Avatar (2009) needs no introduction. The most expensive movie ever made is a testament to James Cameron’s courageous vision of an immersive cinematic experience to out-Lucas the Star Wars legend – an ambition he harbored since he watched it in 1977 as a truck-driver.
Cameron has uplifted the benchmark for Hollywood blockbusters and created a new level of entertainment. Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. It will be an unforgettable experience.
Should You watch it in 2D if 3D tickets are not yet available? No.
It’s like this. Let’s say you’ve never flown in a plane before and are given a choice of flying business class in the flight next week, or economy today. You will enjoy the economy ride, but you will miss the comfort of business class. From another, more important perspective, it’s a question of experiencing an art form as the artist wished it to be experienced. If artistic integrity matters to you, watch Avatar as Cameron intended you to watch it.
Cameron has likened 3D to the addition of color in cinema, which reveals how integral it is to the Avatar experience. He invented a new generation of high-resolution, maneuverable, 3D cameras for Avatar and persuaded Sony to manufacture it. Read more of the background story here.
The use of 3D in the film is extremely subtle. It never distracts, but simply adds to the immersive experience.
Cameron and Weta Digital’s greatest achievement in Avatar in my opinion is conquering the uncanny valley. The evolution from motion-capture to performance-capture is a milestone in film-making. It took Weta one full year to perfect its algorithms to map the actor’s expressions onto the animated characters without creating the uncanny valley revulsion and actually making them empathetic. You can read more about this behind-the-scenes technology here.
Sci-Fi? Yes. Romantic Adventure? Yes. Action/War Movie? Yes. Political Statement? Yes. A Green Statement? Yes.
The movie is all of these packed into a 160-min blockbuster. Leave your fine cinematic sensibilities behind if you want to enjoy the immersive experience. Avatar was not made for art film critics. It was created to awe and it does that exceedingly well.
The Sci-Fi, Romance, and Action-War genres are given full treatment beyond your wildest expectations and imaginations. An alien civilization with its own language, inter-species romance, and futuristic battle spaceships in combat with aliens riding on monsters will leave your appetite for Sci-Fi, Romance, and Action fully satiated.
A moral message of anti-war underlies the movie, but is rendered impotent as the movie uses full-blown action war sequences for the intended purpose of entertainment. Artistic integrity? No. Hypocritical? Yes.
One line in the dialog on “answering terror with terror” almost made me feel that Michael Moore was involved in the script-writing. There are actually only fleeting passages in the movie that actually evoke an anti-war sentiment, the rest of it is where you actually enjoy the thrill of war.
The Green Balance of Life
The only personal review I had read before watching the movie was by Nita, who was moved by its green message that stressed the Balance of Life. I found the green message quite far-fetched, unsubstantiated, and unscientific. I’ve argued before that we need to pull religion out of environmentalism and take a scientific approach if we’re to care about our planet.
The nature-worshipping alien civilization on Pandora practices an occult environmentalism that harks back to mysticism. Such a mindset is actually harmful not just to planet Earth, but to human beings as well. Learning to live with nature requires scientific observation of nature, invention of medicines to treat natural diseases, the invention of disaster-response infrastructure to deal with natural calamities, and so on. It doesn’t mean relinquishing science to live in harmony with nature in caves or under a mystical tree as the aliens do on Pandora.
This nature-worshipping message is delivered to us via a medium of extreme hi-tech engineering. Does the message overrule the medium? In Avatar, the message fails, the medium triumphs. In this case, the medium is not the message.