Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar - A Review

So I’ve seen the movie Avatar, twice now. The first showing I saw in packed IMAX 3D sitting and the next was just in 3D. I can easily say that IMAX was the way to go for huge first impressions, but the 3D was definitely still excellent. They did a marvelous job with it. A lot of 3D is filled with cheap gags and flying debris. However, the movie used it wisely and added A LOT of depth to shots which added a lot to the vast lush scenes they created.

I really loved the characters, the idea of the story, the animation, the models, the environment, the lighting, and really just the entire movie itself. However, if you have conservative or religious friends and relatives who might have issues with political views different then their own or perhaps issues with scantily clad beings running around then perhaps this is not a show you want to recommend. I made the mistake of taking three of such people with me and got to list to a 20 min lection on how holywood was brainwashing people and spreading propaganda and how people would watch and accept the themes of the movies as reality and how they should really think about things before seeing such movies etc.

While I do agree with the idea of not forming opinions based on movies, it pretty much ruined the night and left me in a foul mood. Its pointless to get yourself so rialed up over a movie that was made to enjoy and showcase some really wonderful creativity! Instead of sitting there thinking of those few things that bugged you, why not consider the things that were super awesome about it!!!

SO some spoilers and some thoughts on the movie itself in detail.

Don’t read if you don’t want spoilers.

The environment.

Everything from the fantastic “Hallelujah Mountains” that floated in the sky above the ground to the phosphorescent plant life at night left me in awe. Fantastic clouds, misty rivers and waterfalls, a massive tree home. So many wonderful and unique creations for a world with a name like Pandora.

The characters.

The digital ones were incredible not simply because they moved well but because of how REAL they were. The Navi are cat like in many features. And some of the best things they did with them were dialating eyes, ears that reacted as a cat to various emotions, tails that moved WITH the characters and not like some afterthought animation. Again – sensistive people might be bothered by the thongs worn by the Navi. But I was pretty impressed at how they always managed to cover the nipples of the females and the thongs always stayed in place. I personally caught a few side nipples but I was looking for them on the second viewing thanks to being over sensitive to my family next to me. The texturing was amazing on the Navi as well! All in all it was VERY easy to forget the Navi were only digital. They really were REAL at points and were incredible.

The Characterization.

Something I can be picky on is how a character might develop. My biggest concerns were for Jake who is constant throughout the movie and his growth. To quote a friend, it is a Furngully situation. Young forester comes and finds himself involved with the forest protectors. He’s arrogant but falls in love and realizes he loves nature. However, in this case we see a hurting ex-marine who has come to Pandora in place of his twin brother who was killed in a mugging. Through comments we can assume he has a pretty big chip on his shoulder and we never find out the details of why he’s wheelchair bound. Only that he accepts his brother’s place because he needs money to get his spinal cord repaired. He has serious pride issues with allowing people to help him but is afraid of nothing and really just appears to be out for himself. However, in place of his brother he becomes an “Avatar Driver.”

Basically he is neurologically linked to a body created with a mix of dna from a human and navi. We get a brief introduction to his new found liberty to run and walk as an avatar that awakens an interest in a program he was thinking was stupid and then we get to see him being asked by the military leader of the base to spy on the navi for him. Jake goes out with the science team a little later and is separated when a while animal attacks. He is rescued by Neytiri, a navi huntress and the chief’s daughter (she was going to kill him but she saw a sign from their god and stopped). He’s eventually taken in by the tribe to teach him their ways and they learn about the warriors of the humans. By mid movie, we’re seeing him basically growing to love the ways and things about the Navi. He begins to think about others a bit more and about the world around him. In the end he learns self sacrifice and what it means to protect. He falls in love and in the end decides to stay. I won’t say how here.

As a side note while I think about it. Jakes character as an avatar when he first meets Neytiri is wonderful. She tells him he’s like a child and indeed, he seems like one. And with his cat like features of the Navi its fun to watch. Its like watching a kitten as he bats at everything and everything seems new and unusual. You can picture him picking up new scents or perhaps a bright color catching his eye. He has to touch everything and see everything. He’s super curious! It was very fun to watch this scene. Haha

The Story. Ok, so perhaps it wasn’t the most original. In fact it takes a lot of our own US history. The white man wants the Indians land and when they won’t move with nice words the white man comes in and chases them off. In this case, the humans want Unobtanium (Un-obtain-ium) that is rich on the planet and sells for billions per little bit of mineral. They realize the Navi’s home, Hometree, is sitting on the biggest deposit on the planet and they want it. So the scientists develop this Avatar program in the hopes of talking to the native and getting them to move diplomatically. However, the corporate don’t want to wait much longer and send in their mercenaries. If you’re a person who supported Bush then you’re also going to be picking off the comments from the head mercenary that (imo) didn’t fit about “fighting terror with terror” or a spy talking about the movement against the navi being for “shock and awe.” And then in comes the final frequently used theme which is noble traitor – turning on his people for the people he just met and fell in love with. And finally the last theme wasn’t mentioned often, but had a pretty big plug near the end of the movie when Jake talks about the Earth and tells Pandora’s god tree about how the humans had killed their mother (earth) and that it had nothing green left and that it needed to do something to stop them from coming and killing her.

Positively about the story, the idea they touched up with the planet and the circle of life theme. The entire planet was a network! The Navi’s own hair allowed them to connect with the world around them. They could upload and download memories at will basically and communicate with all living things. I really loved the idea of this in the movie and as Grace (scientist) said. The true value of the planet was what was under the ground but what was above it. I imagine if the villains of the movie had believed her that so much could have been gained.

I could really continue about the things I really loved about this movie. I think it could have maybe been fleshed a little bit more in story. Why certain characters outside of Jake behaved in certain ways or came to certain decisions that later effected how things happened. But overall, I think it was a good length of movie. It had a very good pace and didn’t feel like it lasted 2.5 hours. I frequently was lost to the world of the movie and especially in the IMAX there were points were I forgot I was even sitting in a theater until someone shifted beside me or moved in front of me.

I still recommend seeing this movie to anyone. Though again – caution towards the conservative and sensitive who MIGHT be bothered by a few of the things I mentioned above. Go see it and have fun! Probably the best movie I’ve seen all year!

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