Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Review - Avatar

James Cameron has become somewhat of a legend within the Malone compound.  My wife commented last night that we have an obsession with over-the-top action movies in my family.  It wasn't until I started formulating my movie review in my head that I came to agree with her.  James Cameron was a major part of that upbringing.  Aliens, The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and True Lies were the things my 10-year old mind embraced and marveled in (all edited on television, of course). The explosions, the guns, the fighting/action, the details were all things that I associate with him.  So I've come to expect big things out of Cameron, and all the hype around Avatar had me...wary.

In the last decade (since everyone is coming out with their END OF THE DECADE lists), there's really only a handful of movies that have lived up to the expectations, most recently The Dark Knight.  Movies lately have fallen into three different categories - Overhyped flops, average flicks, or under-the-radar successes.  The biggest hype around Avatar was the cinematics, and the stories that I had heard revolved around Cameron not wanting to make this film unless the technology could show what he had in his mind.  Cameron has had this idea floating around in his head since 1994, and was budgeted $195 million from Fox for the movie.

The question that I've been asked by everyone is "Was it worth it?"  Ashely and I bought tickets a week ago for the IMAX 3D viewing experience, and at $14.00 per ticket, I was tentative.  We'd seen 3D movies before, the last one being Coraline.  While the movie was good, the 3D was just...there.  As if the moviemakers wanted to create a 3D movie just to make it, but instead of immersing the movie in 3D, they had some things pop out at you.

"Avatar" does more than just make images pop out.  The 3D in Avatar gives so much depth to the movie, it creates an entirely new viewing experience.  The opening scene with Jake Sully (the protagonist) coming out of a cryogenic slumber sets the stage for what you will view.  Imagine what viewing DVDs did to the VHS market.  Many VHS defenders clamored "But the movie is still the same!"  Now that DVD's have overtaken VHS, go back and try to watch a video.  You have to REWIND the video, everything looks kind of hazy, the colors not as crisp, the actors not as clear.  You will have this same experience watching Avatar in 3D.  The depth completely changes your view.

The movie synopsis is predictable and formulaic.  The actors are stereotypical.  My personal favorite scene was Colonel Miles Quaritch, the gruff, hardnose, unrelenting and unemotional military colonel who just wants to fight, doing bench presses with about 300-350 pounds and being able to hold a normal conversation (not straining at all).  There's corny dialogue (not Titanic cheesy, but more True Lies corny), a goofy love story, and a predictable ending.  However, this isn't a movie made to change the world or cause the movie critics to explode with inner delight.  This is a good movie, with a decent story, lots of action, that will make you feel good at the end.  This is a movie that would blow everyone away in the summer blockbuster months.  This is a "James Cameron Blockbuster" in the truest sense of the word.  Grab your popcorn, embrace the 3D, sit in the top of the theater (especially if you see IMAX), and have a good time.

If the movie wasn't 3D and the technology wasn't as good, this would be your average holiday movie in almost every sense of the word.  Average actors. Average story.  Above average music.  Average message.  However, it should be a testament to the technology that it could sway my rating as much as it has.  Remember this: James Cameron has changed the way movies will be made with this technology, and this movie will change the way you view others from here on out.

IMDB Rating (out of 10) - 8.9/10 with 23,174 votes
Rotten Tomatoes rating (out of 100) - 83% with 204 reviews
Metacritic Review (out of 100) - 8.6/10 from users with 421 votes

MY REVIEW (out of 100) - 84%