Written/Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Hardcore movie fans, or CineGeeks, are a fickle bunch. James Cameron is the man behind some of the most iconic films made in the last 25 years, films near and dear to our hearts including Terminator 1 and 2, Aliens, True Lies, and Titanic. Sure Titanic may be a stretch, but it’s a fantastic film. With that in mind, why is it that he was getting so much negative buzz from the fan community prior to the release of Avatar. You’d think fans would be stoked for the release of a science fiction/fantasy film featuring cutting edge technology from a director that seems to truly love those genres of storytelling?
This isn’t the first time Cameron has experienced backlash over an epic film he poured himself and a ton of money into. Yes, I’m speaking of Titanic once again. Fans and critics all had something bad to say about the extremely expensive film that would become one of the most successful films of all time once it released. So, the negativity is probably something that Cameron is accustomed to, even if he doesn’t deserve it.
This isn’t a review of Avatar. My conclusions, from a traditional review perspective, are that that the film is groundbreaking in style and technology, stunningly well acted, and action packed. The only slight misstep is that the story is a little too familiar to science fiction fans. It’s a very opinionated kind of story that Cameron has approached before with films such as Aliens and Terminator. The subtle and believable romance is at the center of the film and is so good that the more overt parts of the story doesn’t seem to matter.
There are times when a true historic moment happens in front of us and we can choose to participate or let it slide by. Going to this film and seeing it in true IMAX 3D means that you are one of the first to see the new direction of the film experience. There have been many evolutionary moments in film. Can you imagine what it was like the first time film fans saw a film with audio? What about the first people to see a film in color, in cinemascope, or in surround sound? If you go to the IMAX and see this film, you’ll know what those people felt like. Yes, there has been 3D before but the 3D of the past is little more than what I call “waggle film”. This film is a truly immersive experience. There are only just a few times in the film where something appeared to just stick out and even those instances where shots that any filmmaker would have chosen with or without 3D. That gets to the point, that this film was crafted in a 3D environment rather than another film that has been rendered in 3D. The greatest thing about the 3D is the sense of depth in nearly every scene. The forest truly feels like you could stand up from your seat and walk into it with the characters and even beyond them. Along with the 3D, there’s a sense of detail that has never been executed in a CGI film to date. This alien world seems like a real place that we should all be able to visit at some point in the future. The visual feast includes varieties of foliage, beautiful animals, and tiny insects that are always present keeping the world energetic and in constant living motion. There’s a fairly lengthy section of the film where the main character goes through training on the planet and with every scene he learned something new and so did we. Once the training was over ,I found myself wanting it to continue. I wanted to keep learning and experiencing this fully realized world.
It takes more than the gimmick of 3D to be innovative and this film and its creator understands that on a level that NO OTHER FILMMAKER has. James Cameron is the savior of the theater and the film going experience. Most modern movies/theaters don’t offer a substantially better experience than watching the film at home on a big screen HD TV with surround sound. Avatar is a film that will be a radically different experience at home than it currently is in theaters. The film will still be beautiful, fun and exhilarating but at home, it’s just a movie, in IMAX 3D, it’s an experience.
It’s time to blaspheme. James Cameron is the modern day, much more successful George Lucas. In the 80’s, Lucas was on the cutting edge of special fx and even the Star Wars prequels featured some nice new innovations (even if the blue screen stuff was really weak at times). His company, Industrial Light and Magic, played a part in the creation of Avatar. I say Cameron is more successful because he has truly taken the “experience” of going to the theater to a new level. Terminator 2 advanced special fx in a “George Lucas” sort of way, but Avatar breaks the mold for innovating. Future filmmakers will be accused of pulling a Cameron because like Lucas in his era, Cameron is unmatched at what he is doing.
I’ve loved several films this year including Paranormal Activity and District 9 but while those films are great, and they are must see, they aren’t “important”. Perhaps that’s the greatest compliment that I can give Avatar is to say that it’s important. If you experience this film now, in 20 years, you’ll be talking about how you were there when everything changed, when going to a movie really started to mean something different than it had before. You’ll have that same sense of history that film fans that saw the first “talkie” had and fans that saw the first color film have. If you call yourself a true film fan, then you need to plunk down the fifteen bucks, settle in to a big comfy IMAX seat and soak in history in the making.