Monday, December 28, 2009

Okay, here comes the inevitable...

Avatar review.

Since I have it on authority that all twelve of the people currently residing in the United States who have not already seen the movie are fanatical readers of this humble blog, I am honor bound to enlighten them.

Note, please, that this review contains not one single spoiler. Such is not even possible, since the plot of Avatar is such an off-the-shelf product that anyone who has ever seen an adventure movie in his or her life will already know the ending by the middle of the first act. In detail. If you're looking for clever plot twists and cool literary devices, metaphor and/or allegory, or indeed anything out of the ordinary at all, turn in your 3D glasses and go home. Wrong movie. You never see a single weapon (or animal, or plant, or protagonist or antagonist or single frame of film) in the first act which doesn't dutifully turn up to fulfill its foreshadowing in the final climactic battle. At the end of the second act you will learn the detailed answer to the only remaining question in your mind, so let your heart not be troubled; with the exception of a few biological unlikelihoods, this movie leaves no slightest loose thread.

However, as I did admit to my companion W (who loved every second of this movie, BTW,) it's really very well done for what it is. Once you relax to the fact that you've seen this plot a hundred times before, the question becomes 'how well will they handle all the obligatory plot points?' And the answer is, really quite well. It had some truly exciting moments. In this great scene where Our Hero is whipping up the clans to war, I'd been warned the monologue was swiped right from Braveheart. Maybe so, I don't know, but it's done better. That scene made me want to leave the theater right then and go disembowel some military contractors. Warnings by some that the plot is Dances With Wolves meets Pocahontas were, in my opinion, not quite true. Almost, very close at times, but never quite. Just when I was afraid I was going to have to ask someone to gag me with an exotic hardwood spoon, the plot stopped rhapsodizing about Noble Blue Cat-Women In Harmony With Nature and got back to business. I appreciated that very much.

Which leaves us with the one element in which the movie is big news, the visuals. All I can say is, Oh, My F'ing God. Do you remember the Star Wars prequels, in which Lucas packed every incredibly busy scene with every conceivable thing just because he could, whether it ruined the film or not? This wasn't like that. The visuals are busy, yes, but then you'd expect a rain forest to be. They are exotic and weird at times, but then you'd want an alien planet to be. The colors are so rich, the grotesqueries so satisfying that all else, including the fact that you still have to wear an updated version of those damned glasses, is forgiven. If you're gonna see this movie, for god's sake pay the money and see it on the big screen. I've never had any use for 3D, but this was a world apart. It was done cleverly, subtly, in every way enhancing the experience rather than just being a distracting gimmick for the children. If only they could find a way to lose the glasses, nobody would ever shoot an adventure film in 2D again; it's that much better.

I'd really like to go see it again.

11 comments:

Uncle W. said...

Thanks for the review, Joel. That was right on the money.

Since you mentioned that I loved "Avatar" -- which I truly did -- I guess I should chime in to say a word or two.

I agree with every word you uttered. Recycled plot. Wooden villains. Dialog not too much beyond the level of Tony Curtis's famous "Yonda lies da castle of my faddah."

But Let me hit one thing just a little bit harder, if I may. In addition those visuals being dazzlingly beautiful and the filmmaking technique so pathbreaking that everybody who loves movies simply has to see this, and see it in 3D even if you have to travel 100 miles to do it (as we did), the movie was exciting. Breathtakingly so. Never a dull moment. Wow, those flying scenes especially!

And the character of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) was really, truly, believably a Marine ("There are no ex-Marines"). He loved being in over his head, in danger, and challenging himself to the most terrifying things. Loved that part of it.

So yeah, don't expect plot twists. But damn, do expect a wildly entertaining and absolutely beautiful 2.5-hour ride!

Thanks for letting me speak up.

peregrin said...

Cool, I'm one of the twelve! :D

Great review. I'm almost tempted to go see it now.

Anonymous said...

Two of Twelve chiming in. I'd heard about the recycled plot, and with Cameron's Titanic being number one on my most loathed movie list I was not anxious to go. Reading your and W's reviews just may have changed my mind.

