Last Sunday a few friends and I decided to check out the new box office release of Avatar. It wasn’t so much a decision as an apparent entertainment industry mandate based on the barrage of media hype as the “Revolution of the movie industry” and “The largest advancement in the industry since the on-seat cup holder”. Okay, I made the last one up, but that is probably the one thing that really improved my movie experience in the last 10 years. I was pretty skeptical of the 3D capabilities based on the disappointment from last year’s “super game” commercials supposedly leveraging this new form of entertainment immersion. Although he tends to exaggerate his worth at awards ceremonies, Cameron tends to put out quality movies and ones that I tend to prefer over the other lame Academy Awards nominations (think Milk). He is also talented enough not to need the shaky camera crutch. So off we went to add our money to the opening weekend box office gross. We slap our $9 dollars down expecting to get the required stylish cardboard and cellophane glasses. Instead the cashier hands us a pair of Roy Orbison (per Pakage’s astute observation) grey tinted glasses. Well, already the initial expectations have been exceeded. After paying $8.50 for a medium drink and a bottled water (does anyone really wonder why people prefer to skip the theater experience these days), we made it to our seats in a relatively packed house. Now this is somewhat a surprise since either I have been catching big releases later than the opening weekend or the hype was working because rarely these days do I see a movie in a crowded theater.
Ironically enough, I spent 3 grand to not have to wear glasses/contacts anymore and there we were putting on our thick plastic glasses when the prompt came up on the screen. Immediately, the 10 years of 3D research and technology advancements were paying off. Gone were the jerky phase in and outs of the screen images and the blur that usually occurred at least in the middle of the screen. Every once in awhile, the edges would blur a bit, but may be due to the coverage of the glasses. There were three distinct visual planes, the screen view (which we’ll call the reference point) and then two more planes equidistant forward and back of the reference point. This technology is still new to me so a lot of the movie preview time was spent checking things out and experimenting. One interesting thing is the reference plane appears to be normal when viewing the screen without the glasses. The other two planes were blurred and had the dual color (stereo) blurring seen in the older 3D attempts. It seemed that the further apart the dual images were the farther distance away it appeared from the reference plane, but again, I know little about this technology. It did darken the screen a tad due to the lens tint. There was also a concern as to whether these glasses would give me a headache after such a long movie (way over 2.5 hrs) but with a few removals to view how things were progressing on the reference plane there were no problems.
I do not want to spoil the movie for the rest of you, but I honestly had an “ah” experience when the name of the movie clicked. For some reason this totally escaped me but that may be because I tried to avoid seeing/reading any details on it in order to get the full effect. From a story perspective, I give it 3 stars. Looking over the green liberal propaganda, the story did have some unique concepts and in my opinion drew from the classics. For example, the personal mechanical warriors reminded me of the material handlers in Aliens (helped by Sigourney’s presence), Jakes speech was clearly in the Braveheart mode, the blue leader’s proclamation brought visions of the Last of the Mohican’s Magua discussion with the chief regarding how best to avenge the aggressions of Munro. Add in a healthy dose of references to Gone in Sixty Seconds (thanks to Ribisi) and Grandma’s Boy (thanks to Moore) – okay, maybe those last two do not fit the “classic” description.
Visuals get a hands down 5 stars. Not since Hero has there been a more graphically stunning movie. The color palettes in the jungle, the first (IMHO) movie to get the physics of non human movement right, the diversity in weapons and the seamless CGI to human interaction were extremely impressive. Clearly Cameron compensated for the tinting in the glasses by going the neon route which really popped out of the jungle. Even if you have issues with the story, there is no reason not to enjoy the cinematography in this movie.
Lastly, the 3D technology gets a 4 in my book. They have progressed light years from the cardboard cutouts and realized the benefits in the millions of research dollars. There is some room for improvement on the fringes of the screen. There tends to be an occasional blur on the front foreground panel, but not sure if that is the glasses or pushing the edges of the technology. The impact on those that are prone to motion sickness still needs to be investigated. One of friends (Pakage) has been effected by heavy motion movies (Dark Knight’s cell phone scene for one) and Linda only made it about third of the way through the Star Trek movie due to the crap shaky camera effect (this even annoys me because I think it is a crutch for lack of still talent). Pakage made it through this movie okay, however, it is likely to make Linda pretty sick especially during the warp holes and flying creature scenes.
So the final rating is a 4.2 stars based on the average of the three categories plus a bonus for replacing the obnoxious blue wang image in Watchmen with one of a blue boob. My recommendation – See It, Enjoy It, Dismiss the green liberal tree hugging gargle.
Now back to belting out my Pretty Woman parody on the Ol’ Les Paul.