and and.