January 2, 2010

#051: Avatar

I hope everybody had a merry Christmas and you are having a great start to the new year.  I will be trying to get back on track with the posts here in the next couple weeks.  I have seen quite a few movies since the last time I posted.  I will reflect and decide which ones, if any, deserve a blog post. There is definitely one that I wanted to write about.  A couple days before Christmas I was lucky enough to be able to go watch James Cameron's Avatar.

First off, I want to make it clear that I really enjoyed this film.  I had a great time watching it.  Seeing this in 3D was unlike any other experience I have had at a theater.  It was fun, entertaining, and I would gladly give up the dough to watch it again in a heartbeat.  If there was a theater close by I would jump at the chance to see this baby on iMax.

Avatar takes place on the planet of Pandora; a world so fully imagined and realistic.  The 3D pulls you into the jungle and immerses you in its bizarre creatures and plant life.  We spend most of our time with the Na'vi, the indigenous people of Pandora. We see their culture though the perspective of Jake Sully played by Sam Worthington.  The military scientists have grown their own Na'vi in the lab, and set up a system for humans to mentally transport themselves into the alien bodies and control their actions.  Sully, a paraplegic marine, gets his chance to walk again in the jungles of Pandora with the legs of his 10 foot tall, blue, cat-like avatar.  In the film our time is split between the Na'vi world and the human world.  In the Na'vi world everything is computer generated.  It is not photo-realistic, but it is nonetheless amazing.  The 3D brings you right into the jungle and makes you feel as if you are running alongside Jake Sully.  The visuals are beautiful, and the animation is truly amazing.  The realistic quality and epic scale of Avatar make it completely worth shelling out the money to see in the theater.

Avatar was one of the most memorable theater-going experiences I have had in a long time.  However, it really wasn't that great of a movie.  It was fine, but there were a lot of things wrong with it.  Every film comes down to characters, and the interactions between them, no matter how much eye candy is thrown on the screen. Avatar was really nice to look at, but to me the story felt like an afterthought.  Cameron knew what visuals he wanted on the screen, and he merely used the plot to take us from one sequence to the next.  The film was filled with piss-poor dialog and over-exaggerated acting.  Most of the characters were more like cartoon characters.  For the most part they were unoriginal and one-dimensional.  The only character I really even cared about was Na'vi princess Natiri played by Zoe Saldana.  Speaking of her, how did they make an alien so sexy?  I think the 10 foot tall Natiri was way hotter than her human inspiration.

If you think you might want to watch it, definitely catch it in the theater.  I would recommend the 3D.  When it comes out on DVD it won't be nearly as attractive to spend the 2 hours and 40 minutes of your life on this film.  Actually, I will go ahead and say that the only way to truly experience this film is in the theater, in 3D.  It has a lot of action and had no problem holding my attention from beginning to end.  Getting to watch this technical accomplishment on the big screen is well worth the price of admission.  The story is not as bad as what I may have made it seem.  Overall it was fine. There were just several things that bugged the hell out of me.  Sitting in the theater it was easy to let it all slide because I was getting to witness the stunning imagery.  I didn't have time to think about the stupid crap the characters were saying.  At the time Avatar seemed to be one of the best movies I had seen for a long time. However, the more I think about the film the more shallow it seems.  I don't want to ruin it for anybody else, but here is a list of the things that pissed me off the most.

1. Native Americans.... We are introduced to a new planet with wonderful plant and animal life, and it is inhabited by blue cat-like Native Americans with tails.  Did you have to give the Na'vi the exact same look, cluture, and spirituality as the classic Hollywood Native American?  Was it a commentary to say that we effed our own planet, and us americans are now going to do the exact same thing to planets across the galaxy?  I hope there was some meaning behind it.

2. Jake's Vlog... Sully is asked to keep a video log of his thoughts during the process.  Man, that is a convenient way for us to keep track of what he is feeling without him actually having to act.  If you are going to spoon feed me, at least make it more believable.

3. The dude from The Hottie And The Nottie.... I don't think this requires an explanation.  Anytime he was on screen I just wanted him to shut the hell up.

4. Sigourney Weaver's avatar.... it was just creepy.  Definitely the most fake-looking cg.

5. Michelle Rodriguez... She gets the award for the worst acting.  She didn't have much to work with as far as dialogue goes, but she didn't even try to make it good.  I kept hoping Michael would walk into the hatch and shoot her in the chest.

6. The villans.... Too over-the-top and ridiculous. I thought the actor who played the main "bad guy" was awesome despite the writing. However, the Giovanni Ribisi character was written and acted really poorly in my opinion.

7. The motivation... Most of the time I was just going along for the ride and enjoying the scenery.  If you stop and ask yourself why any of this is happening... it doesn't really make much sense.  I should watch it again.  Maybe they explained more about the driving forces behind their rash actions.

Ultimately that list doesn't really matter.  I had a ton of fun watching this film, and would recommend it to anybody for a great theater-going experience.  I think everyone will enjoy the time they spend in Pandora, whether they notice the weaknesses or not.


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