Avatar: The Last Furry

27 12 2009

Movie review time!

So, James Cameron’s been poking away at his magnum opus for about ten years now. It’s finally in theatres — and just in time, since when he started, 3-D as a mainstream concept was laughable. Now, it’s commonplace and accepted. Good for him. But does the movie work? Not “Does it live up to the hype”, does it WORK?

Let’s say it works despite itself.

I’ll get the negative out of the way right now. The story is predictable and utterly tedious. Everything happens that you expect to happen — a single sentence can summarize up the whole thing, “It’s one of those movies where greedy white guys wanna displace the natives, except one of them goes native and leads a resistance.” Done. You now know the entire plot of Avatar. The story unfolds exactly as you’d expect, a straight as an arrow path with no ambiguity and no nuance whatsoever. That makes the whole affair completely tedious… there are times when you just want them to get on with it, because you already know how it’s going to go. For a movie so alive with color, it’s totally black and white, and doesn’t even bother trying to reach for anything beyond the basics.

So, if you aren’t watching for the story, why watch? Three things: Characters, Spectacle, and Experience.

The characters are pretty nicely designed. They have distinctive voices and personalities, and the interplay of them as they move through the scenarios presented is interesting. Our hero is a bit generic, true, but everybody around him in Pink and Blue works well. None of them really surprise us or have any grey area to them, but they’re enjoyable to watch and even the CG characters are so well animated that the ACTING comes through nicely. I can watch these guys and care about them, and that’s the key to knowing if they work or not.

The spectacle is off the freaking map. Not just the 3-D, which is terrific (if a bit difficult to get into, since the image feels a bit too ‘processed’ at times) but the large-scale battles, the amazing environments, soaring through the sky… even walking around on ground level is amazing. This is a treat for the eyes and you always want to see more of it, with the movie only too happy to dish up new things to enjoy as you go.

That’s where the experience comes into play; beyond Michael Bay-esque explosions and huge-scale objects to stare at, soaking in the WORLD that’s been designed and coordinated by the artists is a delight. Even the more subtle visuals are quite a sight to behold, and they all blend together seamlessly into a living, breathing world… one that’s easy to suspend your disbelief and revel in.

Overall… you can enjoy this movie, provided you go into it with the right frame of mind. It’s a summer blockbuster, a popcorn movie. The writing is not nearly on par with Cameron’s other work. But that’s fine, if you go so you can watch blue people fight space marines and explore an MMORPG-esque fantasy world. And now is the time to go, while you can still catch it in 3-D… on home theatre systems it’ll still be impressive, but it’s not going to be ‘what the doctor ordered’. So, if you’ve got an afternoon to kill and want something that’ll entertain the hell out of you even if it doesn’t fire up your neurons, it’ll play nicely.

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4 responses

27 12 2009
jengagne

Agreed on all fronts. I really enjoyed it but it’s weak compared to Cameron’s other movies, writing-wise and tension-wise. Also see my comments on this blog entry:
http://jengagne.livejournal.com/177099.html
I’ll repeat one point here since it speaks directly to the writing:
This is more along the lines of Titanic: Yeah, the boat’s gonna sink, no kidding. Ooh, it’s sinking now. Yes, it’s very pretty, what with the sinking and all. There it goes.

28 12 2009
doxxxicle

Was this IMAX 3D or some other kind of 3D? I’ve been planning to see this and there are two entries at my local theater for Avatar, one described as “An IMAX 3D Experience” and the other described as “Digital 3D” which I think is what’s known as Real-D 3D. Which would you recommend?

28 12 2009
Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne

I dunno. We went to see it in a normal movie theatre. Other than a bigger screen I’m not sure what the difference would be. (Cue an IMAX fanboy screaming at me for downplaying the great weight and majesty of the IMAX format…)
Neither will improve the story.

28 12 2009
doxxxicle

I was reading about it on Wikipedia last night. There are some technical differences apparently. Since I’m going for the spectacle, I figured I should try find out which is the more spectacular. ;)

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