Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar (Movie Review)

It's the shit.

It could be the best movie I have ever seen.

For 162 minutes I sat in the theater with a box of popcorn in my lap and 3-D glasses over my own glasses, propping my jaw up with my right hand.

And I am not a James Cameron fan.  My biggest memory of Titanic is my poor 77-year-old father with prostate problems having to hit the restroom every 15 minutes while the doomed ship interminably (it seemed) took on water.  I think Cameron spoiled what Ridley Scott had created in Alien with his forgettable sequel, and while I found the Terminator movies entertaining, there are maybe two images that remain in my head from having seen them.

Avatar is something different.  There's not much to say about the plot or acting.  It's all about the technological accomplishment of this film, but, then, without its technological accomplishment, what was 2001: A Space Odyssey?  And I mean no disrespect to 2001, one of my favorite films of all time; I just mean to say that any movie experience, even something as basic and true as a Bresson film, is about 90% the technology of it.

You have to see Avatar to experience it, and you have to see it on a big screen with 3-D glasses.  I cannot speak to what IMAX could add to the experience.

I had previously heard the film's plot compared to Dances with Wolves, a film I never saw (I can't watch a lot of Kevin Costner, pace Bull Durham), so if it's just story you want, you may just want to watch that film again.

For me, Avatar is like the best Tarzan movie ever made ... best hand-to-hand fight! best underwater romantic interlude! best elephant stampede (without the elephants, though), and best goddamned trees.  It has twenty times the visceral excitement and dreamy milieu of the old MGM Tarzan pictures, with Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan, which I love dearly too, even though they are pretty much just a camp enthusiasm for me now.

Beyond the movie's technology and jungle romance, one could probably (and properly) speak of its political, ecological, humanistic, and metaphysical implications.  I can't and don't want to go into these now, except to say that, no, of course the movie is not as deep as Persona, but, on the other hand, Bergman's movies did not have giant frigging flying lizards.

Avatar lasts almost three hours, and I never once yearned for it to be over sooner than it was.  It's average parts reminded me of the best parts of Peter Jackson's masterful and respectful remake of King Kong, using many of the same technicians, I hear ... minus the embarrassing Christmas ice-skating sequence with Kong and Naomi Watts in Central Park.

The one potentially embarrassing part of Avatar is, over the closing credits, we hear Leona Lewis sing an original song called "I See You."  It sucks, and it's obviously a play for a Best Song Oscar nomination.  At the very least it is not Celine Dion.

But you need to see this movie.  Forget you.  I need to see this movie again ... and soon.

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