Monday, February 1, 2010

A to B Back and Forth Review: Avatar, Part I

I'm teaming up with longtime friend, Kozy of April 31st to review films. We're calling the segment "A to B" because I'm Andrew and he's Brad. And he lives in Amsterdam, and I live in Buenos Aires. We generally won't get the new releases when the States do, but hopefully we can either help you reminisce or offer advice before you head out to the video store. So let's get to our ninth review - Avatar.


My main man Brad!

Today we move from counter-culture to pop-culture for a review of the HIGHEST GROSSING FILM IN HISTORY, James Cameron´s Avatar. Nobody seems to want to mention the fact that moviegoers had to pay extra to rent those 3-D glasses, jacking up the overall box office, but then again nobody ever mentions inflation, either. The most-watched movie in history is still Gone With The Wind, and that doesn´t count TV and rentales. Hey, when are we going to AtoB that one? OK, so I got our first wildly tangential comment out of the way early today. Let´s get back to the subject at hand: gigantic blue hippies.

Obviously this movie comes to us with a ton of hype. Roger Ebert loved it. The fanboys have been out in full effect. And despite my nit-picking above, the box office speaks for itself. We had to wait extra time in order to find available tickets at the only I-MAX in town because everyone told us it would be better. The I-MAX is also the only theater in Buenos Aires where you don´t buy your seat, so we had to line up one and a half hours early to make sure we weren´t stuck in the front corner. I must say that it was totally worth it. From the moment Jake Sully awoke from his cryogenic sleep, I was awestruck. He floated out of his pod and into a version of 3-D that was unlike anything I´d seen. And things just got better from there.
What's bluer and steelier than Blue Steel? These guys!

To be honest, the storyline leaves much to be desired. This is easily the most cliche movie we´ve reviewed so far, filled with good guys and bad guys and deus ex machinas. But I didn´t care. The film was a treat - a truly joyful experience. Even after 2 hours and 46 minutes, I didn´t want it to end. I would have happily sat there for another three hours if Cameron had given us more to look at.

Also, I couldn´t help thinking about Jaws III. Let me explain. When I was a kid, we used to watch and greatly enjoy all three Jaws movies on a very regular basis (thankfully, Jaws: The Revenge had yet to be invented or I would have likely grown up to be a different person). Jaws III was set in a marine park complete with an underwater glass tunnel where one could see the fish swimming above. That alone fascinated me as a child, but furthermore, the film was to be a revolution because of its employment of improved 3-D technology. What Cameron has done here is to deliver on both promises a mere 26 years later. I felt like I was inside this movie. The characters and animals weren´t merely on the screen in front of me, I felt like they were all around me. Jaws 3-D was a total flop because the story was beyond horrible. Put another way, it is the worst movie in Dennis Quaid´s ouevre. But at age 8, it was more than enough for me. I can say that at age 34 the fact that this story was limited to cliches wasn´t so bothersome either. The wonder of the look and feel of this film vastly outweighed any of its structural problems.
Seriously, there was a time when this was state of the art for 3D! I mean, my God look at that horrible thing!

I am looking forward to seeing it again, as long as I can find a decent seat at the 3-D I-MAX. So what did you think?



Hey Andrew,

I am in total agreement with you. Avatar is truly a marvel - a visceral treat. I saw Avatar in 3D, but not in the IMAX. Only through a stroke of luck did we even get tickets and great seats to the Friday night showing. The movie was totally sold out, but 30 minutes before show time the theatre release 15 unclaimed reserve tickets. Luckily I was in the right place at the right time and staked a claim!

Entering, the entire 3D thing had me very skeptical. I carried negative preconceived notions that it was a gimmick and an annoying way to jack-up the ticket price. The commercials and previews, many also in 3D did little to persuade me otherwise. A Coca-Cola ad featured a fella break-dancing, with an end routine hat flip that careened straight at my face. This had me concerned that Avatar was going to spend 2+ hours hurling asteroids and rocks at me. That would be some shit I certainly did not need after a long work week!
Stop yelling at us, Coca-cola! You're scaring everyone!

Cameron, however, chose not to break the 4th wall (too bad he could not convince the ad-men at Coke of this!!), which was a brilliant move. Like you, from the very opening I felt like I was living in a new world, surrounded by so many interesting things that I wanted to see and touch for myself. But never did I have that awkward feeling of having my personal space intruded upon.

As for the story, while perhaps cliché, I actually really liked it. The plot was simple and poignant; and I saw this as a benefit to the overall experience. Avatar offers so much to see and do that I think a complicated story would have distracted from my experience. Cameron using this movie to promote his conservationist ideology to such an enormous and diverse global audience is brilliant. The fact that he chose to tell a story with a moral, instead of just mindless action is extremely impressive.

I am glad that you mentioned Jaws III, because I as well brought up that flick in pre movie conversation. After the movie I also thought about another childhood 3D experience. As a kid I remember waiting in a long line at Six Flags to “experience” a revolutionary 3D movie. I queued for 40 minutes to sit in an IMAX theatre for 10 minutes to watch a 3D movie that basically consisted of kitchen appliance moving around. This was an offering at an amusement park. Mid-Westerners lined-up for the chance to experience it. What Cameron has done with Avatar is bring an amusement park ride to every nook and cranny of the globe. Avatar is the new standard for what a movie experience can be.
An example of the good 'ol days not being so good. Though I must admit we still look pretty stupid with 3D glasses on in a theater.

So, do you think a CGI blue hippie chick can receive an Oscar nod?
- Kozy

Tune in tomorrow for Part II where Brad and Andrew will continue with the Pandora Accords.

Previous A to Bs:
500 Days of Summer
Inglorious Basterds
Public Enemies
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
Star Trek
Terminator 4: Salvation


The Jerkel said...

2 hours and 40 minutes of THIS? I don't know how you boys have the stamina. I was bored...


Unknown said...

Hi guys, nice review. I totally agree with you, Avatar is a mind-blowing experience.

About that nitpicking at the beginning, is totally true that the price is being jacked for the 3D glasses rentals (something that we don't have to endure here in Buenos Aires luckily, although I will trade that for the hour waiting in line), but it's also true that Avatar surpassed the 2 billion mark in only 7 weeks! Titanic spend a lot more time to get to the 1.8 mark, so we don't even know yet where Avatar could go, specially now that it got no less than 9 Oscar nominations.

The story is cliche, that's undeniable, but as I said in my review, I saw a lot of movies that were not only cliche, they were also awful (I'm looking at you Michael Bay). Avatar is a really good movie, and I must say, I loved the message.

I saw the movie 2 times now and I will happily go again. Let's see what happens in Oscar night.

I'm waiting for part 2, and also for your review of "El Secreto de sus Ojos".

This is my review for you spanish-speakers: