Avatar: the review

Last night, in lieu of drunken debauchery, the Better Half and I went to see Avatar with my father. And then we went to bed. (I would like to tentatively congratulate the Critter for his seeming return to full-night sleeping.) To the cottony-mouthed and tender of head, I bid you Happy New Year.

First of all, if you're planning to see Avatar, you really shouldn't bother unless you're going to see it in 3D. (I imagine those viewers lucky enough to see it on Imax would probably say something similar about smaller screens, but I don't think the difference in experience would be as vast as between seeing it in 3D and otherwise.) Minus the dazzling, immersive visual effects, you're left with a rather rote sci-fi epic.

On that note, the plot is nothing special. It's equal parts Dances with Wolves and Starship Troopers, with a dash of The Matrix tossed in for good measure. Cheesy at numerous points, the entire story arc is quite predictable. [Confidential to EP -- it was worth seeing the movie just for the chance to say "That would be Chekhov's flying attack reptile."] It serves as a handy frame upon which to hang the visual effects.

Having said all that, go see this movie. (Unless you are my mother, and you hate science fiction. Then you should watch Gaslight, which I gave you for Christmas.) All the hype about how Avatar is a game-changer is, alas, true. The experience is unforgettable. I really had the sensation of being present in the scenes, and the alien vistas are dreamlike and breathtaking. When ashes fall or grass blows along the bottom of the screen, it appears as vividly as if there were actual ashes or blades of grass right in front of you. There is no way this film can be appreciated outside of the theater, and James Cameron should get a big, lavish fruit basket from his pals in Hollywood for creating an experience that requires the audience to turn off their Blu-ray players and go back to the multiplex.

The plot is thin. Some of the actors deliver their performances with a healthy slice of ham. (I'm looking at you, Ruthless Military Heavy.) The pantheistic environmentalist message is cloying and heavy-handed. And I still want to go see it again.


  1. OK, I'll try the 3D version. Normally, I loathe 3D movies; my head hurts, I can't stand the blurry color fringes, etc., etc., etc.

    So true about the "plot." BoingBoing had 5 suggestions to punch up the storyline.

    My take is that starship travel makes humans really stupid. If you are in orbit, don't fly a slow bombing run in a large bomber to drop an improvised weapon, drop a few iron rods on the target at high suborbital velocity. Much bigger craters, with no possibility that arrows and dragons can stop it. And what happened to slant mining? The humans could mine to their hearts' content, leaving Pandora, red in tooth and claw, virtually unspoiled above. Hollywood may have imagination for visuals, but little else.

  2. I've never seen a movie in 3D before, but my understanding is that this is very different from any other 3D movie. There was no blurring to speak of, and though I was a wee bit queasy at the very beginning, I adjusted within a few minutes.

  3. Um, yes they got the mining stuff all wrong (you really don't use one single machine to mine all your tonnage, we learned that lesson up in Fort McMurray (and Alistair MacLean wrote a novel about it - Athabasca).

    But that aside it was a very impressive movie, especially for those of us who like to get away from day-to-day reality. And yup, I guess we're used to being the rat finks.