There is only one film worth seeing in the cinema this week. Avatar. Well, if we are to believe the hype anyway.
Personally, I had been rather apprehensive about this whole Avatar business. I can’t remember the last time a film promised so much (well… maybe Snakes on a Plane but that was really a different kind of promise). It’s been 12 years since James Cameron made a feature film… 12 years is a long time. Of course that film was the highest grossing movie of all time ($1.8 billion worldwide, just so you don’t have to look it up)… but then again, not everyone looks back kindly on Titanic. I actually liked and still like Titanic, but the idea of Titanic in space with a load of blue monkeys? Uh… I just wasn’t so sure about that. And of course Cameron also directed Terminator, Aliens and True Lies. All great films but I just don’t know how this all fits together.. what kind of films does James Cameron do? What kind of film was Avatar going to be? And there’s so much riding on Avatar – Cameron’s reputation of course, but the way it’s being sold, the future of 3D cinema as well. This film is supposed to push 3D out of kids films and horror and into the mainstream. It was too much, too puzzling, I just couldn’t get behind this film wholehartedly.
I’m almost hesitant to tell you what I thought of it. I think you’d be better off if you go see it yourself first. Stop reading now if you haven’t seen it… or read on if you’ve seen it, or if you prefer to hearing other people’s opinions before you see a film… it’s up to you, just don’t say I didn’t warn you, but I do think it’s one that you might want to keep your ears and eyes closed about it beforehand.
If you are still reading on then I think Avatar is going to be a bit of a divisive one, particularly because I think there’s a chance it’ll draw in more than a few people who don’t watch movies a lot… I hope it does anyway. Which is not to say that I think people who don’t watch movies a lot will particularly love it or hate it. Some will and some won’t. I just mean that there’ll be more people talking about it than your average genre film. For example, I doubt My Bloody Valentine was particularly divisive. Not many people who don’t like horror would go to see such an obvious horror/slasher film so it’s not like there’d be many arguments about it. Avatar on the other hand is being sold very wide, wider than I think the genre/s fit. I’m not sure exactly what genre it is but it’s definitely being sold outside it.
Mind you, the genre is irrelevent in a way… I think everyone should see this film. Not everyone will like it but I definitely think everyone should see it. There will be people out there who just aren’t going to buy into the big blue aliens. There’ll be other people who just don’t like sci-fi. There’ll be sci-fi fans who aren’t happy because it’s not sci-fi enough… that doesn’t matter. The fact is, it looks amazing… let me say it again, AMAZING. I could go on with a few more superlative adjectives but it’s not worth it, you’ll just think I sound nuts. Amazing I tells ya. You just have to go see it. It is worth it…. Even if your brain hates it your eyes will enjoy the feast. I liked the 3D in it too. It was used very effectively, there were a few “coming out of the screen at you” moments but a lot of it was giving depth to scenes, just making things look more realistic. It was different from the other 3D I’ve seen. Then again, it’s a very different film from the other 3D films out there.
Will it revolutionise cinema though? I don’t know. First of all, I don’t how much this kind of thing costs and let’s face it, big budget film making is all about the money. But also I don’t know how well it would work with other films. I can see it with the big summer blockbusters, certainly Transformers and Star Trek would benefit from it but I still don’t think that it’s worth it in every case. I guess it really depends on the maths…
In general though, it’s not a great film, it’s a good film but not a great one. Or at least I wouldn’t put it up there with the rest of Cameron’s work. I think in another review, I mentioned that I don’t particularly watch individual films in the context of a director’s overall work. And that’s true. But in this case it’s easier to reference his because… well… I’m just finding it difficult to find a genre to review it in. It’s not really a sci-fi film. Sure, it’s in space and there’s aliens all over the place, but it’s really just a normal drama set against the backdrop of an alien planet. But, you couldn’t compared it to something like… I dunno, Almost Famous or something. I was very much reminded of The Lord of the Rings trilogy watching it. It truly is an epic film. Cameron has created a whole world for us, so I can’t say it wasn’t great because it was a bit of a corny love story. It’s like saying The Lord of the Rings films are just three films about a very long walk. That’s just bollocks.
Ok anyway, this film has really got me waffling. Let’s get down to it. Avatar is a good film but it’s a bit mainstream for my taste. It’s not really entirely a straight up love story like Titanic but it’s more than half way there. The pacing is reasonable but it’s slightly long (about 2 hours 40 mins) and I found the music more than a little annoying (it’s comments like that that are the reason you should watch a film before reading the reviews – now when you watch it you might be listening out for the music and this isn’t a film where you should be worrying about the music… but anyway…). That said, it’s not like the music spoiled it for me, it was just annoying. Characterwise, it’s ok. I wouldn’t say they are well developed but it’s not that kind of film so it doesn’t matter. Acting is fine, a bit shaky in places and the best actors probably aren’t on screen for long enough – I’m pointing at Sigourney Weaver and Giovanni Ribisi here – but there’s nothing painful or shocking about it. The plot is predictable… but again, that’s just the type of film it is. Some films are predictable, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing. It’s not awful though, it’s engaging enough and generally sustains itself across the 160 minutes or so.
All these complaints aside though it’s still a good film. In fact it’s almost a great film. I found myself immersed in this alien world and if a film can do that then it can’t be bad. It is thanks in no small part to the visual effects but also it’s pretty much a full realised world. The Na’vi are a distinct culture and they are a believable culture in my eyes given the world they inhabit.
Anyway I do urge you to go and see it if you haven’t already. It does look AMAZING and yes, it is worth it just for that. And do spend the money on seeing it in 3D. This kind of work deserves to be seen the way it was designed to be seen. Just don’t expect too much from the story. In that respect it’s competent but it’s not worthy of those superlative adjectives I didn’t use to describe the visual effects.