Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: Avatar

Avatar (2009)
Genre: Sci-Fi
Format: IMAX 3D
Director: James Cameron

When I first saw the trailer for James Cameron's Avatar, I was disappointed. The name Jar Jar Binks came to mind when I see the blue CG people running across the movie screen. Some of the alien scenery that featured millions of pastel colors just looked like a cartoon. For a film that was so expensive to make and also supposedly represented Cameron's return to the realm of cinema after his long hiatus, I thought Avatar had no chance to reclaim the level of success that it was set to accomplish. Then, there was also the whole 3D thing - Cameron wants his audience to watch this in 3D and though the technology looks good, it always cheapen a live action movie. Another sad blow to the movie I thought.

Well, if I followed my initial instinct about the movie and skipped it, I would have missed what I can now describe as the most beautiful 3D movie in history - well, this movie deserves much better than even that. Avatar is the most gorgeous movie ever made. Let me start by saying that the 3D in Avatar is breath-taking and is light years better than any 3D movies that came before it. Here's how Cameron is able to accomplish this extraordinary feat: 3D has to look natural and it can never be forced. For the first time ever, 3D becomes a reality of a film instead of being merely a visual gimmick. The expansive level of depth is unlike anything that I would think is even possible to simulate. There is a scene where you see rows of tables in a canteen and each of the tables has its precise placement in the depth of the 3D vision. It's truly groundbreaking. With Avatar, it's not cheesy to say that you feel like you are actually there with the actors on the screen. When you see how the surroundings move, shift, rotate, twist, as well as zoom in and out as they would in reality while the camera is moving dynamically, you will believe in 3D and you will not accept anything less than how this technology is profusely utilized here.

Just like Cameron's Titanic, the storyline in Avatar may sound ridiculous at first: It's a love story between a soldier, who is driving an "avatar" of a humanoid being of the planet Pandora, and one of the local females. He is connected to the avatar telepathically and is basically living two lives. As a human being, he is tasked to learn more about the alien's culture while carrying a secret mission of learning about the local's "military intelligence". As one of "them", he feels more alive that ever before, especially the fact that he has lost the usage of both of his legs as a human being. All of this just so that humanity can access a wealth of energy resource located at the very heart of the alien civilization. There are those typical themes of loyalty, betrayal, and redemption but everything is heartfelt. Remember when I stated that I thought the blue people looked too CG? Well, I changed my mind while watching the movie. These creatures look strange anatomically but the way they move, the textures of their skin, and the varying emotions on their faces made them very, very realistic... and very human. The weirdness of the planet's wildlife and geography also made sense and are made real by the consistency of their overall design. The movie is a tad longer than it should be, clocking at two and a half hours with an obligatory epic battle scene at the end. I can assure you though that Avatar's strengths actually lies in its quieter, more gentle scenes when the soldier is trying to learn the ways of the indigenous people. Special kudos to Sigourney Weaver for her passionate performance as the scientist responsible for the creation of the avatars, channeling her character with the essence of her previous rendition of Dian Fossey from Gorillas in the Mist.

After the last couple of pedestrian usages of the 3D technology, such as with the pathetic The Final Destination, I would not have forced this issue as much as I am going to: This movie must be seen in 3D. You will be shocked. You will be amazed. Most importantly, you will believe that there is a validity to this technology. I sure hope that this movie will invigorate and inspire other directors to be this precise with 3D and to embrace it as a natural extension of the cinematic conventions. Because the length of the movie, my eyes did feel a bit uncomfortable near the end of the viewing - the next jump for 3D should be to accomplish the effect without the use of 3D glasses, something that I believe will happen in the not too distant future. You will revel in the movie's incredible vistas and its emotional weight will haunt you long after you have seen the movie. Avatar has truly redefined the cinematic viewing experience.

RATING: 5 out of 5

1 comment:

brandon knight said...

I saw Avatar with high expectations, and it cleared them with ease. James Cameron is one of the most imaginative and brilliant film-makers of our time!