Sunday, January 10, 2010

FILM: Avatar

Avatar is not the sort of film we typically go for, but we'd been hearing such buzz from so many people that we had to check it out. I have to admit I was a bit cynical going in, but was utterly captivated by the beauty of this imagined world. Such great imagination went into creating the exotic flora and fauna of Pandora, and the way of life of the Na'vi. Sure, it was clearly drawn from our own conceptions of Native American beliefs about the connected spirit in all of nature, but I thought it was very cool the sci-fi spin they put on it with a natural neural network of trees all connected at the roots, and the creatures who bond by entangling their organic fiber-optic cable ports. And sure, the story was clearly drawn from Pocahantas and Dances With Wolves and the like, but the thing about classic stories is that they hold up to retelling and recasting in creative ways. (Westside Story was derivative from Romeo and Juliet, but no less creative for it.) Granted, the story was short on real character development, with the characters being more allegorical ideas (the bad-ass macho military man, the greedy industrialist, the pure-hearted scientists, and the even purer-hearted native peoples) than real people. But damn, it was stunningly beautiful, and the story swept along, totally predictable yet totally spell-binding, like a mythic tide. I was as delighted as the next guy to see the epic forces of nature and the eco-in-tune people kick the butt of the evil military-industrial complex. The movie did not feel long at all to me, and I kept my 3D glasses on through the credits, hoping for a few more glimpses of that amazing planet.

As to the 3D thing, at first I found it slightly distracting, but I was pleased that it wasn't overly gimmicky, no projectiles hurtling straight into the camera or flying creatures hovering right in front of my face. And I think my brain adapted to it, because I realized by the end I was no longer conscious of it, and it felt pretty natural. But I think part of what made it work so well was the fantastic nature of the film. One friend of ours wondered whether this point in 3D technology might be a "game-changer" for movies in general, but I'm not so sure. Many films don't have to convince us of their reality in the same way that a sci-fi-fantasy film like Avatar does. Would Nine or A Single Man have been enhanced by high-quality 3D? I'm not so sure. But for Avatar, it was breathtaking.

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