Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reel Low: Instant Reaction to AVATAR

When it comes to Avatar [2009], all anyone seems to have talked about for the past few years is that its creation will change all movies henceforth. After having just seen it this afternoon, that assertion is probably true. But is the movie that will change the future of movies any good, let alone great?
I'll get to that.
First, I should preface by saying I wasn't particularly excited to see it. Could've been the lackluster trailer. Could've been that the Na'vi (those blue critters), to me, seemed to have the same eyes that we got in Sleepwalkers (not exactly the mindbending effects we were led to expect, hmm?). I probably would've seen it even if my roommate hadn't insisted we go this weekend, but it did take his goading to get me out in the snow today.
We took in the 3D version, which I'm not sure was a great decision for me, personally.
I've heard reports about people getting motion sickness (there was a curiously roped off section that allowed us to get nice seats for coming in mid-preview; I suspect someone's unfortunate reaction the night before led to our good luck). That wasn't an issue for me.
I have, however, had two LASIK surgeries in the past that have increased my sensitivity to light in addition to correcting my eyesight. The 3D glasses aren't the red and blue ones of old. Instead, they are big, plastic, slightly tinted and only somewhat comfortable. In any dark stages of the film, I had a hard time picking up what was happening.
This is something that may not affect many of you out there. But I suspect it severely altered my enjoyment of Avatar. This was my first foray into 3D movies, and I'm thinking it's not a format for me. I probably would have enjoyed it more in a standard viewing.
Onto the actual movie -- it was good, but just good.
The most impressive achievement with Avatar is the special effects. They were flawless. When people say this movie will change all others, it because of the effects. This is the finest example of realistic-looking and rounded characters that has been presented on film thus far, surpassing LotR's Gollum. He was not required to carry a movie as the Na'vi were here. It'll be interesting to see how long before digital humans are replicated though. I still haven't seen a human face, especially eyes, pulled off yet. James Cameron could get away with it in Avatar because the focus was on an alien race.
Which brings me back to the 3D effects. I don't think they added much to the picture. It was largely a novelty. If studios pump out movies in 3D in the coming years, I'm not sure if that will be enough to sustain moviegoers before becoming uninteresting. Maybe I'm just the film equivalent of a curmudgeon, but I can't see this fad lasting long. It sounds as though the real way to see this movie is in XD 3D, but it is only available in 15 theaters nationwide at the moment. The rest of us will have to get back to you on that one.
The main problem with Avatar is that you've seen this plot before. Name an epic. It probably shares at least one plot point or theme. So, if you're like me, your attention wanes in spots where predictability sets in. It's what prevents it from catapulting into the upper echelon of action films, even those in Cameron's own filmography.
Happily, it isn't all predictable, especially the last 30 minutes or so of action, and I enjoyed the hell out of that stuff.
In the end, you should probably see this in a theater and in 3D because that is what everyone is going to be talking about. My roommate reported no issues like I had. He did wonder if the standard version would be better because the glasses do take some time to get used to, but that'll have to wait for the bluray disc. Avatar wasn't quite good enough to take in a second theater viewing.

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