Sunday, December 20, 2009

On Avatar

Let's get the basics out of the way first:

* Go see it.

* Try to catch it in 3D.

* Unless your expectations are way out of whack with the kind of movie the trailer advertises, you'll greatly enjoy it.

* It has flaws, but they don't ruin it.
Now, let's get to some specifics.

The look is as awesome as you've heard. I've enjoyed many of the new crop of 3D movies, but Avatar is by far the best of them at using 3D well. Almost all of the time, Cameron integrates 3D into the shots, so it adds life and realism to the movie rather than serving to distract or simply screaming, "Hey, look, a 3D shot!" Even without the 3D effects, the movie is simply gorgeous. No alien world may ever prove to look like this one, but this is the way we'd like an alien world to appear.

The story is basic and predictable, but I believe that's intentional, because in Avatar Cameron is all about myth-making. He tells us so repeatedly, and the story operates best on the mythic level.

That said, the acting is better than most critics claim. Sure, some of the characters are too easy, especially the bad-guy military leader, but even he is wonderful to look at and so reeking of his character's single-minded focus that we don't tire of watching him.

Perhaps as important as all of those things, however, is one simple fact: Avatar is a game-changer that will become the standard to which we compare SF movies for some time. In the same way that Star Wars and The Matrix showed us things we'd never seen before and reset our expectations, Avatar raises the bar yet again and makes us realize just how good modern SF movies can look.

12 comments:

Dragonsally said...

I saw it on Friday, and loved every second of it. I thought everything about the movie was good. We went for a 10th birthday party, and the kids loved it every bit as much as the teenagers and adults.

I am going again - I want to see it on the big screen in 3D one more time.

Michelle said...

I totally agree. It is splendid. And, this type of filmmaking would give new dimension to your novels. James Cameron could take your creations and make them visually spectacular. No more arguments about who should play Jon, his character can look, act and be what is created for him. I agree, this movie, with it's flaws, was fun to watch and left me thihking magic is real. I saw it, in 3D.

sarah said...

Going to see it at IMAX in 3D on Wednesday night! Thanks for the review. My sister wants to know if it's ok for her 12 year old... opinion?

Mark said...

I also hope to see it again with folks who missed the first run.

Mark said...

I'd be fine with Cameron directing Will Smith in a series of Jon & Lobo movies.

Will Smith, are you listening?

Mark said...

Sarah, I think it's fine for a mature twelve-year-old. There is violence, and some character die, but it's not as bad as many TV shows airing at 8:00.

Todd said...

Mark, you are dead on in your synopsis. I posted it on my Facebook page to explain the 3D experience.

I saw the movie yesterday and thought it was also a "game changer".

Mark said...

I'm glad you also liked it, Todd.

Michael said...

The 3D is so well done and so immersive that on more than one occasion I was about to swat a fly in front of me in the theater, and realized that it was an image in the movie.

... I had my hand cocked and ready to swat; damn it messed my brain up when I realized what I was doing.

Mark said...

I agree that it was the best 3D film I've ever seen.

Bernadette Bosky said...

This year's theme at the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts was "Race and the Fantastic," and the conference featured an excellent session of nuanced papers on *Avatar* and *District 9*, but films with a lot going for them but some queasy-making issues about race. Like *Dances with Wolves* and others, *Avatar* has the benevolent colonizer gone native who is somehow better at it than all the natives. Annoying. But the fx are amazing.

Mark said...

Bernadette, I have to agree about the race issues. In fact, one cannot think too deeply about the plot of the film without encountering multiple issues.

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