Every so often, a movie comes along that you feel like you have to see in the theater. A movie that, if you wait for it to come out on video, you just won't get. A movie that becomes part of the pop culture dialogue and divides moviegoers between those who love it and those who just say... meh.
I had decided in my cynical mind that I wasn't going to fall for the Avatar hype. I had heard that it was a little short on plot. I had seen enough of the trailers to believe that it was just going to be a big CGI showcase, and I have to confess I am not that impressed by most CGI effects and motion-capture characters. Sometimes they're awesome (thank you for mixing them so well with traditional model and live-action shots, Peter Jackson) but sometimes they're like watching a really long video game sequence (looking at you, George Lucas.) I figured watching Avatar would be like watching an overwrought 2-hour cartoon and had decided to pass. It's much cooler to go see Up In The Air.
Until I started hearing word of mouth that you kind of have to see this movie and that it represents the future of filmmaking and all that stuff. Okay, then. I'll bite.
Finding ourselves without the kid for a few hours on a snowy Friday night, Jason and I caved to the peer pressure. We sat in the theater, 3-D glasses on, ready to be underwhelmed.
Did the movie really have anything new to say? Well, no. Did it make me laugh out loud, or make me tear up? Not really. Was the dialogue clunky and at times predictable? Yeah. After all, this is a James Cameron-written film we're talking about.
Would I spend a chunk of change to go see it again or buy it when it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray? Yes. Absolutely. Because it's one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.
There were a few times that my eyes could tell that what I was looking at wasn't "real" and was animated. But I didn't care. I thoroughly enjoyed my two-and-a-half hours on Pandora.
When Jason and I talked about the movie this weekend, we didn't have a big heavy discussion about the grand social issues in the movie (I'm already on board with the whole "save the planet" and "all living beings are intertwined" thing, so Cameron was kinda preaching to the choir there). We talked about how we would like to have a vacation home in the glowy parts of the Navi's planet, and how beautifully expressive Neytiri was, even though she was CGI (I think some of the credit there has to go to Zoe Saldana, who gave quite possibly the best motion-capture performance ever.) And we talked about how this is ultimately a movie that you want to own so that you can re-live some of the beauty. I don't see us watching the whole movie over and over (though Ainsley probably will; I think this movie will be right up her alley) but there are definitely "wow" moments that we will want to see when the world outside our window isn't so pretty to stare at.
Some critics and moviegoers are slamming the movie for not living up to the hype and not really having a great story. To them I say: phooey. Sometimes it's enough to go to a theater and be dazzled.
Have any of you seen Avatar yet? Did you get to see it in 3-D? What did you think?