This was a fantastic movie!
No, really, Avatar was quite possibly the most important movie of the past several years. Certainly, I think it was the most visually stunning and will launch us into an entirely new world of digital animation that will get better and cheaper as time goes on. In fact, this movie was so fantastic, that when I saw it in a regular, non-3D, non-IMAX theater, I knew I would eventually see it in the full, 3D IMAX version. So, instead of this just being the second of two slightly stale reviews, I’ll be combining in the review of the 3D version, too.
Right, so, this has been one of the most anticipated science-fiction movies ever. People have been talking about this for months, at least. In fact, it’s been around so long that when we first started hearing rumors about it, no one quite knew what it was really going to be about at all. Just that it was going to be big, that James Cameron was behind it, and it had something to do with people taking over bodies via some science-fiction thing-a-ma-bob.
I purposely avoided reading about it as long and as much as I could. Early on, people were tossing around terms like “revolutionary” and “ground-breaking” and that sort of thing always makes me nervous. So often, that just sets up consumers like us for a movie that, frankly, can’t possibly live up to expectations.
Well, this one did.
I saw it first in 2D and I was impressed.
For most of the movie, you forget that it’s almost all computer generated graphics. The backgrounds and sets that are digital just look real. In the best CGI films, like this one, the effects are forgotten, mostly, and just, well, part of the background. The movie, the story, is what you see, not the effects. And, this is just what happens in Avatar. As spectacular as the CGI is, at no point did I feel that the story took a backseat to the graphics. The Navi, the indigenous aliens, are all computer graphics, but they’re so well done that you never really think of them as anything but real. Truly fantastic.
And, that’s the story, really. There’s a planet that has a very valuable mineral on it and we’re there mining that mineral. The problem is, the Navi, those native aliens are sort of in the way. In fact, there’s a big tribe of them right on the richest deposit of that very valuable mineral. Enter Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, who, due to a quirk in genetics, timing, circumstances, ends up “riding” a genetically engineered “avatar” which looks just like a local. He replaces his twin brother, who was a scientist, on the mission and ends up getting into a bit of trouble early on which separates him from the rest of his team and lost in the very alien woods. That’s where he meets one of the local girls, who reluctantly takes him under her wing. Turns out, she’s the chief’s daughter and her mother is the local tribal shaman. Mommie dearest is the one who insists that Neytiri, the little local girl, played by Zoe Saldana, teach Sully their alien tribal ways. And so it goes until the fateful day that the miners show up to destroy the tribe’s home camp so they can get at the huge mineral deposit. And really, that’s the the plot, in a nutshell.
Now, I won’t tell you who wins, but I asure you it’s the good guys. All you have to do is figure out which they are.
So, the thing is, it’s not a revolutionary plot. The characters, while fully fleshed out, aren’t anything overly special. The music is mostly good, though there are a couple of times that the songs aren’t particularly great. The acting is solid, which is sort of remarkable, considering that much of it’s done through motion-capture CGI.
But, somehow, it all comes together.
I think that’s the genius of James Cameron. Somehow, he can make the magic work. And, in this movie he really does make the magic happen. He takes these disparate elements, none of which are particularly interesting on their own, and marries them to the best and most advanced CGI anyone has ever spent the money to make. It’s at that point that things get really interesting. That, in a nutshell, is what makes this film something new and special.
People have compared it to Star Wars in its import.
I’m not sure it’s quite that, but it certainly is a bit of a game-changer.
Now, this may not be quite obvious if you see this in 2D, but when you see Avatar in 3D you will see a miracle on screen.
This may seem like an exaggeration, but I assure you it is not. The 3D is so good, so seamless, so real that you will flinch when things fly at you. You will believe that you are seeing documentary footage of an alien planet with an alien landscape filled with alien flora and fauna. You will forget to blink. Seriously, I had to remind myself to blink. That’s really how good it is. It really is the most remarkable thing I’ve seen on screen since, well, I think since Star Wars.
The level of detail is incredible. The insects fly off the screen at you like something actually alive. The glowing plants are so realistic that you feel like you could order them off the damn internet. All the crazy stories about all the bullheaded determination that Cameron pours into his movies and with which he tortures his crew must be true because his end product is like being immersed in an entirely different world. And, that, of course, is what you’re paying to see.
And that, in the end, is my reccomendation to you.
GO SEE THIS MOVIE!
What’s more, go see it in IMAX 3D. It may cost you a bit extra, but it is worth every penny you pay to see this film as Cameron intended you to see it. Also, waiting until you see it on home video will not be the same. I promise you, it will be a good movie no matter what the format, but the way to see this film, the way that will make sure you don’t feel like you’re missing something big and important, is to get yourself to an IMAX theater and slap those goofy 3D glasses on your face.
Trust me. You will love it.