Alright. So I was wrong. Let’s just get it all out in the open right away. For six months I’ve been bagging and busting the chopping of Avatar. Well, last night I saw it the way it was meant to be seen – in IMAX 3D. Was it good? Yes. I wish I could say that this has taught me a lesson – don’t bag on movies before you see them – but I’d be lying if I said I’ll never do it again. It’s the human nature of anyone who is into movies and I’m sure that I’ll fall victim to my own idiocy again more sooner than later. Alright, let’s move on to the review.
Avatar really does look great. The landscape of the planet Pandora is very rich in detail and you can tell that James Cameron spent hundreds or thousands of hours going over every aspect of its design. If you have a good level of suspension of disbelief, you can literally get lost in this film and feel like you’re there. You can definitely still tell the Na’vi are CGI when you see full body shots of them, but amazingly close-ups of their feet and hands look almost frighteningly real. The other thing that was kind of creepy was how real the close-up head shots looked and how from different angles, you could see the actors’ actual features in their avatar’s face. It really was amazingly well-done. My only other complaint is that some of the animals still had a shiny CGI look to them that distracted you from fully being immersed. The mix of actual real actors, machinery, and CGI came off without a hitch.
The acting started out a bit forced, which I believe had something to do with the dialogue possibly. Even veteran actor Sigourney Weaver was having trouble pulling off the lines. It almost seemed like they started to settle into their roles, which is pretty much impossible since the film I’m sure was shot out of sequence. Sam Worthington did a great job in his role as Marine Jake Sully. Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch was a bit over the top and times, but still quite a bit of fun. Michelle Rodriguez was basically just your typical Michelle Rodriguez tough-girl. I’m not a tech head, so I don’t know how much of the actual actor you see onscreen, but Zoe Saldana did a great job making the different emotions of her Na’vi character, Neytiri, quite believable.
Now, let’s move on to the story. It’s pretty much recycled from any other number of films like Braveheart or even The Alamo. You know – the small guys fight against the odds and in the end win because of their big hearts and belief in their cause. It gets to be a bit overwhelming and heavy-handed because you’ve got that aspect (which obviously is meant to be a mirror image of the uprooting and treatment of the Native Americans) mixed with an environmental message, and then Cameron even throws in some New Age Mother Earth mumbo-jumbo to further push his obvious agenda. It all gets to be a bit overbearing. Apparently, Cameron felt that this was his platform to let us all know his world view on politics, the environmental plight, and spirituality. Which is fine, since he spent some twelve years on this thing and it’s obviously his big baby of a movie?
The 3D filming was very well-done. It wasn’t too in-your-face and was used quite well to accent and give depth to the scenes for the most part. There were some parts that were a bit hard to focus on and seemed a bit cluttered, like some of the chase scenes and such. I have to say that if you don’t see this in 3D, you’re pretty much wasting your time. It’s most definitely not going to have the same effect in 2D and is going to lose quite a bit.
Overall, I have to say that I’m glad I gave the movie a chance and went to see it. I was originally so stupidly against it after I was disappointed in the Avatar Day footage that I wasn’t even going to see it in the theater. That would have been a mistake. It’s a fun and entertaining film. It gets a bit intense and dark at times with the destruction of the Na’vi’s home. Just be prepared to be force fed James Cameron’s beliefs while you’re enjoying the visual eye candy and munching your popcorn. You’re going to hear what he has to say, whether you like it or not. (Review by Eric Shirey)