18 December 2009 | deathscythe_42
A Whole New World
Director James Cameron's return to the world of science fiction cinema is a glorious one indeed. Twelve years after delivering us the highest grossing film of all time, Cameron brings us the sci-fi epic Avatar, a film that is not only visually breathtaking, but also character driven, emotional, exciting, effective, and masterfully directed.
The marketing and hype for this movie was mostly based around the groundbreaking visual effects, so I'll start there. I was lucky enough to get to see this film in a digital 3D theater. My only complaint is with myself, in that I wish I had seen a couple of 3D movies before this one. This was my first experience with a 3D film, so I really didn't have anything to compare it against, but all I knew from the very first shot of the movie was that this was going to be unlike anything I had ever seen before. At first it took me a while to adjust to the dimensions of the film, but after my eyes got used to what i was seeing, I realized that what I was looking at was not a 3D gimmick but a world with an incredible amount of depth. James Cameron rarely gets right in your face with the big things in this movie. He is more subtle than that. The things that appear to be directly in front of you (and they really do) are the little things that capture the ambiance of the scene and make you feel like you're there with the characters. The rest of the 3D effect serve to add dimensions and reality to the scenes.
The visual achievement in this film is not in the action scenes (which are some of the most exciting I've ever seen) but in the lengths that were gone to to bring this world to life. James Cameron has created a planet, a species, and a culture that work in perfect harmony with each other, and likewise the visuals are in perfect harmony. I'll admit I was a little apprehensive that this movie was more computer animated than live action. To me that usually suggests that a film crew is getting lazy, and that it's going to look like a video game. That is not at all the case here. The truth is that without computer animation there is no other way this film would have looked this impeccable. The planet of Pandora is extremely beautiful and detailed, and the Na'vi species fit with it perfectly. In all honesty, you can in fact tell that the aliens are computer animated. They still haven't quite attained the ability to make CG characters that look absolutely 100% unquestionably real, and in a live action world they might still have suffered the out-of-place look that many CG characters in movie get. However, in the computer animated world of Pandora, they blend in seamlessly and beautifully. This is of course not to downplay the design of the na'vi. They look as real as you could possibly hope for. The nearness they have come to looking real, the motion capture used in this movie, the range of facial expressions and emotions that they show, are all unprecedented.
All of that being said, the next big question about this movie is this: Are visual effects all it has to offer? My answer: Not at all. The depth of Avatar goes far beyond the visuals themselves.
As with all of Cameron's movies, Avatar is character driven. The central characters of the film are all dynamic, well written, and very well acted. You go on an adventure with them and throughout the movie you fall in love them (or grow to despise them depending on which characters).
The general plot-line of the movie is a bit generic but that's okay. No, the premise isn't anything completely brand new, but it's still an excellent plot, and one that is familiar to our society and very important for us to remember. Along with that there are still several aspects of the plot that are quite original. James Cameron took a familiar story, one that many storytellers before him have told version of, and made it his own. Furthermore, this is one of those movies where you predict things because you want to see them happen, and when your predictions turn out to come true it's gratifying. That's not to say that everything is predictable, because that would get old. Don't worry, Cameron has thrown in a fair amount of little surprises too.
This film is also as much emotionally effective as it is visually effective. James Cameron is a master at getting a certain emotion or feeling out of his viewers, and every scene in the movie works toward one or more of these effects. It's very light-hearted at times, with a good bit of comedic relief, and then quite intense in other scenes. Some scenes make you fear for the main characters, or perhaps even for yourself. Much of the film is brimming with anticipation and suspense, and several scenes had me simply grinning with excitement.
Overall this is one of the greatest cinematic experiences I've ever had. Avatar is groundbreaking, dynamic, powerful, and a ton of fun. I must say it was worth the wait, but I certainly hope Cameron is here to stay this time.