h1

My Avatar Experience

January 25, 2010

What I’m about to say doesn’t really make any sense. I’m a self-proclaimed movie buff and lover of great film-making. James Cameron has been one of the most successful and talented directors in my lifetime. There was tons of hype prior to the film’s release and it has recently passed The Dark Knight as the nation’s second highest grossing film of all-time, only trailing Cameron’s Titanic . Word of mouth for the film has been pretty spectacular. Yet, somehow, six weeks after its release, I woke up this morning and I still hadn’t seen Avatar.

2009 hasn’t exactly been the most active movie year for me. It’s almost February 2010, but I’ve only seen a handful of movies from last year and nearly all of the films on Oscar’s radar are unseen by me. Perhaps life has finally gotten in the way of my hobbies. I broke up with my girlfriend (and movie-watching partner) in March and I’m yet to find a reliable replacement or someone that watches movies and appreciates them the same way I do. My role at my job has also become much more demanding and time-consuming. I only work nights, so I prefer to spend the few precious morning and afternoon hours I do have, either sleeping or catching up with responsibilities unrelated to my job. Or maybe I’ve simply become a lazy bum. Needless to say, getting to the theaters has been tough.

Well, the Avatar hype machine finally caught up to me this past week and woke me from my slumber. Somehow I had managed to dodge any news of the film’s success and critical praise for five weeks. My former roommate and fellow film afficionado informed me of Avatar’s record-breaking box-office results, a clear sign of great word of mouth. He also chimed in with his own opinion, saying it was a great movie and I absolutely had to see it in 3D. I went ahead and put it on my To Do List. The last straw was when a group of ladies in their 50s and 60s sat at one of my tables at work and raved about how amazing the movie was. They insured me that I needed to see it immediately. I made plans to see it the next day.

Despite my buddy’s insistence, I still wasn’t sold on the idea of seeing it in 3D. Sure, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t about to travel out of my way to make it happen and the idea of wearing some goofy ass red and blue glasses for roughly three hours didn’t sound all that awesome. Luckily, the theater closest to me was showing it in 3D, a technology I didn’t even know it was capable of. I can say with confidence that no one I talked to about Avatar did the 3D in this film justice. I don’t know what I was expecting. The only film I’ve ever seen that had any 3D in it was Freddy’s Dead almost 20 years ago, so I really wasn’t prepared for what was in store. I was sold before the trailers were finished. The advances that have been made in 3D technology since my initiation 20 years ago are astronomical. The Cheshire Cat was within reach despite the fact that I was sitting in the middle of the theater.

Movies have always had the capability of taking you on an adventure. Even so, films still didn’t have the means of fully immersing you in their world like a book can. Not anymore. Avatar plunges you right in the middle of Pandora with the rest of the characters. Creatures were screeching right in front of my face, debris was flying at me, and actors were jumping off the screen. It was amazing. The action sequences were more exhilarating than any roller coaster I’ve been on. I was stunned. I can’t imagine watching this movie in any other format. I’m curious to see how they are going to handle the DVD and if it’s going to hold up on my piece of shit TV. I can’t even fathom how awesome this movie would be in IMAX 3D. I might have to make that my next priority.

From a technical standpoint, Avatar is going to be remembered as a ground-breaking film. I can’t say it’s the first film to fully realize the potential of 3D, but it’s certainly the first mainstream blockbuster film to utilize it successfully that I’m aware of. In my lifetime there are a few films that stand out in my mind as bullet points in changing the way movies are made. The first one to really wow me with special effects and film-making trickery was Robocop. Not only was the protagonist made of metal and bad ass, but the robot Alex Murphy fought against was particularly awesome and unique for the time period. Half a decade later, another James Cameron film, Terminator 2: Judgement Day did things with special effects that had never been seen before. The T-1000, to this day, is still one of the dopest things I’ve ever seen on screen. Two years later, Steven Spielberg made dinosaurs look real in Jurassic Park. Can you imagine seeing that movie in 3D on an IMAX screen? Even though the quality of the JP franchise has diminished greatly since the original, the possibility of a T-Rex in 3D and Spielberg’s alleged increased involvement has me looking forward to the fourth installment. The next movie to stand out in my mind is The Matrix and the introduction of bullet time photography. Movies were trying to mimic Neo’s dance moves for years to follow. I should also mention Toy Story and Pixar for changing the way animation is done. The 2000s brought us CGI, which seems to have limitless possibilities and the tremendous advances in technology the past decade have kind of spoiled us to the point where it has become hard to truly impress us. Avatar and Real D 3D has managed to do just that, which is a pretty remarkable feat in this day and age. Trust me, unless I missed out on something major the past few years, you’ve never seen anything like this and you absolutely must watch Avatar… in theaters… in 3D. I seriously can’t emphasize this enough.

Fortunately, Avatar doesn’t rely completely on 3D to sell its tickets. All around, it’s a very well made and unique film. The world and creatures of Pandora are equally different and breath-taking. Cameron’s Navi civilization is strangely beautiful; it’s hard to tell where the make up ends and the computer generated effects begin, as even the slightest facial tics are finely detailed and loyal to the creatures’ emotions. Not only that, but the relationships of the characters with the animals and manipulation of the environment around them reminds me of JK Rowling’s ridiculously layered Harry Potter universe. Even the humans get to ride around in machines that make Robocop’s nemesis look like Bender from Futurama.

While Avatar is going to receive most of its accolades due to its presentation, the story is pretty damn good too. James Cameron deserves an Oscar nomination for the writing he did on this movie. Clearly, his imagination and talent goes beyond how to film a great movie. Sure, it’s hard to distinguish some of the minor Navi characters from each other, but the core of this story stems from Jake Sully’s relationship with the Navi Neytiri and both of these characters are fully realized and developed. You get emotionally invested in their adventure and there were at least a few moments that actually sent chills throughout my body, a sign that separates the great movies from the truly amazing ones.

Talking with a friend after the movie and hailing Avatar as one of the best films I’ve ever seen while predicting it as a lock for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, he quickly downplayed the flick’s greatness by claiming unoriginal themes and weak characters. Okay, sure, we’ve seen technologically disadvantaged and repressed societies overcome their suppressors hundreds of times before… but not like this… in 3D! And yeah, some of the Navi and human characters are shallow and quickly forgotten, but all of the important ones make their expected impact. So yes, I’m calling Avatar the best movie of 2009 and one of the most innovative films I’ve ever seen. I fully expect this movie to get a dozen Oscar noms and I’ll be shocked to see anything better in the near future.

Grade: A+

2 comments

  1. I want James Cameron to do Dragonriders of Pern


    • Dragonriders of Pern is set for release in 2011… but I don’t see any director attached yet.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: