I finally caught up with the rest of the world and saw Avatar the other night, in glorious IMAX 3D. I had read great reviews and so-so ones. I had friends that hated it, friends that admired it but wouldn't see it again, and friends that loved it but hated the dialogue. So there we are, ready to see Daybreakers, when one of friends turns to me and says, "Walter. Avatar." She, too, hadn't seen it, and before I knew it, there were five of us with our 3D glasses and New Moon Collectible Large Cups, ready for either the style over substance, or the eyeball-fucking extravaganza I had been promised.
Yes, the eyeballs get fucked. Pandora is gorgeous, awe-inspiring. I got goosebumps several times. The Na'vi who live on Pandora are so realistically-rendered, I could have sworn they were people in prosthetic makeup. (Well, maybe not Sigourney Weaver's avatar, but the rest looked pretty damned good.) It's seamless and beautiful. The floating mountains took my breath away. The flying banshees -- my GOD the flying banshees!
And yes, we all expected that, but what of the story? Is it not just the live-action Ferngully, the three-hour Pocahontas?
Lemme tell you two things. Number One: There is nothing new under the sun. The only reason for people to crucify Avatar for using familiar themes and arcs is, in my opinion, wanting to bring it down. Because even after high school, everyone wants the popular kids to fail. Number Two: If Avatar does resemble these things, it's only in the most superficial way possible. Avatar is its own thing entirely. How one even dreams up Pandora and Jake Sully and Neytiri is beyond me, but it is original.
The performances are pure pulp, which can be attributed to the cheesy dialogue James Cameron writes. Lord knows his actors sell it, though. Sam Worthington still needs to work on that accent -- he slips back into Australian near the end -- but he's a good actor. I look forward to his future achievements, for while he is a passable leading man here, there are still moments that need work. Sigourney Weaver's ball-bustin' scientist is terrifically funny, while also the conscience of the film.
Stephen Lang's villain, ho-boy, is deliciously, charmingly awful, a sadistically intelligent war lord. Lang savors every gnash this role requires, yet I still kind of liked him in the beginning. He's a man who knows his job and genuinely believes in what he's doing. It's evil, sure, but at least you can see the sincerity. Zoe Saldana's heroine, the Na'vi princess Neytiri, is soulful and penetrating. A mo-cap performance this good has yet to be seen, and it's miraculosu when you realize it's all her. You love her, you're with her 100 percent. It's a game-changing performance, one that does more for the new technology than the landscape of Pandora.
I loved the movie, I really did. I don't know if it's better than Titanic -- for, rest assured, I am a huge supporter of that film's Best Picture Oscar -- but it's damn close. This is going to sound hyperbolic and melodramatic, but I am an emotional person. When my friend turned to me and asked, "What did you think?"
...I wept. I truly wept at the end credits. For the beauty and majesty of it all. It is entertaining while also emotionally resonant. It captures the imagination. It proves that anything is possible in this medium. This is, in many ways, the perfect film.