29 December 2009

James Cameron's Avatar - My Take

I like to think I'm a smart consumer, so I read up on Avatar before going in. I mean, you pay extra for the 3D glasses to see this thing, so I wanted to make sure I got my money's worth.
The pro reviewers had some praise for the film, and the friends and acquaintances I follow on the social media ranged from "[meh]" to "life-changing experience". Since no one was waving a glowing blue flag yelling "THIS SUCKS" from the mezzanine, the Mrs. and I decided to give it a shot.
Usual Warning: I'm spoilering the hell out of this, so read later if you want to stay clean going in.

[note: check out the Pandorapedia before going in. It enriches your viewing experience, though maybe makes some of the expository dialog feel somewhat forced]

Plot-wise, Cameron tells a fairly generic tale of how the bad White Man is raping pristine Pandora via a weaselly onsite junior exec and the ex-marine mercenary colonel who pulls junior's strings; all of this to get at some shiny rocks. Of course said shiny rocks are muy importante to the natives - a species of 10 foot tall (eerily attractive) cat people - since of course all of the really good veins of the stuff are under the cat peoples' sacred sites. Well Shit.

Stuff goes down, our protagonist goes native, and the ending is bittersweet and totally setting up a second installment. The Mrs. was unimpressed with the plot and the incessant need to jam the environmentalist message down our throats, and summed it all up in a word: "Ferngully". Not having seen "Ferngully", I defer to her knowledge.

I get the feeling that Stan Winston called up his pal Jim and said "Dammit Cameron, I'm tired of making only one creature, or variations on a theme. Let me create a whole world of things that want to eat your face and will make you wet yourself when they show up on screen IN 3D."

After acquiescing to Stan's desires, Ms. Sigourney Weaver called up and said "Jimmy, I'm tired of being the only one to survive. Just let me die in this one, k?" (I haven't seen all of the alien movies, so I might be out of line on that one, but it was funny when I thought of it).

Let's see, plot, musings, what else... Oh yeah! FX! The special effects, the motion capture tech, the CGI - flawless, friends. Sure the boilerplate plot and eco-message were less than riveting, but go see this for the FX is nothing else. Wow-wee. I am willing to believe that there are actually 10 foot tall cat people roaming around an alien moon 4.3 light-years away, it was that realistic.

It was confirmed that this is going to be a trilogy, and here's hoping that Part Deux is more like "Empire" than" Temple", more like "The Two Towers" than "Revolutions" or "Reloaded" or whichever was the second "Matrix" installment. There is some very real potential here for amazing story-telling, and I'm willing to let the fluff of this wild ride slide for a good story to come. I still like Star Wars, and the new Star Trek movie is essentially the same deal - lots of set up with minimal plot to get in the way. Which brings me to the most interesting quandary of the first decade of the 21st century: Red Matter or Unobtanium?

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