As noted in the previous post
, after it had been out for months we finally went to see the 3-D extravaganza that is Avatar
. I'd been... disinclined toward seeing it... but that really stemmed from thinking what I saw in the trailers looked like watching a three-hour video game combined with fatigue from the hype surrounding the movie. The critique was mostly of the media and awards show voters who had heaped praise on it, not of the movie; I couldn't offer anything about that until I actually viewed it, of course.
We spent the $16.50 per ticket for a matinee showing on an IMAX screen, which seemed the best viewing experience. (With tickets at that price it isn't difficult to rake in high box office numbers, but I digress.) For the first showing of the day the theater was not even half full with less than 20 minutes until the start time, but when the lights went down it was not jam-packed but pretty close to capacity. (We overheard a woman near us remarking to her companion that it was her third time seeing it, so as "virgins" we may have been in the minority.)
Having sat through all 2 hours and 40 minutes of it, what was my opinion of it?
It's a good movie. On screen the animation looked much more realistic than the video game appearance it had on when seeing the trailer on a TV screen. It was a visually interesting science fiction film with a fairly conventional David-versus-Goliath story. None of the performances were anything to write home about, but obviously it wasn't about trying to really get us to care about the characters that deeply but to dazzle us with the spectacular world they were inhabiting.
I found myself thinking as I watched it—while I was still in the middle of watching it—that it didn't need the 3-D; the story, while not exactly groundbreaking, was entertaining enough on its own; the technological aspects of the visual presentation, which involved wearing special glasses for the entirety of the movie, seemed to suggest that Cameron had abandoned the notion that a good story doesn't need all the bells and whistles, and he'd stick with dazzling the audience rather than getting them to be emotionally invested in the narrative and the characters.
In short: He followed the same path that George Lucas blazed when he made the three Star Wars prequels. (I'd even concede that Avatar
has a better plot than those three films—although that's not necessarily an impressive feat.)
I'm not suggesting that such a path is not lucrative; obviously it rakes in big bucks at the box office. People show up for the spectacle, which they've been doing since before Barnum and Bailey. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with giving people that spectacle. The performance-capture technology that he apparently developed in order to make the film certainly is worthy of every technical award that's out there to be won.
I know that people are going to see the movie multiple times, and if they enjoy it that much then by all means they should. Personally, I couldn't sit through it again (at least not in 3-D; I had a slight headache after leaving the theater).
I found the acting performances to be uninspired (something that's also true of all the Star Wars films), but that was never going to be the bread-and-butter of a sci-fi film. The story struck me as derivative of Cameron's own Aliens franchise, with the evil corporation obsessed only with making their profit margins. (The ships and weapons actively reminded me of those from the Aliens series as I was watching the movie.) Arguably this was akin to Alien 3
, with Riley now as a scientist, and where the aliens were cute and humanoid rather than monstrous.
I'm not suggesting that Cameron cannot rip off himself (that's certainly his due), or that there's not room for a kinder, gentler aliens-versus-corporation movie.
In short: Avatar
is absolutely a worthwhile movie. It is not, in my humble opinion, worthy of the laurel of the motion picture industry's highest honor. It's a good movie, sure, but it's not the best one.