I want to love Avatar, I really do. Almost everything that Director James Cameron has touted about the film over the past few years is absolutely true. The film absolutely breaks new ground visually with the best use of 3D I’ve seen in a narrative film (the best use of 3D overall I still think is U23D). Visually it is simply stunning. The world of Avatar is one of visual delights which rivals almost any film I’ve seen. The character animation is as close to human as I’ve ever seen. No films have had CGI characters and creatures which feel so alive. For the most part, Avatar is wonderfully acted. Sam Worthington is superb as Jake Sully, crippled Marine set free through the use of an avatar. Zoe Slanda is also fantastic in the lead female role, Neytiri, a Na’vi trying to protect her homeland from the invading humans. Even CCH Pounder puts in a stand out performance in a supporting role.
Unfortunately Avatar isn’t everything that it could be, or even should be. Side by side strong performances are some ridiculously bad ones. Giovanni Ribisi is laughably bad as a corporate boss focused on acquiring “unobtainium” from the land beneath the Na’vi. Stephen Lang is straight out from a bad Steven Segal or Jean Claude Van Damm movie as a Marine who will hit his objective at all costs. Also, I’m sad to report the actual Avatar script is extraordinarily predictable and uneven. Plot turns are so ridiculously linear and easily anticipated that there rarely is any sense of surprise in the story. Some of the dialogue is also extremely bad, laughably so (expect them to become rampantly overused as Twitter updates and Facebook statuses for months to come).
But with all its faults, Avatar isn’t a bad movie. Aside from the pure visual spectacle, there are some genuinely magical moments. In it’s 2 1/2 hour running time there are definite sections which pull you in and help make you forget the films many faults. And yet, Avatar fails at becoming a great film. James Cameron clearly has all the tools to create legendary cinema, and yet he fails here, relying on a bad script and some poor actors who knock his film out of contention for being truly great.
This of course leaves us with the essential question: should you go see Avatar? Even given all its faults and imperfections I’m recommending that, yes, you go see this film. Avatar is worth the price of admission for the visual spectacle alone, and it does deliver an extraordinary experience. But I’d strongly advise going into it with the understanding that it is a very imperfect film, that it has some really significant faults, and to be truly enjoyed those faults need to be ignored or forgiven.
Avatar is an exciting piece of cinema, its technological achievement will surely have a major impact on films that follow it. It also is the ‘killer app’ for 3D movies and is probably the film which will be credited with keeping 3D around and not letting pass as a fad. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been a great film.
If you’re going to see Avatar in Portland, I HIGHLY recommend you see it in 3D at The Roseway Theater. The Roseway is the best movie theater experience in Portland with the best digital projection and sound and it would be an absolute shame to see this movie any other way. The Roseway Theater is Located at 7229 SE Sandy Blvd. Avatar has a midnight showing on Friday December 18th and then runs 12:00 3:30 7:00 10:30. You can also follow the Roseway on twitter at @rosewaytheater for updated showtimes and more.