Image via WikipediaThere are those who have criticized Avatar from the beginning saying it looked cheesy and fake. I was not one of those people. When they remade King Kong I learned a valuable lesson. Trailers (especially early teasers) almost never use fully rendered graphics. And when you're making a movie like Avatar which is almost fully reliant on the realism of these effects, there is no way you can count on a trailer to give you a full representation of the movie. When the latest, four-minute trailer came out, people were less critical. The real story started coming through and people were ready to give it a chance. They still made fun of it, but I stuck to my guns. I was certain it was going to be great. And then people were finally invited to press screenings. And I was vindicated. The critics (most of them, anyway) loved it. And after finally having seen it myself, I have to say it was well worth the wait.
Let me first say, that any criticism pointed directly at the story may well be somewhat justified. Although I don't believe and fully reject the argument that a story once told can never be told well again, there are those who would say "I loved that story when it was ______" and feel cheated when they can pick out the same themes in one movie as another. I believe people have the right to take a story and tell it again in a different way. This has been happening since the very first stories and will continue to happen until the end of time. That being said, there's not much in the way of character development here. The bad guys are a little cliché, one-sided and single-minded, and they try to play on the military vs. scientist dichotomy which I think is done far better in Stargate. So, the characters leave a little to be desired, the story is a little derivative... but the visuals! Let me tell you about the visuals!
I saw Avatar in standard digital 3D, not IMAX. I wish I would have seen it in IMAX, and, in fact, I will be seeing it in IMAX later. "Visually stunning" is a cliché term used by critics when they think something looks awesome. Avatar looks beyond awesome. It looks... real. Critics of 3D say that it's used as a gimmick and will never catch on in true artistic form. Avatar challenges that opinion by never drawing attention to the 3D element when it would be easy to do so. 3D is used only as a means by which to enhance the depth and reality of the scenery and, in this sense, is used specifically for artistic reasons and is not a novelty.
Watching Avatar is like actually going to visit the planet of Pandora. It's so real and so beautiful it's like you're literally walking through the forest yourself with your eyes wide open. The 3D element gives the illusion that there is so much more to see than what's in front of you. The world wraps around the theater which offers a small window in the front called the screen (which, I guess, is an even bigger window in IMAX). The only thing that stops you from believing this world is real is the inerrant fact that you know these creatures don't exist. If you didn't know that, you might be fooled into thinking we've landed on Pandora.
And the action sequences are heart-pumping and beautiful! I gave the story a little bit of grief, but there is enough heart to it that you ended investing fully in these characters, and when they start an all-out war, you're rooting for the good guys and booing the bad guys just as you should be. Breath-taking areal shots weave in and out of floating mountains and alien forests taking you on a ride that no roller coaster could ever afford.
This is the movie we've been waiting for. A sci-fi action epic that lifts you off the seat and takes you into its own world, fully immersed. Go see it now!