“avatar” discussion and review

I have a motto when it comes to super-hyped movies. It’s very simple: “Don’t believe the hype.” It’s more of a personal motto rather than something I’d tell some random Jack or Henry I see on the street. There have been times in my past, I’ll follow along with the critics and award shows hearing about this awesome movie (aka, the hype), but then when I finally see it, I’m wondering if this was some practical joke. Did I see the same movie everyone else did? A movie that comes to mind is American Beauty. I’m not going to say that I hated it, but let’s just say I wouldn’t go through great lengths to tell people about it. I didn’t care for it as everyone else apparently did.

Everyone is a critic, as they say. And no one will ever be able to please everyone. But what happens when it seems like everyone is pleased? And everyone, besides the critics, is generating the hype? Can the hype be true? Sometimes, yes. And I might be inclined to agree with it before seeing it. Even if, on rare occasions, I choose to disagree with the world afterwards, this happens from time to time.

That’s a lot of build up… but I just want it to be clear about my approach to movies.

I first heard about Avatar maybe two or three years ago. Maybe more. Like most of the world, I had no idea what it was about. Then some of the teaser trailers came out. Then a few screenshots. A blurb here, a blurb there. A quick scene here on this website or this TV show, and then an official trailer. The buzz was buzzing everywhere. Fans from who-knows-where started to talk ferociously about it. (I later imagined that these fans are followers of Cameron.) Critics were getting antsy. I had no idea why. I saw the same photos and clips they all saw, but perhaps I was missing something? Oh, it’s in 3D? Yeah… so? Who isn’t doing that these days?

Then it came out.

Then the box office exploded. A few times actually. For about 2-3 months!

Then friends of friends, and eventually my own friends started demanding I go see it.

Indoobians, I want y’all to understand that I had no intention or desire of seeing this movie. My interest level was maybe at a 15% or less, compared to 82% or more for Sherlock Holmes (which was in theaters at the time and, for the record, I still haven’t seen that). But the way hype works, is it gets others excited or at least interested. And I will admit my interest was getting heightened.

The big part of the picture I was missing was the technology being put into this film. This wasn’t an ordinary 3D film. The fact that James Cameron built his own special camera and filming technique to make this movie is quite astonishing. The other part I was missing is, well, you can’t really be told. You just have to see it. Surely, looking at the two-dimensional of what looks like your typical CGI characters isn’t all that impressive until you either realize how realistic they are… or consider the technology it takes to make them look as real as they do.

But really, it’s the 3D that grabbed me. And not in a gimmicky “reach out and grab you” way. You know what I mean, when they throw something at the screen just to make you jump or go “Oooo! A paddle-ball!” Okay, so there were a couple occasions they used the “in your face” approach, but it fir within the scene. And I will also admit that I did feel like I was in another world once I let go of the fact I was in a theater or watching a movie. Things actually appeared to be floating in front of me. I once ducked trying to dodge a branch, and attempted at swatting flies.

I won’t lie. I can be sucked into a movie based on graphics alone. I think I’m the only person I know that somewhat enjoyed Speed Racer. Yes, it’s a long and boring story, but it is also pure eye candy. “The colors, Duke! The colors!” Rest assured, Avatar has a plot. A pretty good one too. Even for a movie as long as it was, I didn’t find myself bored or worried about the time. There was enough going on to keep me in the magical word of Pandora.

Hopefully, either you’ve already seen it or know enough about it that I don’t have to explain what Pandora is… but because I like to be semi-professional, I’ll give a brief synopsis.

A former Marine who has lost the use of his legs gets inducted into a special avatar program that’s taking place on a distant plant. He gets to mentally control this avatar on the planet of “hostile” inhabitants. These are the giant blue people you keep seeing in magazines and commercials. They are at least 10 ft tall, compared to the tallest person you know, they are big. Anyway, the Marine loves being his avatar because he can use his legs. He also likes hanging out with the natives and learning their ways. Sadly, he’s also on an intel mission, gathering info for the military who plan to destroy the jungle to harvest a precious material. He eventually has to make a choice to fight for or against the humans, and consider the outcomes of both.

The plot isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking. In fact, it can be kinda predictable. But not in a bad way. It’s not always bad guessing what will happen next or even how it might end. It’s the journey to the end that can be stimulating, as the case here.

I’ve heard people argue that the characters are never fully developed. I feel as though I got to know them good enough. As I said before, this movie’s story isn’t really anything new or groundbreaking. If anything, it’s showcasing the new technology and how it can be used. “Literally” bringing us to a new world with new creatures.

Required use for Avatar

So is this the future of filmmaking? Most would hope so. However, they better be using Cameron’s cameras because a lot of the 3D films being pumped out aren’t exactly filmed the way Avatar was. Will it still achieve the same 3D effect? I can’t honestly say, I’ve only seen Alice in Wonderland and Avatar in 3D, and Wonderland lacked in the dimensional department. Not every film needs to be filmed this way. Not now anyway. But if they are, I have my special glasses.

But my judgment on this movie? Although the time is growing late, and if you haven’t seen it in theaters, you probably never will. But I would go as far as to say that it’s required to see this in 3D if you are going to see it. As a 2D film—good story, but it can leave you bored if you don’t invest in the story and some snacks. Even with as much many as it made, it wasn’t enough to snag Best Picture or tip the scales for winning the most Oscars this year. But it’s not my favorite movie of the year anyway.

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Posted in academy awards, movie, review, writing

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March 2010
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