Sunday, January 17, 2010

Believe the Hype: Avatar

Boy oh boy! Was it ever an epic movie night for me. I sat through TWO movies today: The Science of Sleep, and Avatar. Both are essentially relationship movies, but I dunno... The older I get, the more I want to be like Avatar. I guess Avatar is what one strives for, but it ends up looking more like, well, The Science of Sleep, for one. But I digress. As my good friend sometimes says, if a movie was walking down the street, and the hype about it were walking the other way, they wouldn't recognize each other. Gangs of New York came to mind. I mean, I don't think it's the WORST movie Scorsese ever made. But every once in a while a movie is a blockbuster that one might actually root for. I'll admit I was in the Lord of the Rings camp when the great LOTR-Harry Potter raged earlier this decade but it certainly looks like Potter's winning the marathon after all. And as much as I hate to admit it, I was entertained. A lot. This was my first 3-D experience, probably not my last, but I think the writing's on the wall already: this whole 3-D craze simply isn't immersive enough. No, those of you who might read this several centuries from now, take pity upon us mere mortal Neanderthals, who used to stare passively at a flat screen, who were never able to camp out for a wild night amongst the hungry creatures on Pandora... is it Pandora or Pandorum? I'm already confused.
So there's no question the special effects are top notch. I'll never be able to look at Final Fantasy the same way again. Actors are damn close to being replaced altogether, but look at it this way: no more wasted hours in the makeup chair, right? And the lighting is probably as good as it's going to get. Some of the forests in Revenge of the Sith, for one, were lit rather strangely; let's just leave it at that. No, the world of Pandora's pretty damn fleshed out. You know how you'll often hear that a place is one of the characters in the movie? Yeah! This is like that, but I guess it goes without saying, or somehow it doesn't seem strong enough.
That being said, the story... ah, who cares. There's already a sequel in the works. Yes, Cameron's ready to come out of semi-retirement and leave the documentary world alone for a while. Having found Jesus's final resting place, he's got his franchise that'll finally give him the creative freedom to do what he wants. What Michael Bay is to Transformers, Cameron is to Avatar and beyond. I was kinda disappointed that the old Lightstorm Entertainment logo of True Lies and Strange Days didn't come up, but apparently the company's gone altogether... okay, it's just a silent partner now. So, let's talk Spoilers. I hate to break it to my good friend, but the whole Dances with Wolves in space thing's already been claimed. But they also said the ending's a bit like Pinocchio, and I'll bet ol' Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen head must be spinning in its box right now, in the hopes that future Disney underlings could sue for story infringement. As for me, well, I couldn't help but see this as a warmup for that movie that Cameron wanted to make about cliffdivers, what with all the flying and the diving. Normally, I'd wonder where the water comes from that can make a waterfall on a floating rock, but sometimes you leave those questions aside for when you watch the movie at home alone with all your jaded friends. And I guess I wasn't enjoying myself completely when they talked about how only a select few have ridden the giant red dragon. Could you even doubt that our hero was going to end up doing that? Although I did like the way he prefaced it by saying that sometimes you gotta make a big crazy gesture. Er, how many times have you been married, Mr. Cameron? Sorry, but I had to go there. Call it MY OWN big crazy gesture.
Apparently, Digital Domain, WETA and ILM all teamed up on this bad boy. And the big tree crashing down, well, I haven't seen something so spectacular since the big water tower falling down in Looney Tunes: Back In Action... actually, it kinda sucked, but oh well. They tried, they really tried.
I think I covered all the points... oh, right. I'm still kinduva sucker for True Lies, and there was that one part where our hero Sully was hanging off of that missile on the side of that warplane... just like the terrorist at the end of True Lies! But this time, Sully's NOT fired. And I know you have to save the arch bad guy for last, but puhleeze. That was quite a fall from the exploding plane, wasn't it? As for the latent charges of racism, well, most good entertainment is. Maybe I'm racially insensitive, but how many sci-fi films have you seen that have their own unique races to be racist about? Besides, the whole Chosen One thing's an easy plot structure to fall back on. I guess some are pointing to the big line at the end: "How does it feel to betray your own race?" In this case, it's really just a case of climbing the corporate ladder, really. Fingers are bound to get stepped on by the feet from above! But really, Sully's avatar gives the ideal answer to that question: a hiss.
And finally, will Cameron conquer the Oscars once again as he did 12 years ago? Well, people are a lot more jaded these days, but I'd say it has a better chance than Benjamin Button before it to really sweep up some hardware, especially in the SFX departments. As for Stephen Lang, well, 2003 was your big year, buddy, but I think the muscle mags will give you some mad props instead! It's a whole another you, buddy.

so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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