C and D are seeing the movie today with their grammie and abuelo. In 3-D! I'm anxious to get their reviews, too.

They tried to talk us into going to see Sherlock Holmes Christmas Evening. The quiet, blissful relaxation of the day could not blast me out of my pjs and slippers, into the shower. We played games instead. L2

Uncle W. said...

FWIW, Anonymous, I thought "Titanic" was one of the world's suckiest movies, also. I was predisposed to expect "Avatar" to be more of the same. I was wrong.

I do wish "Avatar" had a greater story. But I guarantee that, watching the old story unfold in this new, subtly beautiful 3D, you'll have a dazzling time and an experience you won't forget.

"Sherlock Holmes" ... Robert Downey, Jr. is one of my favorite actors, but everything I've seen so far about that movie makes me think it's going to really, really stink. Sounds like you made a great choice staying home.

Anonymous said...

everything I've seen so far about that movie makes me think it's going to really, really stink.
You hit the nail on the head there Uncle W. Besides, we rarely EVER get to sit at home and just relax. It was heavenly.

I'll share C and D's reviews of Avatar.
L2

Thunder said...

I've known that Avatar has a recycled plot, as do many movies these days. However, considering that it is a classic plot of countless movies and books, it's forgivable, in my opinion.

I have to drive about 40-50 miles to find a 3-D theater and hope to see it soon.

As for Sherlock Holmes, it would seem that, according to the most die-hard of Holmes' fans -the Baker Street Irregulars- "the consensus was that the film is a fun -- and even occasionally faithful -- romp through Sherlock lore that the author himself would have enjoyed."

I, too, am a Robert Downey, Jr. fan and am looking forward to seeing it soon.

Anonymous said...

C and D's Avatar review, "It was awesome--go see it!"

There you go =). L2

Uncle W. said...

C and D's Avatar review, "It was awesome--go see it!"

Couldn't have put it better myself. :-)

And Thunder, you've been reading different reviews of "Sherlock Holmes" than I have. But to each his own. I hope you like it.

I'm definitely going to watch "Sherlock Holmes" when it comes out on DVD, but I'm not a Guy Ritchie fan, the trailer didn't impress me, and the thought of turning Sherlock Holmes into James Bond seems cynical and strange. Only RD, Jr. keeps me interested.

But "Avatar" -- on yes, C, D, and J are all correct about that.

BTW if anybody is interested, here's a long, sometimes technical, but very good interview with James Cameron about the new 3D technology and what he expects for its future. He said a lot of things here that seem right on to me.

http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117983864.html?categoryid=1009&cs=1

Tam said...

"You never see a single weapon (or animal, or plant, or protagonist or antagonist or single frame of film) in the first act which doesn't dutifully turn up to fulfill its foreshadowing in the final climactic battle."

The gun over the mantelpiece definitely got used, as did the clock, candlestick, and family portrait. ;)

If it's still showing in IMAX next week when I'm in K-town, I'll be catching it again.

As much as I hate shallow Hollywood luddite preachery, only about ten percent of my brain sulked through this movie, while the rest of me had a grand time.

I'll be buying it on DVD, too. Judged by the story alone, it is mundane; but judged by its production values, it's one of the most significant movies since audiences first heard Al Jolson sing.

Anonymous said...

Judged by the story alone, it is mundane; but judged by its production values, it's one of the most significant movies since audiences first heard Al Jolson sing.

Just saw it. And BINGO. It's what you said. Old story. Entirely new form of moviemaking.

Nothing will ever be the same again. Whether it's a great movie or not, it's movie history.

CaptGooch said...

Only Twelve ?

I feel uhm ... honored ?

OK I will look and see if the local movie house has the 3-D thing going and wonder on over.

As to reused plots ... Ahem ... what plot has not been reused if one goes back far enough ?

Even most religions are naught but recycled stories from history retold in the local vernacular.

My two cents ...

gooch

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