Friday, February 5, 2010

My "Avatar" Two Cents

Since no one's writing about "Avatar," I obviously had to do it. :)

Due to the existence of "Avatar", I had my first 3D IMAX experience. I went to the only true IMAX theater in Manhattan (in all of NYC?), Lincoln Square theater on 68th street and Broadway.

By true IMAX I mean the 70-foot screen, not some retrofitted crap. You need to look out for this: the IMAX corporation is allowing anyone with a projector and sound equipment turned to full blast to call themselves an "IMAX" theater. It's only IMAX if it has a 70-foot screen. Period.

Friends told me that to avoid potentially getting ill and to see the screen properly, it's best to sit as far back and center as possible. We arrived 45 minutes before the show to find that the entire back row was taken (they must've gotten there stupid early!). But we managed to get excellent seats anyway.

I felt sorry for the folks who arrived when the film was starting. IMAX is not the place to be sitting in the first row. That's asking for a neck ache and nausea.

Review-wise, I had lowered my expectations slightly because—based on "Titanic"—I knew that James Cameron was not a consistent screenwriter. Also, I had read so much about the story that it felt overly familiar to the point of me almost being uninterested. Cameron came through with a cliché-ridden script ("you're not in Kansas anymore," "we're getting out of Dodge," yikes!) The story, however, ended up being less common than the script. I enjoyed the obvious criticism of corporate greed and the imagining of the culture and world of the Na'vi.

On a side note, I'm amused by some of the right-wing criticism of the movie. My two favorites are that the film is anti-religion and anti-military. Those critics reveal their own prejudices: first, the soldiers in the film are mercenaries, not U.S. military. They were hired by a private corporation to do a private job. The job that they're asked to do is clear—steal from a peaceful people. I'm fascinated—and repulsed—by a world view that says, "whatever I think, say or feel is always right, no matter what." Clearly those people either do not know history or are purposely ignoring it.

Second, the Na'vi people do have a religion, but I guess their mistake was to believe in something other than Jesus Christ. How dare they! How dare anyone not believe in Jesus Christ! Repeat, arrogant world views.

Admittedly, I have doubts that the 3D approach added to the quality of the film. It was a fun experience, but whenever I raised my glasses to get a 2D look, the visuals were equally entertaining. What impressed me more was the motion capture (or as one of the movie's producers is now calling it, "emotion" capture.) Knowing that the actors performed every movement and emotion before digital enhancement made the film feel special.

Although the film felt 15-30 minutes too long (a complaint I did not have with "Titanic"), I'm glad I saw it. "Star Wars Episode IV," "Titanic" and now "Avatar"—I've been lucky that some of the most technically revolutionary films have occurred in my lifetime.

I'm curious to see where filmmaking goes from here.

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