Brendon’s Avatar Review-Meets-FAQ

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Who wants yet another Avatar review? I guess you must do, if you’re reading this. So do you want to know if the film is any good? It is. Do you want to know if you will like it? How should I know? You go see it then come back and tell us in the comments.

Here’s an imaginary FAQ, checked off quickly for you. Let’s not beat about the bush here.

Q – Are the FX realistic?

A – For the most part, yes. Many shots of the Na’vi or Avatars would pass as photoreal, and that’s despite their inherently exaggerated and stylised design, all Tezuka eyes and slim-Jim cat-monkey physique. The geography, flora, fauna and overall background work is routinely within a hair’s breadth of utter perfection and should not be faulted, even though a small handful of shots look very disappointing in the context of the whole film.

Q – Is the alien world of Pandora interesting?’

A – It’s more interesting than it needs to be. All we need Pandora to do is provide a back drop for the narrative, really. It goes beyond that. The idea of holistic ecosystems is crucial to the film’s themes, if not plot, and the creation of such an elaborate alien world definitely draws our attention to the notion.

Q – Do I need to see Avatar in 3D?

A – You need to see Avatar in 3D just as much as you need to see The Red Shoes in colour, Apocalypse Now in surround sound or Casablanca on a screen larger than an iPod. It’s about experiencing the full set of controls, for want of a better word, that the director has laid in wait for you, and in the best possible way. You might think you’re missing nothing if you see the film in 2D, but that isn’t true at all. Whether or not you even notice the 3D is not the point.

Q – Does it develop 3D in any sense? Is this the best 3D we’ve ever seen?

A – No and no. But it is great 3D and very well calculated. You probably won’t even give the 3D factor a thought after the ten minute mark – but it will still be working on you, twisting your reactions this way and that. Other filmmakers would do well to be as disciplined with their stereo as Cameron has been. If there’s an “Avatar effect” I’d like to see come true, a legacy of this picture, that would be it – sensible, sensitive, thoughtful application of stereography.

Q – How are the action scenes?

A – Incredible. As inventive as those in True Lies and as well executed as any Cameron has created before. They’re all rooted in the nature of Pandora too, as well as being beautifully well set up with gentle foreshadowing (examples: Jake doesn’t have the use of his legs, that’s going to have an effect on how a scene plays out; Quaritch will happily hold his breath in the toxic atmosphere of Pandora when he’s busy trying to kill, that’s going to pay off later too). Best of all, Avatar sees James Cameron’s world-beating skills with action staging and editing expanded through the use of the virtual camera. And, yes, the action sequences benefit from the 3D but, no, not in a dullard stunt-stereo fashion.

Q – How is the dialogue?

A – Memorable. Memorable like “Look at his use of colour” and “This is bad” were memorable in Titanic.

Q – Has cinema been changed forever?

A – Cinema keeps changing forever, one development at a time. Well done Cameron, Weta and their colleagues and counterparts for developing these tools and advancing their use to such a refined technical level. Now, it’s up to everybody else to make full use of them. It was crazy to think one film could blow the roof off. That claim isn’t true when they make it for Birth of a Nation or Citizen Kane, and it’s no more true of Avatar.

Q – What’s going on politically in the film?

A – After some politically contentious material in earlier films (*cough* Art Malik *cough*), Cameron seems to have softened into something of a big hippie here. Unlike Aliens, the marines are quite clearly portrayed as a selfish wrecking force – key figures aside, obviously. I sincerely didn’t expect him to make a film that’s so… well, liberal.

Q – What genre is this film?

A – It’s more of an action film than a romance, more of a fantasy film than hard sci-fi. Let’s call it an epic fable adventure and be done with it. I think it should play very well to family audiences. There’s something that wasn’t quite clear from the trailers and ads, I think, and that’s just how much of a fantasy realm this story inhabits, despite the pseudo-realistic tech.

Q – Have I ever seen anything like it before?

A – Yes, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy has a lot in common with Avatar, from cutting edge motion captured characters to immense battle sequences, from an almost fairytale-like moral leaning against the storyline to the creation of an immensely detailed, alien-yet-familiar world. Cameron’s camera style is more classical than Jackson’s with his choreography of virtual camera moves being more subtly motivated and feeling a tad less pushy and bombastic. Having said that, though, there’s some misbegotten pseudo-documentary camera lurches right out of Serenity.

Q – Please sum up the movie in 2 words/3 words/1 word.

A – James Cameron/James Francis Cameron/Cameron. This truly is his film from head to toe and it showcases the very best of his abilities and skills.

Q – Is Avatar Teh Best Film Evah?

A – Don’t be bloody ridiculous. It’s not even the best film of the year. Of course, there’s been at least 20 must-see films this year, I’d reckon, and this is definitely one of them and one of the “mustest sees” too. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to see it a few times in the cinema. I’m glad you didn’t ask me what I’d score it out of ten.

Q – What would you score the film out of 10?

A – Argh! Okay… jeez… let’s say… phew… 8.

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