James Cameron Releases Avatar 3D 7 Years Too Late

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Image By tsmall Flickr
Image By tsmall Flickr

James Cameron Releases Avatar 3D 7 Years Too Late

Do you remember back in the day when Adelaide used to have an IMAX cinema? It was kind of nice but it cost like $26, you only had 3 movies to choose from and they were all documentaries? I remember back in 1998 when I went to see Deep Sea 3D at the IMAX cinema on Rundle Street, it was a bit of a novelty, you would put on your 3D glasses and every once in a while a sea creature would seem to pop out from the screen and almost jump at you… but was it worth $26? Maybe, maybe not. Would I go back to see it again? Probably not. Did I go back to see another movie? No.

I remember at the time thinking, yeah this is ok but I really wish someone would actually make some good IMAX movies that we could all watch. Now, in 2009, finally a movie has been released that may satisfy that itch and with all of the buzz I couldn’t help but round up some friends to go check it out, the only problem was… Adelaide no longer has an IMAX cinema! James Cameron released Avatar 3D 7 years too late because the Adelaide IMAX cinema closed in 2002, so we ended up having to go see Avatar 3D on a normal cinema screen (but still in 3D).

Now, I do realise that there have been quite a few movies that have been released for the IMAX but nothing that I would consider noteworthy and keep in mind that I’m no movie or tech buff either, I might go to the cinema like once every six months or something like that and usually I just wait until it’s released on DVD or even on television but I do love a good story and Avatar 3D has been touted as the beginning of a new age of 3D cinema so it was something not to be missed.

So anyways, here is my review of Avatar 3D thanks to a little prompting from @ambermatson.

The Special Effects Should Support The Story

Watching Avatar 3D you get a sense that this movie was made for 3D not just something that was re-made for a 3D screen as an after thought.  The characters and scenery leap out at you, a golf ball seems to hit it’s mark just before it smacks you in the face and bullets fly at you in such a way that you can’t help but feel the impact. The special effects alone make Avatar 3D a must see movie of the year, however I thought the special effects were a bit gimmicky and whilst at first it seemed planned and deliberate, towards the end of the movie you don’t even really notice it anymore. I would have liked to have seen the 3D special effects play a more key role in the actual story line itself perhaps incorporated into the scene where Jake Sully (main character) conquers the toruk (kind of like a dragon) or used to emphasise the presence of Eywa (kind of like “the Force” ala Star Wars). Overall a pretty cool sneak preview of what’s possible with 3D special effects but with a bit more thought it could have been integrated more tightly with the story line. Whilst watching Avatar 3D I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to see a movie like Saving Private Ryan in the same format.

The Story Needs A Reversal

I’ve heard people describe Avatar 3D as being similar to “Dances With Wolves” but in outer space. Personally I don’t mind the whole loss and redemption story line but with the popularity of movies like the Sixth Sense, Fight Club and even more recently Terminator Salvation the audience has come to expect a shocking or unexpected reveal at the end, where you find out that not everything is what you thought it was. Avatar 3D really lacks that “Luke, I am your father!” moment. As I was watching Avatar 3D I couldn’t help thinking – what is unobtanium and why is it so valuable? In the opening scenes we are introduced to this thing called unobtanium which is supposed to be worth $20 million per kilogram but we have no idea about what it does or why it’s so important. Firstly with inflation, $20 million in 2154 would be worth like $100 in 2009 but anyways the value of the unobtanium sets the scene for why everyone is behaving the way they are.  I would have liked to have seen some demonstrations of what the unobtanium can do – is it a source of energy that can power the whole city of New York for a whole year? Can it be used to cure any illness? Is it a drug that promises to get you high like cocaine but without any side affects? Perhaps the Kelutrel (huge tree which is also the home of the Na’vi people, the Na’vi are a race of people who live on the planet Pandora) is the source of unobtanium – kind of like a Goose that lays golden eggs, the greed of the humans leads them to destroy the tree only to realise that it was actually the tree that was producing the unobtanium – the thing that they want more of in the first place?

The Characters Need More Charisma

Even though the technology for the making of the Star Wars prequels is far superior to the originals we are always reminded of how much better the originals were because of the fact that the original characters just had a lot more charisma.

