James Cameron is back.
No doubt about it. The man behind Terminator, The Abyss and Titanic returns triumphantly with Avatar, an epic military action adventure meets Dances With Wolves. And it’s the movie that we’ll look back on as the true start of the 3D revolution. Sure 3D has been around for decades, but only now has it finally been executed flawlessly.
The best part about Avatar in 3D is that you quit thinking about how it’s a 3D movie. You just experience it. From the strange and beautiful creatures floating in the air, to the lush foliage in the foreground to the modern computer control surfaces, Avatar is a real world, not just a 3D gimmick. The best special effects are always the ones that don’t appear to be special effects; Gollum in Lord of the Rings, the liquid metal in T2, the Raptors of Jurassic Park, the opening sequence of the original Star Wars when the Imperial ship flies overhead. In fact Roger Ebert says Avatar made him feel like he did when he first saw Star Wars.
Many have said the plot is lame and predictable. I say two things, the plot of Titanic was predictable (we knew the boat was going to sink), and secondly, its how you get there that matters. The getting there is what makes Avatar work. The plot, while not that inventive, is adequate and believable.
The acting is also first rate. Even a role that could have been a stereotype, the evil military guy, is played very real and the actor (Stephen Lang) did not go over the top as so many military guy performances do. And this is part of why I liked Avatar so much, for the things Cameron didn’t do. Nobody makes long winded speeches about the senate and the trade federation (Episode 1 of Star Wars) and there is no Jar Jar. In fact, and this is key, the Na’vi (the tall blue people) act like an entirely different species and don’t follow human racial stereotypes like the newest Star Wars movies, or the more recent and dreadful Transformers 2 with it’s human race based robots. In Star Wars – Episode 1 who could forget the Mexican dealer selling spaceship parts, the Chinese aliens enforcing the trade blockade, or Jar Jar with dreadlocks and speaking in ebonics. Transformers 2 (one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen) did this with robots. I’m only going to say this once for all directors who are thinking of making a robot or alien movie…ROBOTS AND ALIENS DO NOT HAVE HUMAN RACIAL CHARACTERISTICS!
Avatar has none of this nonsense. The Na’vi act like Na’vi. The don’t sound like Mexicans or African Americans from the hood, or Asian gangsters. They sound like Na’vi. Yes you can draw a parallel between the Na’vi and Native Americans, but Cameron has invented a very real and unique sounding language and they don’t walk or move like humans. Because they’re not human. Cameron understands this. Maybe he can teach George Lucas and Michael Bay something about robots and aliens.
Avatar is one of those movies that comes along every few years that everyone must see. And you must see it in 3D. I was not sure what to expect when I first saw the trailer with the tall blue aliens, but the film really delivers. You actually feel for these 3D CG characters. I’m sure, just like with Titanic, when you watch the film again and again on DVD it may lose some of that magic, but Avatar has already earned it’s place in history.