So often a film is overrun by its own hype and publicity, so much so that, no matter what the final product may be onscreen, the overwhelming memory of the experience is the hype and hyperbole that accompanied the project, rather than the actual story/film itself. I’ve wanted to see ‘AVATAR’ since it opened and, I have believed since I saw the first [of many] trailers that it was either going to redefine film and be a tremendous success, or it was going to fall so flat that it’s failure would equal that of ‘Heaven’s Gate’. [Those of you under 35, Google that and you’ll get my point.]
Well, the box office has shown that it will be a success, but…is it any good?
First things first, I saw this in Digital 3D and, I have to admit, my depth perception is so poor that most of the effects were lost on me, but that really didn’t matter. This was one of those very few film experiences where you truly are transported to a new world, visually stunning and almost excruciating in its detail. At the outset, I heard many people complain about the almost three hour length of the film, but once the characters landed on the futuristic planet Pandora, my outside world disappeared and the time flew by as if it were a three minute coaster ride.
I also admit that I see the film thru a very specific narrow prism. Once the main character, Jake Sully [portrayed by Sam Worthington], who is a paraplegic, awakens as his blue AVATAR, with limbs in tact, and realizes he is able to walk and even run in this new world, Pandora…once I saw that I was sold. I’ve had dreams similar to that moment so, if there’s an alternate universe where I can go with a body ‘in tact’, paint me blue and sign me up.
Now on to the story, which has gotten very mixed reviews among critics and friends I have talked to. I have to say, as a whole, the story works very well. It may be a bit heavy handed and even one-sided, but for the purposes of this film, I think it’s supposed to be one sided, showing and telling the events from the perspective of the natives of Pandora. Are the military portrayed as the ‘men in black hats’? Yes they are, almost to the point of comical caricature. That may be the only fault I have with the film [along with the excessive and unnecessary use of slow motion]. I would have liked to have seen a more ‘humanistic’ portrayal of the Colonel [played to the hilt by Stephen Lang].
Even with the somewhat unbalanced story-telling, the film is a sight to behold, and the plot works. It’s an excellent David v. Goliath or ‘Rocky’ underdog tale and it works because the inhabitants of Pandora have you believing in them and rooting for them. ‘Star Wars’ had the Force. AVATAR has ‘Eywah’, Pandora’s embodiment of faith and spirit. Politics of the plot aside, for me the tagline from this story is a line that’s almost thrown away in a voice over by the main character: ‘All energy is borrowed and someday you have to give it back.’
AVATAR may indeed be the ‘game changer’ that industry people tout it to be. If that’s the case and every action film we see for the next ten years is predominantly CGI based, I hope the future writers of those tales don’t forget that ‘the play [or story] is the thing.’ This movie [I won’t use the word epic] was a joy to watch on many levels, but it worked and moved me because the story of two beings in love was able to be heard above the din of the guns and arrows, and able to shine above the dizzying colors of the Technicolor world they inhabited.
‘Sooner or later, you always have to wake up.’