FILM RATING: 3.5 stars
I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say much about the film Avatar (2009). If you haven’t heard of this movie by now, you’re WAY unplugged from the entertainment world. I’m surprised at myself for not seeing this movie in the theater, but I waited for Blu-Ray instead. James Cameron’s first movie since his billion dollar blockbuster Titanic (1997) is now the #1 box office movie of all time in both the U.S. and the world. But in my humble opinion, it is not Cameron’s best movie. I still think Titanic (1997), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), and The Abyss (1989) are better films. And of course Aliens (1986) and The Terminator (1984) are on most people’s lists of great Cameron films as well. I would put Avatar somewhere in the middle of that list. While the technology within Avatar is amazing, I don’t think the storytelling was at the same level. One thing I’ve come to learn about great films and great acting is that people are the key to both. And while the Avatar characters are fully acted and voiced by talented actors, something just seems to be missing in the translation from human to avatar. It’s hard to put a finger on it really. It’s not that the artificial characters can’t have the emotions and soul of a human being, because they do in movies like the original Star Wars Trilogy, but I just don’t feel that they fully do in this particular movie. Maybe it’s just the story that doesn’t engage the actors. Maybe everyone was so fascinated with the technology that they lost sight of just telling the story. I don’t know the answers. But I do know that this movie disappointed me because I wanted to love it as much or more than Titanic, Terminator 2 and The Abyss…but I just didn’t. Maybe I’ve changed and Avatar just isn’t a movie for me anymore?
What I will say is that you should definitely watch Avatar because it is a good movie. And it is great filmmaking. The movie looks incredible. The world of Pandora that Cameron has imagined and constructed is incredible and beautiful. And certainly no one can argue that Cameron is having an incredible impact on the business of filmmaking what with all the focus on 3D this year. Personally I think 3D will NOT take over filmmaking like it seems to be argued by so many. I think filmmaking will always be about the story and acting, and that the medium in which the story is told is secondary in service to the story. I’m sure a lot of Hollywood Blockbusters will now be shot in 3D and shown in 3D, but after the fad fades a bit, we’ll get back to evaluating what stories should be told in 3D and what stories should not be told in 3D. I don’t consider 3D to be as big of a game changer as color was to film. 3D has been around for 50 years or more and has recently gotten some technology breakthroughs, but as a film enthusiast and budding filmmaker, I’m not very enthralled with 3D. Even now we still shoot some films in black & white when it serves the story. And EVERY film’s color is manipulated from reality. Even when the film looks like reality, that was because the filmmakers color corrected the film to look more “real”. It all serves the story in the end. That’s my message. We’ll see where we are at in 20-30 years. Maybe I’ll be completely wrong!