Avatar. It is poised to be one of the biggest box office hits ever. One critic called it the “perfect” film. Well, maybe. I saw it and was prepared to not like it – I was surprised, I liked it… a lot!
Film is an interesting medium; it runs on a continuum between being an Art Form on one end and a Consumer Product on the other. The way the media industry cranks them out, one would easily assume this film would be yet another Consumer Product. Perhaps in America, they mostly are, unlike foreign films (European in particular) which decidedly lean more toward Art.
The crafted art film is both beautifully visual and has an engaging plot. I think of Amelie, for example. Whereas American film plots are annoyingly predictable and are recycled repeatedly under different film titles. Foreign films, or the occasional American film, such as Memento or The Usual Suspects try to diverge from the standard predictable plot line.
So where does Avatar fall within the Art – Consumer continuum? I would say about half-way, actually. The plot line is almost entirely the same as Dances With Wolves. Yet it has been brought to the screen with a renewed freshness through stunning computer graphics and 3D effects.
There is sexual tension but no sex. There is combat but no blood. There is violence but it is not violent. Yawn potential? No, I was engaged. The characters seemed quite real, and yet fantasy was effectively infused in this film to make for compelling fiction.
Of course the computer graphics are what the news media has focused on. But often CG is rendered with inane and even silly design and can completely ruin a film. Consider when the boy on the bicycle in ET became airborne, peddling his bike across the sky, they ruined the film making it into an alien Mary Poppins. Likewise, when Close Encounters of a Third Kind revealed the alien smiling like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, they dumped the film into a bucket of schmaltz.
But the set designers of Avatar clearly put a lot of thought and science into the design of the geography, botany and biology of the set. I found my self believing that such life could likely evolve on some distant planet. The science was imaginative but believable; and breathtakingly beautiful as well.
I could easily position myself as a film snob and find elements in which to criticize this film. But I won’t; I liked it… very much. In an era where I often don’t bother to watch a new release in the theater, preferring instead to wait for it to come out on DVD, I am glad I saw it in the venue for which it was designed: Large screen 3D.
See Avatar yourself in 3D, then return and post your reviews here. I would love to hear other opinions about this film.