catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 1 :: 2010.01.08 — 2010.01.21


Conversion experience

The moment I heard that James Cameron was preparing a huge multi-million-dollar 3D sci-fi epic that “would revolutionize film-making,” I groaned. As the years passed and news filtered in, I rolled my eyes. As posters appeared, I smirked. When the trailer came out, I did all of the above. In my opinion, this film represented Hollywood’s lowest common denominator approach, schlepping off bad video-game sci-fi action as some new form of innovation.

And then, it came out. Award buzz mounted, reviews were middling-good. And people started seeing it. I scoffed. But then my friends started saying good things about it. I thought, “Could I be wrong?” Yes, I know I am a stubborn snob, but I’m cool with that. I watch hundreds of films every year, and I don’t want to waste my time with something I don’t love, when the world is full of movies I do love.

The big change happened when I asked my Facebook friends to share their opinions. And I really started to rethink when Hayley admitted her disdain of the film going in and her “LOVE” of the film coming out. Now, nothing against my other friends who loved the movie, but Hayley is someone I trust (despite O.C. and Grey’s Anatomy leanings) and who shares my wild cynicism. So I thought, if she was won over, maybe it was worth a look.

And so. I went. My parents’ area of Pennsylvania (well, New York, really, is where the theatres are) has finally gotten 3D functionality, so the three of us (Papa, Mama and Baby Bear) headed off to Binghamton to take in the wonder of three dimensions and Jimmy Cameron’s ego. We were let into the theatre late, as they needed to “clean” it with various mops. Oh, great, thought we, there will be vomit. And so, seated safely away from potential up-chuckers, we settled in for a long winter’s watch.

OK, OK, so was it good? It pains me to admit that I greatly enjoyed it. Let’s explore why.

The story, as you may have heard, is nothing new, but that’s not the end of the world (ha). When Cameron is at his best, he makes killer action flicks, not stirring chamber pieces. And while an action movie needs a good hook, it doesn’t need a novel script. And so, wannabe IMDB quotes shoot out of tough people’s mouths with clichéd accuracy. Hey, even the glorious Terminator 2 was full of hasta la vista‘s (though sounding much less serious coming from of Arnold). So, as one friend says, even though you know exactly where it’s going the whole time, you enjoy the rollercoaster ride. And indeed, I did.

The acting is surprisingly effective and affective. Zoe Saldana especially shines as the alien love interest, even though we never see the actress onscreen. And this brings me to the tech. Again, I hate to admit it, but believe the hype and ignore the cheesy trailers. Avatar IS a monumental game-changer. Nothing will ever be the same. I thought multiple times throughout the film, “Now nothing is impossible.” And again the cliché was apt. Goodbye uncanny valley. The CG motion-captured Na’vi are just as real as the humans. It is nothing short of remarkable. Breathtaking even. The creatures look silly, but real. Remember Jurassic Park? The Matrix? Moulin Rouge? Remember sitting in the theatre, agog, your eyes opened to new possibilities and worlds? Prepare for that thrill again. 

And not only are the “creatures” of the Na’vi real, but the actors behind the Na’vi are utterly convincing. You see Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and CCH Pounder in the faces, the movements, the performances, even the eyes, for heaven’s sake. And the world they inhabit is sufficiently original and sufficiently grounded in our familiar myths. It is immersive and fascinating.

So, yeah, the skeptic is a believer, though he’s not happy about it. Oh, and the 3D? Not a gimmick in sight, thankfully, just an enhancement of the world — both that of the characters and the viewers.

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