Saturday, December 26, 2009

On Avatar and 3D

Like many others, I was quite bored after a christmas day spent eating and loafing around the house and I decided to go see Avatar in 3D. There's been tremendous hype surrounding this film and I don't want to get too far behind on my cultural knowledge by boxing myself in with science and politics. This is my take:

I never really see movies in the theatre, it has never been a visceral experience worth paying exorbitant fees for. That being said I like movies. I like cheesy epic action films, art house dramas, judd apatow bromances and self righteous documentaries alike. Few however, are worth paying for, much less in the theatre, but I decided to make an exception last night because I wanted to experience this film it all it's glory. And I'll be damned if I'll be seen wearing 3d goggles in my own home a few months from now.

So in the over all 'spectacle' aspect, the film was whole-heartedly worth it. Plot: fill in pretty much any cheesy epic movie about 2 groups of people fighting one another(think Dances with Wolves, The Patriot, The Last Samurai, etc.). It's really no better than any of those films and in some ways a bit worse. Some lines of the film oozed with so much cheese that it truthfully made me cringe. And there were plenty of token stereotypical characters that just had absolutely no place being there. Normally never one to care in the least about political correctness, I was a bit shocked at some rather overt racial undertones. Considering the fact that the natives in the film are these enormous, blue, cat/human hybrids, it seemed a little bit odd that they would also need to be built around African-American actors. I'm struggling to think of one of the 'earthlings' that was of a non-anglo saxon ethnicity(except for the Indian, who was of course a scientist). Halfway through the film I realized that the Na'vi all seemed to look African and was quite frankly shocked to go home and see that all the main characters were indeed of African or Native American ancestry. It doesn't offend me in the least, but nevertheless seemed a bit odd and unnecessary given the obvious distinctions between the two warring clans.

The film also grossly perpetuates the rather absurd stereotype of the noble savages who are in touch with mother earth and love all creatures. This is unshockingly contrasted with the cut throat capitalist over-agressive americans. However, I never expect a big budget blockbuster to tackle issues of serious weight and hope that most other viewers give little credence to this aspect of the film as well.

Like many reviewers though, I urge you to ignore the trite plot-line and shallow characters and just see the film for the piece of art that is the world of Pandora. The scenery is absolutely beautiful, and as for the 3d... well for better or worse you soon forget that its even there. I kind of liked that though: I don't need to see constant shock factors that are supposed to impress me with the technology of 3d. Instead, I think this film did a great service to the technology by really integrating it into almost every scene but never in such a way that it seems like it was added in without purpose.

As a piece of digital art the film succeeds. It's an piece of art to experience, and a ludicrously expensive one to make, but I must say that I accept the critical arguments about this being a possible niche for the future of film. I don't want to condone spending this amount of money to make a pure entertainment based film, but it was a refreshing way make an experience in the theatre that is so different from one I would have if I waited and rented this film.

You won't get the true experience by sitting at home, and you sure won't experience it by reading a script(*cringe*). If you're going to pay to see a film in the theatre, why not make it one that was made for this medium?

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