I went to see Avatar tonight with the Bullet and neither of us had a whole heap of expectations for it. He’s even fussier than I am, though I don’t know where he got that characteristic from. We expected to see some pretty good 3D effects, and probably some fairly convincing computer-generated imagery, all wrapped around a convenient, if vacuous, plot-vehicle to justify the tech-trickery and to keep the value-for-money lobby quiet.
Instead, along with another four hundred Michael Caine impersonators, we got —
a cracking yarn, a completely-formed imaginary world, utterly convincing aliens, action, suspense, drama, taut interaction between the characters and a love story thrown in for good measure. We got a very bad baddie, an evil corporation, a gigantic battle, and the best 3-dimensional effects I have ever seen.
About twelve years ago I saw the early versions of Disney’s 3D technology during a family holiday in Florida, so I was curious to know how it had evolved.
Here’s the answer: it’s evolved beyond recognition.
In this movie, you’re right there in the middle of the action and I have no idea how they do it. Obviously, we both stole our glasses after the show, and therefore, tomorrow, I’ll conduct an experiment by rotating Bullet’s lens against mine to see if they’re polarised or if they have an interference grid etched on them. If not, I’m stumped. Out of ideas. Any clever people here know how it’s done?
The special effects are staggering. From the early publicity about this movie, you’d think the planet was populated by a race of Jar-Jar Binks lookalikes which in itself would be enough to nuke the whole place forthwith, but no. It isn’t. The characters are so well-realised, and their movement is so well-rendered, that you forget you’re looking at a glorified cartoon. For the duration of the film, you believe them. You get to like them. You identify with them.
The cyphers are real, and the human actors become empty props. It’s Roger Rabbbit in reverse.
I’m not going to pretend that the plot isn’t a little schmaltzy in places, but Cameron’s touch is light enough, and whenever he’s in danger of straying into the lake of syrup, he steps back just in time.
Stephen Lang’s ludicrous Duke Nukem-style Colonel Quaritch evokes every US military stereotype in cinematic history, but you don’t mind because that’s what he’s there for. Sigourney Weaver’s sub-Ripley character screams Alien but you understand and accept the allusion.
Occasionally, the Iraq / Afghanistan / Vietnam /Emerald Forest parallel is laid on a bit too thick. You want to tell Cameron, OK James, we get it. Thanks, but apart from that I have no serious gripes. I’m a sucker for action movies and a strongish plot is a bonus. I don’t mind, for the sake of the story, suspending disbelief and accepting some of the more outlandish notions of oneness with the planet. That’s what SF fans do all the time, unless they happen to be literal-minded, obese nerds who speak fluent Klingon. Throw in the best special effects you’ve ever seen and stunning 3D, and really, you know, what’s to complain about?
I’ve read sniffy reviews that don’t like the similarity in theme to Dances With Wolves. Other people have spoken of Pocahontas or the Last of the Mohicans.and I can only presume that they’re looking for a brand new story. Unfortunately, the last original story was written in ancient Greece.
I know Avatar nods to the rest of the canon, but so what? Yes, Sigourney Weaver is there — looking great, by the way — and there are many echoes of Aliens motifs, including the stasis and the drops, just as there are hints at a hundred other movies, but guess what — this picture was made by a movie guy. Where did people think he took his references from – cave paintings?
If you haven’t seen it already, do yourself a favour and watch it in the cinema. This one won’t measure up on a home entertainment system, so whatever you do, get out and see it. Check your critical faculties at the door. Forget all the condescending, cerebral, sniffy old bores. Instead, get a bucket of popcorn or a tray of nachos and just enjoy the spectacle.
You won’t regret your decision.