Just came back from Avatar 3D at Edwards IMAX theater, in Boise. In short - "Visually Spellbinding".
This is James Cameron's best Visual masterpiece ever. But unfortunately it's probably the one with the weakest storyline.
With the good and the bad out of the way, let's talk a little more about the movie experience itself. This was my first complete 3D movie. Ice Age 3D earlier, was a disaster where I had to baby-sit our 3 year old most of the time 'outside the arena'. The fact that the visuals were captivating enough for my jumpy 3.5 year old to be at his seat with 3D glasses on for greater part of 2 hours 40 minutes speaks of the visual treat the movie is.
I was in for a real surprise when I went into the hall and found it to be a normal screen in front instead of the "Dome" IMAX theaters I am used to back in India. Quick search on Wikipedia cleared the confusion. IMAX implies an approx. 4 times bigger than usual screen, but it need not be a Dome. Darn!!! Second row of an IMAX movie and we (group of seven) were looking at each other with expressions of disappointment. Then again, 'Avatar' on Christmas, what were we thinking!!!
Now how do I talk about the movie without spoiling the fun of the movie? Well, let me try.
The underlying theme of the movies is the same 'good triumphs over evil' however for a change humans (most of them anyways) are the 'evil' and the 'aliens' are the good guys. Considering the setting is a planet in a 'galaxy far far away', the role reversal doesn't hit you so hard. Joining the humans and the aliens are the 'Avatars' - the beings that humans created to 'understand' the aliens. They look like the aliens but have human counterparts with an infinitely strong 'telepathic link' giving humans the experience of their 'alien' bodies. Kind of "Matrix like", without impaling the back of the skull with a 6 inch needle and the Avatar being a biological being rather than stream of 0 and 1.
It's said James Cameron wrote it decades ago and was waiting for the technology to mature before he could make a movie out of it. Well, the technology has matured and the result is technically fantastic, but all those years of waiting shows in the narrative. It speeds through at times and slows down to a crawl at times.
Probably if it was written today it would have been made into a Triology (which might still happen). A slower pace would have helped because there is so much to talk about, like :
- Humans in a different planet. How/When/Why (just a mineral is not good enough); - Humans interacting with natives of the planet (some of the natives speak English thanks to efforts of the scientific side of the 'expedetion'). Dude, when and how did that happen? - The root of the expedetion itself. Cooking up an exotic mineral name that sells for a very high price back at home doesn't quite invoke the need/the passion that makes the whole thing believable. Yes, it maybe drawing parallels to the gold rush where native Americans were attacked by 'alien' humans. The 'bow and arrow' vs 'gunship' analogy is jarring. Maybe if the narrative focused on the power of the natives thanks to the 'collective' intelligence it might have made the movie more balanced. It felt too melodramatic. - The science behind the 'Avatar'. It's not covered in any significant details.
Each of the above have enough to make a movie independently. However director was in a hurry to stitch the technology marvel together. Having said all that, it does try to drive home the point that Humans need to be more 'friendly' with 'mother nature' and destroying nature for greed will result in retribution from 'mother nature'. (Copenhagen summit anyone?). The concept of 'collective intelligence' is beautiful and should have been portrayed more powerfully.
In the end, conflict between humans and aliens end and the 'bad guys' are sent packing. Some of the 'good humans' are 'allowed' to stay back with the 'good guys'.
Watch it for the visually stunning graphics. The alien planet is created beautifully. The scale of grandness is made more realistic by the 3D effects (do watch it in 3D if you have the option). Actually all things alien are really nicely done, even the supposedly scary beasts. The battle scenes are equally stunning and grand. In effect everything about the movie is Godzilla 10x, 'Size does matter' :D.
Final verdict, must watch it, but in a movie theater, because unless you have a 3D TV this movie doesn't have much to offer other than the special effects.
Cheers, and happy holidays everyone.