Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Avatar review

UPDATE 04/17/10 - This weekend they re-released Avatar in 3D to promote the home video release (we don't really say "home video release" anymore do we?) and i went to check it out for my 4th time in the theaters. I came away with these thoughts. yes, avatar is a rehashed white savior story that has been told better in the past and with more nuance. the anti-corporation and pro-environment elements are about as subtle as a tour bus, but dammit, this is the kind of stuff i would want my kids growing up with so they don't turn into cynics who dismiss positive messages in the media unless they pander to our need to feel sophisticated and clever. avatar says something important about where we are, where we're going and what kind of mentality we need to adopt if we want to change. also, i still couldn't take my eyes off the screen. i wish i'd updated this sooner to tell people to see this at an AMC rather than the arclight dome. the arclight may have installed all the latest technology required to show avatar as intended but somehow the execution fell far short. the last 2 AMC's I watched this at, even at the overpriced "IMAX experience", have been a revelation to behold, with bright, sharp, nearly blur-free 3D. also, since i've seen it so many times i was able to focus on the background subtleties of the film and it's crazy how much thought went into the details. for example, you can see that the holographic maps of pandora are being projected by a series of tiny RGB projectors arranged in a circle, pointing toward the central viewing area and something about that just seems so plausible. my favorite character by far has become stephen lang's colonel miles quaritch, who's single minded badassery had me cheering out loud for the guy almost every time he's on screen. i'm curious to see how avatar holds up on home video and how much my enjoyment of this film will be tied to the awesomeness of its 3D technology on a giant screen. and for what it's worth, i think they should have split the best picture and best director oscars between this and hurt locker. it would have satisfied oscar politics because hurt locker might have deserved one award, but not both.

INITIAL REVIEW 12/19/09 - i'm pretty sure this is spoiler free. i was a little underwhelmed at the start of avatar. i'd made efforts to avoid most of the media hype but i still had expectations. i mean, it's james fucking cameron. right off the bat, and this almost always worries me, there's a lot of explanatory voiceover setting up the premise. it's intercut with some space sequences, the purpose of which is to get us to the meat of the story in the pandoran forest as soon as possible, and that is where the movie really takes off; once jake sully, our handicapped hero, enters his avatar body. i don't watch many 3D movies so the slightly blurred and washed out image took some getting used to. the use of 3D in avatar, while perhaps being more fully realized, is at the same time subtle and pervasive so it wasn't until my eyes adjusted that i found myself completely enthralled with the world of pandora. i know you're probably gonna see this movie anyway, but if there's one thing i want you to get from this review it's that i literally did not take my eyes off the screen once throughout the entire film. that being said, there's nothing original going on here storewise. this is basically just another retelling of the white savior myth and not a complex one either; but simple stories are easier for audiences to connect to and i'm not going to fault avatar on that. my girlfriend also made an apt comparison to miyazaki's films which tend to center on female characters and balance/coexistence/struggle with nature. i can see how people might think the characterization is two dimensional. there's no sarah conner, Ellen Ripley or even a t-800 here. that's not to say the actors don't do a good job. zoe saldana's na'vi warrior is wonderful and the main bad guy, played by stephen lang, is only two dimensional in the best and most badass of ways. the motion capture and character animation on display is stunning and you can absolutely see how much of the actors performances shines through their CG characters. even if the integration of live action and CGI isn't as completely seamless as advertised, it is completely integrated and at no point was i ever pulled out of the world of pandora because i thought something looked fake or to CG. i have a feeling i'm going to be spending a lot of money watching avatar in 3D several more times. next up is IMAX 3D.


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