Long Live the King

2. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) #37 in the IMDB top 250

Finally, after a false start or two, I managed to get to Manchester’s IMAX screen and watch the super-sized money making juggernaut.  Informed criticism of Avatar is like firing a pea shooter at a rhino – you aren’t having any effect.  No, for the second time in his career James Cameron has stared down the prepared knives – heightened in their readiness by the poor ‘Avatar day’ promotion late last year – and he has won.  As I’m writing this he is going about winning in the best possible way.  People, if not critics, love Avatar.  And they seem to love it even with the myriad of flaws present.  A film of this size, scope and technical complexity was always going to have flaws – with Cameron in charge the flaws are more like badges of honour than shameful imperfections.  Yes, the story has been told before, the performances aren’t all pitch perfect and the pacing of the story is odd due to the split narrative.  But roughly 40 minutes into the film I wasn’t too bothered because I was enjoying it so much.  Avatar is fun, where Terminator: Salvation succeeded in sucking the fun out of Cameron’s baby his new toys have come to the party with quite some style.

I could ramble on, but you’ve doubtless read it elsewhere – the film is worth seeing on the biggest screen possible and in 3D if you can because it does add to the special feeling of the whole experience.  I don’t know if 3D is here to stay or not, I can’t predict the future long-term but I can tell you that the slate for the next couple of years is looking pretty heavily weighted in favour.  If it is a fad then it’ll be around until it proves financially unsound and with the sheer weight of cash being pulled in by Avatar I wouldn’t bank on that being for a while.  As for the effect of the 3D, it takes some getting used to – for fairly complicated reasons.  Your eyes have to, as much as possible, stay with the in focus portion of the screen.  Anything that is out of focus in the background or foreground is now out of focus but with added depth and so I found my eyes drawn to these objects and straining to focus on them.  After I got past that particular difficulty I found myself quite enjoying the effect, it definitely helped add to the weight, heft and texture of Avatars themselves.

In the final assessment Avatar is an event, a rare massive event in cinema.  It isn’t the game-changer we may have hoped for but it is important and it will have repercussions for what you end up seeing in cinemas over the next five years.