Jumped on the Avatar bandwagon Sunday night, catching it at the IMAX at Pacific Science Center- which a friend who works on the projectors assures us is the only true IMAX in town. Six story screen, great soundsystem… good theater.

There’s reviews a-plenty out there already, but I might as well weigh in. Visually? Brilliant. Also some of the most mature use of the increasingly sophisticated 3D technology that I’ve seen; much use of little things that use the 3D experience to make viewing more immersive, like atmospheric elements of insects, ash, seeds falling, etc… they bring you in to the space, but don’t read as gimmicky like much of the stuff you find in films like The Polar Express, where even watching it on a 2D home TV it’s obvious what was added to play with the 3D viewers. LOOK, SOMETHING’S COMING RIGHT AT YOU! That gets old, and doesn’t hold up in later viewings at home. The kind of stuff they did for Avatar I think worked better in the theatre and will hold up better at home- it draws you in to the setting without calling attention to the technology used to tell the story.

The feel of the new and interesting alien creatures and beings, the spaceships and battles, robots, etc… in that sense it delivered what I think a lot of us were hoping to get from the Star Wars prequels (but didn’t get on anything near this caliber).

Besides the amazing visuals and design, the pacing was also brilliant. It’s a pretty long movie, but there weren’t any slow parts, it kept you moving with them at a good, steady clip.

Which is good, because it kept you from thinking too hard about it while watching it.

Yes, it’s derivative. Incredibly. Call it Fern Gully in space, Dances with Wolves Aliens, whatever. I don’t think there was an original thought in the whole movie, be it in the design, the plot, the music, etc. Yet it’s all well done, so for the most part you don’t mind that.

There’s plenty of little plot holes or contrivances that annoyed me a bit once I stopped to think about them. How do the bodies get signals to and from the Avatars, even in the area where supposedly there’s too much interference for the human technology to allow any of their scanners, etc to work? If you’re doing some kind of mind-meld thing, how do you still have huge secrets left over? What happened to the supposed low gravity, and how come arrows can only go through glass when it’s convenient to the plot?  It’s easy to nit-pick this kind of thing, but the beauty of the editing and pacing of the film is that for the most part you don’t until afterwards.

One way in which I’m a bit disappointed; Science fiction has a grand tradition of using these hypothetical fictional scenarios to explore very real social, ethical, or philosophical issues. This movie took what to me is a big juicy one (The issues involved in coming in to another society as the Other and trying to fix or help or become one of them, while never being able to really be one of them) and kinda cheated, using technology as an easy path to happy endings rather than a setup for interesting and difficult choices… but maybe that’s my Gaijin-in-Japan history speaking.

Overall, very enjoyable, and I’m glad I saw it in the theatre, in 3-D, on the big IMAX screen- it’s a grand experience.  Some people are so darn fun and likeable you can thoroughly enjoy spending a few hours with them even if they don’t say anything original or terribly insightful, and occasionally contradict themselves.  So it is with Avatar.



  1. Posted January 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    I like the movie too. Yeah, I heard a lot about the “Last Samurai”, or “Fern Gully” or “Dances with wolves” and even “Shogun” comparisons…..but I liked the story about the Na’vi and the Omaticaya. A lot of a “Gaia” feel to the whole one-with-the-forest thing, but that was cool.

    I was very impressed with the 3d. Just enough to suspend disbelief, and not over the top. It was great. Now I want to see “Clash of the Titans” in 3D when it comes out. 🙂

  2. David
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    A recent letter to the Editor of the Crested Butte News drew some interesting parallels between Avatar and the town of Crested Butte, which has been (still is) threatened by large mining companies after the molybdenum (not unobtanium) in the closest mountain to town.

    • Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Yep- Jenn, if you click the link under “It’s derivative” that’s what you get.

  3. Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    So here’s a thought- compare and contrast to something like District 9… which had good effects but nothing really groundbreaking or over the top, a decent budget but not a blockbuster Hollywood budget, and a generally slower pace in how it unfolded the action. However, it was a much more original piece, and I think allowed for deeper character studies as well.

    I thoroughly enjoyed both films, but in different ways.

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