I’m a pretty big fan of college football. One of the big unwritten rules of college football is “Watch what you say, the other team will just use it to fuel their fire.” This was true several years ago when it was said by a journalist that UGA wasn’t “man enough” to go to Alabama and win. The team used that and came away with the victory that year. Then, after UGA scored first when playing Florida a couple of years back, the whole teamed stormed the field in celebration. It got everyone pumped that day and Georgia came away with the win, but for the next two years sports analyst, highlight reels, and most likely the coaches used that clip to fire up a Florida team that was already stacked with talent just to get the players fired up and give them another reason to go out and win.
Some of the best football coaches in the history of the game are masters at underplaying their team’s ability. They do this so as to not have everyone in their conference gunning for their boys. It’s usually a pretty sound strategy. Fly under the radar. Stun everyone with your on field ability. Don’t overhype.
It was said again and again and again that AVATAR would be the game changer as it pertains to cinema. James Cameron said repeatedly that he had to wait for technology to catch up with his ideas. Everyone waited with bated breath for the next STAR WARS. Then the movie was released…
The problem with reviewing a movie like AVATAR is the hype that surrounded it. One can’t separate one’s self from all of the bold statements made by James Cameron and the studio. I, for one, tried to go into this movie with as much separation from the hype for what has been touted as THE game changer in cinema, and just get ready to see a movie. As much as I tried though, the thought was always tickling the back of my brain, “This doesn’t quite live up to the hype.”
As has been said ad nauseam, the story is not new. It’s been used and used again. Why? Because it’s a story that resonates with us all. Entering into a situation with preconceived notions that are shaken and shattered, and ultimately finding a cause worth fighting and dying for. However, just because the story isn’t new doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used. As I said, it resonates with the viewer. It works.
However, if one is claiming to change cinema as we know it, one can’t use such a familiar story in such a familiar way.
Then, there’s the technology. I find it odd and somewhat hypocritical that the same critics who attack George Lucas for letting story suffer in the name of the technology he wants to use in his films are the same ones lauding this technology as the greatest thing ever. Why? Because you put on some glasses and the images separated a bit?
That’s overly-snarky. The truth is, I wasn’t too blown away with the CGI used in this movie. It was CGI. I think I tend to accept it more readily than some, but at the same time, the environments looked way too CGI. A lot of attention was put on the making the digital characters work, and I have to give the team at WETA credit there. Some enhancements to the way motion capture is done was used to get a full range of emotion from a face more we’ve ever seen. The eyes were alien enough that they didn’t suffer from the “dead” look associated with many CGI characters out there today.
However, game changing? I honestly can’t say that it was. We’ve seen fully realized digital characters before, and in some instances just as good. Let’s compare WETA with WETA and point to the character of Gollum. He was realized as a fully digital character using motion capture technology to get all of the movements down, and there are very few people who would argue that he didn’t work. When you look at “the other” big effects company (ILM), this is something they’ve been doing for ten years. Whether you love him or hate him, Jar Jar Binks was realized as a digital character interacting with real people and while we’ve all heard the arguments against Jar Jar, one I’ve never heard was how he didn’t hold up interacting with other actors. Then there’s Yoda. There are moments in REVENGE OF THE SITH when I would swear to you that there is an actual little green guy right there on screen. ILM also did the work on the first HULK. Again, like the movie or hate it…there are moments where the Green Goliath looked like there was actually a gigantic man with green skin standing there. Heck, even the Transformers looked awesome on screen.
The design of the movie was pretty enough. The colors were bright, and the world was alien enough, but the designs of the world just didn’t set completely right with me. Adding an extra set of legs and a few antenna like growths to earthbound animals serve only to make the universe that has been set up feel a little too bound to the rules of our world biologically. The creatures all felt too familiar.
(I hate to keep coming back to this.) When a movie is hyped as being the movie that will change how movies are made, it gets compared to movies that DID change the face of cinema. In the instance of Avatar, it may have expanded what has been done, but I would be hard pressed to say that it has “changed” anything.
Having said ALL of that. I really liked this movie. I truly did. My biggest problem with the movie was simply Sam Worthington slipping out of his American accent a little to0 much.
The story, though predictable, worked for me. It’s a simple three acts. In act one we are introduced to the characters and the situation. In act two, the protagonist grows from his presuppositions about the world around him to become a part of it and suffers for it. In Act three, we get the resolution to the conflicts set up in acts one and two. In this case, I am a sucker for the oppressed rise up to defeat the oppressive type stories. Jake Sully’s speech to the Na’Vi was one that got me excited for the fight to come. AND WHAT A FIGHT! (more to come on that)
The sense of fun and adventure for which I go to a movie like this were there. If you can’t enjoy seeing a dude tame a wild flying dinosaur, then you have lost touch with the kid that fuels the geek inside of you.
I liked all of the characters (cookie cutter though they may be), and the conflicts and their resolutions worked.
And quite frankly, the ending battle scene was fantastic. Ground battles, air battles, explosions, last minute rescues, and a final showdown all worked together to make a great climactic battle scene.
WETA continues to establish itself as a top dog in the movie making industry. James Cameron can still make a movie, and as of now the film has grossed over one billion dollars worldwide. So from a money making standpoint, the hype paid off. People had to go see this thing. I don’t know if the audience that filled theaters for AVATAR would so readily fill the theaters for a sequel, but I’d be there. If for no other reason to run with Na’Vi again, to climb floating mountains, and to try to learn to “see.”
When this movie is released on Blu Ray, I’ll buy it. I’ll watch it again and again. It’s that good. It’s just not the cinema shattering second coming that we were told it was.
If you like sci fi and fantasy and haven’t seen AVATAR yet, get to the theater and see it. It’s definitely worth the price of admission and then some. However, hold on to your Lord of the Rings boxed set, keep Star Wars on it’s pedestal, and have a great time with AVATAR.