Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Now, if you want to read something really clever and incisive about James Cameron's Avatar, then read this NYT piece by Adam Cohen about how the 3D medium helps the viewer to enter the world of, and thus sympathize with, the Na'vi. Otherwise...
I was completely oblivious to the hype surrounding Avatar. I've managed, somehow, to avoid seeing any sort of movie previews ever, since the only thing I watch on TV now is basketball and the news (traffic) -- for whatever reason, they don't play movie previews on TSN, TSN2, The Score, NBA TV or CP24.
So, without any sort of bias or expectation going in, I was a blank slate. I didn't really know what to expect, though, given that it was a James Cameron movie, I probably should've expected something epic, or at least something trying to be epic. Cameron, as you may have heard over the past few weeks, was responsible for Aliens, Terminator, Titanic (and also, Aquaman). Of course, as you may have heard via the media, or some type of social media, Avatar definitely managed to be an epic experience and then some.
My impression is that most people viewed Avatar (3D) as an experience, one that should not be missed, and one that you're going to tell your (real, or hypothetical future) kids about. If you haven't seen it, go see it, but don't be an idiot see the regular 2D version 'cause it's cheaper (though I should talk since my Dad paid).
If I have a problem with the film it's all the unrealized thematic material that was left unexplored. There was a vague attempt to cultivate a sort of imperialist vs. natives storyline, but that was never fully actualized, and in the end the movie didn't really say anything. Cameron's take seems to be: nature and people in touch w/ nature = good, and people out of touch w/ nature = bad. But there's nothing more complex than that, no attempt to justify the human's conquest to unearth the super-valuable rock underneath 'HomeTree', and the human/military/mining characters are all two dimensional to have any reason for doing what they're doing.
I guess it's just that there's so much potential ground for them to cover in the movie: the avatar in/out body experience, the idea of (human)being vs. nature, "othering" as a justification for genocide, and so on. That said, I feel like there are two very strong mitigating factors for the film missing out on any real deep sort of thematic exploration of, really, anything: 1) much of the unrealized thematic material is only possible b/c the visual elements of the movie were so well done, i.e. the film is so strong in that area it allows for alot of really interesting possibilities; and 2) complaining about a lack of thematic depth in a James Cameron movie kind of feels like complaining that LeBron James hasn't kicked many field goals lately. So, for all the people who were upset that this wasn't Remains of the Day or something, you probably walked in the wrong theatre.
In sum, if you haven't seen Avatar in 3D yet, go, it's cool to look at.