Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar in IMAX 3D

So I finally did it, I broke down and paid the $15.00 to see Avatar in IMAX 3D. On the back side, Regal Theaters isn't going to get any soda money out of me for a few more shows. Although Regal claims to have IMAX, it's not the huge screen like we used to have in Waikiki or the one at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I guess could be called IMAX Lite, check out the details here. I ended up missing the first show of the day and went to the second. When I arrived 30 minutes before the movie, there was a huge line ticket line and once I headed inside, there was a big line to get into the theater. About ten minutes before the show started the theater was already so crowded that groups of people were breaking up into single seats. I haven't seen a show pack out like that in a l-o-n-g time.

Directed by James Cameron, the same guy who directed the highest grossing film of all time, Titanic; this film has been reported to cost between$300 and $500 million dollars to create. If you're going to spend that kind of money, why not make it a long one, 162 minutes running time so if you split the difference it cost about two and a half million dollars per minute. In the area of gee whiz incredible looking film, this has it. For the story, the dialogue and plot run a little long. It could have been tightened up. (Side note: As I write this James Cameron is on Jimmy Kimmel and the number of $500 million was bandied about between the two, so that would mean about $3.1 million per minute to make)

A former jar head, Jake Sulley (Sam Worthington) is brought to the planet Pandora. He's part of a plan to move the Na'vi natives to another area so that his employer can get into an area to mine for rare and very lucrative mineral. The idea is to put his conscience into an avatar, a body that is composed of the DNA material of the natives and his own. The avatar project is controlled by Dr Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver). Once in a body that can handle the environment, Jake can mingle with the locals. While roaming the landscape, he meets Neytiri of the Na'vi (Zoe Saldana) who teaches him about the planet. But that plan takes time and the Colonel (Stephen Lang) would just like to use firepower and might to take what they want.

The Na'vi are produced using motion capture like Robert Zemeckis did in Disney's A Christmas Carol. The result is much different since the Na'vi are humanoid but not humans. With their blue skin and extended height, it works where it didn't quite in Christmas Carol.

As you get to see Pandora, the imagery is breath taking. The types of plants, animals, and the scope of the different environs are simply amazing. The look of many of the flora and fauna remind me of vertebrae and invertebrates that you would find in the deep ocean where no light exist. They appear to have bioluminescence and at times look like the planet was splashed with those special paints and then someone turned on the black light. Ever see Michael Jackson's Billy Jean where he walks the street lights up? The Na'vi's footsteps produce the same effect on Pandora.

At times the visuals are overwhelming and that contributed to the feeling that the movie was too long. I'm not saying they were bad just that my mind spent time trying to comprehend just how massive objects and locations on Pandora really were. A couple of times I had to shut down my mind from trying to figure out "how would that be possible?" and trying to work out the physics. I had to remind myself just to accept it and Cameron did a good job not trying to get caught up in those details.

As mentioned earlier, the plot needed some help . Some times the details weren't given which was good but at other times too much was given. I really think something that would have helped out is if Cameron took a clue from Trey Parker and Matt Stone (the guys from South Park) in Team America: World Police. " When you need to put yourself to the test, and show us a passage of time We're gonna need a montage! MONTAGE!"

Cameron has also taken a page out of Hayao Miyazaki's story background as shown in Ponyo and Princess Mononoke using Gia or Mother Earth or in this case, Mother Pandora. This subject often included in a plot when the antagonist wants to take resources from the planet. They don't hit you over the head like An Inconvenient Truth, but they don't let it pass either.

Come Oscar time, I'm sure that this movie will be up for a number of awards. Just like Titanic, I feel confident in that they will take awards in the area of technology and background. Awards like sound effects editing, best editing, and best sound will probably go to Avatar. If it doesn't win best visuals, I'd be shocked. I don't think that any of the acting awards will be heaped upon the actors in this movie although they may be nominated.

When it comes time to head out to the theater, you'll have the choice of regular 2D, 3D, or IMAX 3D. I did enjoy the 3D with the depth that it added to the movie. It wasn't the 3D that comes out of the screen, but having the depth really added to the experience with the huge scopes they were trying to convey. When I came out of my show there were lines for each format waiting outside of the lobby to get in and enjoy with the IMAX 3D line being the longest. Too bad the Polynesian Cultural Center didn't show Avatar on their IMAX screen this weekend. They could have made a killing!

The show was rated PG-13 due to some of the violence of the battle scenes and fighting.