Avatar (2009)

Avatar (2009) — SECOND REVIEW [Blu Ray] So I saw this movie for the first (and until now only) time almost a year ago on IMAX in 3D.  Now that the deluxe super tricked-out blu ray edition has come out the time came to see if it held up at home in one less dimension.  Happy to report it does.  The movie is about grandiose spectacle and that comes through even when things aren’t coming right at you (and because the movie steered clear of 3D gimmickry to begin with, there are no scenes that look painfully idiotic in 2D).  Much has been made of the movie’s plot and its unoriginality (Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and pretty much any movies involving a white dude sympathetic to Indians have been referenced).  I call those people nitpickers.  Star Wars largely borrowed from John Ford’s The Searchers and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress among many other films, but George Lucas was able to take the influences of things he loved and turn it into something to wow a whole new audience in a whole new way.  James Cameron has done the same thing with Avatar (though I seriously doubt it will have even half the cultural impact Star Wars did).  I really dig this flick and it’s one of those movies where I feel compelled to watch all the documentaries on the disc to see how it was made.  There’s also some extra scenes in the new disc that i think help the movie, even though they make the thing over 3 hours long.  There’s a new beginning set on a Blade Runner-esque Earth.  These scenes also set up from the start that Jake is paraplegic so you don’t get that hackneyed “Surprise!  He’s a cripple!” moment when he gets off the ship like in the theatrical version.  Anyway, I’m glad this movie held up after all the massive hype from last year has died down. FIRST REVIEW [IMAX 3D] Someone who reviewed Avatar a few months before it was released said the following: this movie will fuck your eyeballs.  A very odd and bizarrely violent mental image to be sure, but it caught on so that became the early buzz on the movie.  Well, I saw it last night in IMAX 3D, and I must disagree.  James Cameron’s Avatar did not fuck my eyeballs, it made sweet sweet love to them.  The storytelling is nothing especially new here.  Basic Joseph Campbell Hero’s Journey stuff.  Kind of similar plot-wise to Dances With Wolves actually (as others before me have pointed out), only with giant blue cat people.  Sam Worthington is decent enough in the lead though, like in Terminator: Salvation, he doesn’t quite seem settled on any individual accent.  He’s either from New York, Massachusettes, or Australia.  But accent-work and narrative archetypes are not the big deal with this movie.  The big deal is that it looks amazing from start to finish.  The massive bioluminescent forest and the floating mountains are awesome [in the original awe-inspiring sense of the word] and the cat people (called the Navi) are the biggest leap forward in computer-generated motion capture animation since Golum.  And it’s all in 3D!  Not “throw shit at the camera” Final Destination 4/My Bloody Valentine remake style 3D but more like Pixar used it with Up, to add depth to the image in a way that makes the movie screen like a window to a different world.  But better.  Much much better.  James Cameron created a fully-realized world and it’s awesome to behold.  The story, while nothing original as states previously, is solid and makes you care about all this pretty-looking stuff.  Plus there’s pretty decent acting going on inside the motion capture suits.  Zoë Saldaña takes everything that made her appealing in Star Trek and brings it all to her blue Navi character.  Speaking of acting the movie has great villains.  The lesser of them is Giovanni Ribisi’s weasallyt corporate stooge, but the scene-stealer is Stephen Lang as the Colonel of a Blackwater-style military-for-hire.  His is a brilliantly over-the-top incarnation of evil awesomeness and he lends a real threat to the story.  This is one of the movies where you know from the previews that the good guys are going to win but the movie, and Lang especially, really make it feel like the good guys kind possibly win.  It takes a literal deus ex machina to save them.  James Cameron has added yet another to his long list of successes (Terminator 2 being a personal favorite of mine).  The dude’s king of the world once more.

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