Thursday, December 24, 2009

On Avatar

If you want to skip the preamble and get to my review, go find the purple one-line review.

When, years ago, I heard that James Cameron was (finally) making a new movie, I was happy. At the time, all I knew was that the title was Avatar and that it was in some way science-fictionish. This seemed like a good thing to me; I've enjoyed the sci-fi Cameron flicks that I've watched (haven't seen Aliens because I'm a pansy and can't handle remotely scary movies). The Terminator was a good movie that made excellent use of available resources to produce a coherent, innovative flick. It went beyond simple action film because it was an unstoppable force meeting a squishy object. And somehow the squishy won. The Abyss is a movie that I first saw in my early teen years back when laserdiscs were fab.

*returns from reading through most of that LaserDisc article*

Anyway, I loved the story of The Abyss (the long know, the one that makes sense), and was awed by the effort that went into the production of that film.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day was a spectacular piece of film making which was ambitious in its development of technology, presentation of effects, and continuation of storytelling. One of the few sequels to (according to the informal poll of my conversations with people over the years) exceed the quality and "goodness" of the original. I love this movie.

Okay, that's a lot of rambling about movies that you didn't come here to read about. You want to know what I thought about Avatar. Well, recently I've found myself apathetic in general towards films, especially going to a movie theater to see them. First off: my only theater option has 8 screens. 3 are new, "state of the art" (in quotes because they're really not that great) theaters with nice screens, projectors, sound systems, and stadium seating. The other 5 are old and decrepit and not that great.

The screen with the most seats is #2, one of the old and decrepit ones. That's where new blockbusters show up. Given that my options are to watch new blockbusters there in that setting, drive 90 miles to a respectable theater (it's already 30 to the one I just described), or wait for them to come out on DVD, I tend to go for the DVD option. You see, my parents have a 54" DLP TV, nice surround sound, and a house built in such a way that I can watch National Treasure 2 cranked as loud as I want it while my parents sleep. The next day they asked why I didn't stay and watch a movie. I said, "Umm, I did. Loudly."

Yeah, I like watching DVDs at their house. Some day they'll upgrade to Blu-ray and I'll like it even more.

Anyway, I was dragged (not especially kicking and screaming) to go see Avatar by someone who had already watched it and said it was good. I knew from experience that his taste in movies is less particular than mine, but for the most part I can gauge how well I'll like a movie from his reaction to it. My fears that I'd hate the movie were assuaged by his assurances that it was, in fact, not just an excuse for nine-tenths naked blue CGI aliens to run around a screen for 2 and a half hours showing off the amazing new effects that artists can create. It turns out that the movie was much better than I feared, though not as good as I had hoped.

I'm pleased to report that this was a science fiction movie which . . . as far as I can recall . . . completely failed to annoy me with any of the little crimes sci fi movies are notorious (at least in my little mind) of committing. The technology was believable. The aliens were interesting. The fact that they were blue aliens with weird faces was sufficient to completely avoid the uncanny valley effect. The story was solid (though not especially unpredictable), the characters consistent (and interesting and distinct), and the preachy-ness of the themes explored by the natives was less annoying than I had feared.

In short, I recommend this movie as a solid science fiction action flick with lots of cool visuals, interesting concepts, characters, and plot. The story is not by any means breaking new ground or mind-blowing, but it is solid. The film delivers on its promise not to waste your time.

1 comment:

radium226 said...

I've heard more than once that the 3D alone is worth seeing it for... did you not see it in 3D? Anyway, I -still- haven't seen it. I hope I get around to it before it leaves the 3D theaters.