Posted by: steveonfilm | December 23, 2009

Avatar Review

Being that I’m working from home today, and I’m not really feeling the whole “work” thing due to my cold and sore throat, I figured now was as good a time as any to write a bit more about AVATAR.

Regular readers know that I went down to Orlando, and then over to St. Pete this past weekend for the St. Petersburg bowl where the UCF Knights go their asses handed to them by the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. One of these days my college will actually win a damn bowl game, but I digress. Anyway, I was down in Orlando Friday night, and my buddies and I decided to catch a late night showing of AVATAR on a full screen IMAX theather in Pointe Orlando.

I’m actually glad I went to a full screen instead of an IMAX lite screen. All I’ve got up where I live in Atlanta are IMAX lite screens. Those are the retrofitted regular movie screens where they take out about 20 rows of seats, and put in a larger screen. It’s big, but it’s not REAL IMAX big.

I had a chance to watch the 20 minutes of preview footage back in July. Here’s a video of what I thought when I saw it:

I feel much the same way now about the visuals that I did back then, total game changer. They were, quite simply, stunning. This is the first 3-D movie I’ve ever watched. There’s a few reasons for this. One, most 3-D movies are geared toward kids, which doesn’t interest me. Two, the 3-D was always very gimicky looking, with things flying at the screen any whatnot. Three, the movies were not created from the ground up with 3-D in mind. Fortunatly, AVATAR was made for adults, doesn’t have 3-D as a gimmick, and was created from the ground up for 3-D.

You literally feel like you’re there at times. Cameron was very concious of the camera angles he used (or more specifically the Director of Photography used). When there is a group of people, you feel like you’re sitting in the middle of them. When you’re watching a screne in the forrest, you feel like you’re surrounded by flora and fauna. When various air ships are flying around, you feel like you’re riding along inside one. I could go on. There wans’t anything that made me say, “Oh, this whole scene was created to show off the 3-D.” Nope. The 3-D was seamless, and if that’s the future of how movies are going to be, sign me up coach.

Like I said in the video above, the last time I truly saw something special was when I watch Jurrasic Park for the first time. I was like 13 or 14 I think, and I saw it with the family in the theater. When I saw those dinosurs I knew this movie was changing everything. Sure, Terminator 2 was awesome, but I don’t think it used special effects with the same impact of Jurrasic Park. I mean, THEY WERE DINOSAURS!!! Everything before that movie was a puppet, or giant rubber suited robot. This time they looked real.

I feel the same way about the Na’vi. They don’t look like Jar-Jar, or the T-2000, or Gollum, they look real. And outside of my brain always knowing they were CGI, I’d be hard pressed to say they looked more like people with blue face paint and some prostetic ears and noses, than something that only existed in a XSERVE render farm somewhere out in New Zeland and California. There are very few scenes where the Na’vi and humans interact in close proxminity, likely because the size difference between the two is so vast. But when it’s just the Na’vi, it might as well just be a bunch of people standing around. Because I didn’t think I was watching a bunch of aliens.

I was pretty much spot on with the “Dances With Wolves” vibe I got from the preview footage. This movie didn’t go anywhere story wise that we haven’t already been. Then again, what movie does now-a-days? It’s not to say this was a bad film, it wasn’t by any stretch, just don’t go in expecting a story that will move you any more than “The Last Samurai,” “Braveheart,” or “Dances With Wolves” did, and this isn’t really at the same level as those movies. I mean, there are three stories right there that are all pretty much the same story. They only real differences are they don’t have aliens, and their characters had more depth to them. Then again, none of those characters were on a planet in another solar system either.

This is, by all accounts, a summer blockbuster movie that just happens to be out in December. If sci-fi isn’t your thing, I’m not sure you’re going to dig this. But, if you can get past the genre (which isn’t hard to do since most of the movie takes place in the forrest), you’re going to be in for a treat with a fun, exciting, and quite frankly beautiful movie that may very well take film production in a new direction.




  1. Well written writeup. But I kinda felt cheated with this film. It was high on visual low on intelligence and everything else.

    • I don’t know if I’d say it was “low on intelligence”, I’m not sure if that’s the right words for it, it just didn’t try to do anything new story wise. I’ve watched far, far, far worse stories, for instances Transformers 2. And I’ll take this over that movie any day.

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