Thursday, 24 December 2009

Avatar. You're Not In Kansas Anymore.

So I went and saw Avatar.

I haven't left yet. I've been out of the theater for a few days but I'm still on Pandora.

I've never been to a 3D movie before, and by all accounts, this was the one to start with.

Cameron put a lot of work into this film. It's set in a jungle on another planet. Every living creature is designed and so is every plant. The movie's 3D is entirely redone. The way it was shot is a whole new kind of filming developed by Cameron himself. It's not 3D exactly, it's immersive. The whole movie is designed to make you feel like you're actually there. And the movie is so full of amazing things to see that you'll feel like you just wandered into Aladdin's Cave. You're wearing those 3D glasses, and you've got about a million things to look at.

This movie is an experience. It's a day pass to go to another world for a while. Someplace that is so unbelievably wondrous that you won't be able to stop staring at the screen.

I remember when I first heard about this movie, and I learned that the movie cost over $300 million to make, currently holding the title of the most  expensive film ever made. I heard that James Cameron was doing it, and that it was his first film since Titanic. Titanic was the most expensive movie ever made until then, and it made an unthinkable fortune. I said to myself, "Avatar better be one hell of a film."

And it is. It was one of the most enjoyable movie experiences I've ever had, and I'm a product of the jaded special effects generation. It takes a lot to shock these days.

Well, this one did.

There's a line, early in the film spoken by a military man. "You are not in Kansas anymore. You are on Pandora."

That pretty much sums it up. This movie is not about telling a story, or about meeting the characters. This movie is about visiting another planet.

The only thing I can use to compare it, is maybe The Wizard of Oz. Imagine for a moment, you've never seen a movie in color at all, and you start with Wizard of Oz. Dorothy opens the door from her sepia toned bedroom into glorious Technicolor Oz and suddenly you're in a whole other place.

You aren't in Kansas anymore.

The early reviews are in and they're record-breaking in themselves. The opening weekend came to $230 million worldwide. And well worth it too.

Avatar follows the story of Jake Sully, a soldier who has been crippled, stuck in a wheelchair, and is offered the proverbial 'second chance', by the military. Do a job for them, and he can get his legs back. Set in the future, the military has a base on the jungle moon of Pandora, full of dangerous lifeforms, plus the natives. The military want a quick solution to the problem. The scientific population want a peaceful solution  to the problem, and the people who are paying for the expedition, want a quick return on their investment.

Getting this money, involves moving the natives out, by any means necessary.

But while there, living among the locals, getting to know them, Sully starts to go native.

Now the harshest criticisms of this film are the about the story. It's been called Dances With Wolves in Space, and it is. it's not a bad story, it's not even a boring story. The movie's story is a time-honored formula. You'll see the same movie, a thousand different ways in a thousand different movies; but not like this.

The story itself is interesting enough, the way it's handled done with a professional's skill. Don't look for sudden twists or amazing revelations. You'll not find them, and don't distract yourself from what you're seeing. You'll figure the story out in ten minutes, but you'll still enjoy it. You'll figure out the characters in five, but you'll still feel for them, because they have actual character over cliché.

You'll figure the story out in ten minutes. You'll figure out the characters in five.

Go see it anyway.

I'm not telling you to go watch a movie, I'm telling you to buy a ticket to another planet.