Darth Vadder wasn’t just an evil dude, he was the baddest mofo in the galaxy, he could use the force to crush your vital organs and kill you just with his nasty nasty thoughts and he had a death star that could destroy an entire planet, his moto was “Screw up and I will kill you!”  Sure Colonel Miles Quaritch could talk tough and bench press heavy weights but there wasn’t very much for us to hate about him. Maybe he’s angry because he lost a close friend or family member during previous encounters with the Na’vi? Maybe he wasn’t breast fed enough as a child? Maybe they could have been keeping a few Na’vi in their lab to experiment on and torture. The more we hate the bad guy the more awesome the good guy becomes.

Han Solo was a lovable rogue who always said the most inappropriate things and brought comedy to the most dire of situations. Remember the Millennium Falcon and how it would always malfunction and stall as they tried to go into warp speed and it would stall more and more as the situation got worse and worse? Avatar 3D didn’t’ have a Han Solo or a Millenium Falcon, even though it was implied that the Avatar Capsules (the things that they would sit inside which allowed them to take control of their Avatar bodies) were technically imperfect you never actually saw them malfunction, they always worked perfectly and were never used as a way to increase the suspense and drama within a particular scene.

Yoda always had something profound to say and he would always say it in Yoda-Speak “Size matters not… Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?” Great characters always have great catch phrases and we remember them for a long time whether it be “I’ll be back” or “… Bond, James Bond” we all know what movie it is that we are referencing, Avatar lacks that, I can’t remember any specific phrases from Avatar that really hit home for me.

The Future Of Cinema

With all of the money that these movies are generating from computer games, merchandise and other related licensing deals I can’t help but wonder why there is so much fuss over the issue of movie piracy. A good movie can be the spark for a new cult or subculture or franchise in which case a movie is like an advertisement that recruits people into that franchise who will spend good money on anything and everything that is related to that movie. Did I think that Avatar 3D was the best movie of all time? No. Would I go to see it again? Maybe. Would I go to see another 3D movie that is similar to Avatar in future? Yes. Would I wear an Avatar inspired costume to a halloween party? Hell yes! With Avatar 3D you can really start to see the potential of 3D and IMAX and with the expected flood of 3D and IMAX movies likely to hit the silver screen, maybe now is the time for Adelaide to have an IMAX cinema once more?

Go see Avatar 3D if you like science fiction and want to get a sneak speak into where the cinema industry is headed but don’t be expecting a surprise ending or characters that you can mimic and add to your repetroire of comic impersonations because there won’t be any!

3 Comments

  1. Mal Chia

    on 23rd Dec, 09 04:12am

    Nice review.

    I actually thought the story was quite strong and found myself caring deeply for the fate of the Na’vi. Only time will tell if it will reach the same lofty pop-cultural heights as Star Wars but for me, it was the visually stunning film I have ever seen with a solid story that is still head and shoulders above most other Hollywood-fare. The 3D was also very well done and not in your face (like what I was expecting) instead adding depth and detail that further immersed you in Pandora.

    Anyway, I thought I should point out as well that unobtanium is what filmmakers call a ‘McGuffin’. What it is isn’t important. It is simply a plot device used to explain the actions of the main characters e.g. the suitcase in Pulp Fiction that John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are sent to retrieve.

    Looking forward to see what the next big 3D movie holds and if it is actually here to stay this time!

  2. stephen

    on 24th Dec, 09 07:12am

    I do remember the IMAX theatre’s here in Adelaide, though never went to a single movie. Weird. Possibly a cost-factor, or a disinterest in cinema. AVATAR is the first cinematic journey I have been on in over 12 months.
    Have to agree with Mal – the unobtainium becomes secondary very quickly into the movie. The fact that our main character is wheel-chair bound is forgotten quickly after he is converted to a purple alien.
    You have convinced me to go see this amazing movie again early in 2010 … this time in 3D!

  3. Yvonne Walus

    on 14th Jan, 10 05:01am

    I agree that with a few tweaks and twists, the plot could have been much, much better, resulting in an awesome movie.