Friday, January 08, 2010

Seeing more in "Avatar" than just hot, blue supermodels

doppelme avatar  As we all can see from this perfidious effort, not all avatars are created equal.  This is my not so clever way, however, of launching into a review of James Cameron's fantastic movie "Avatar" which I saw a few days ago.  I'm later than most that have chosen to praise it.  And I may not add all that much to the discussion.  Still, my rating is a solid A.  And even though I also recently loved "Up in the Air", regular readers of my irregular reviews know that I'm no pushover when it comes to this end of the ratings scale.  "Avatar" is just that compelling and worthy of comment.

First of all, the definite downside of this phenomenon must be mentioned.  When a movie ticket costs over double the current national average ($13.50 for a regular 3D showing, $15.50 for the IMAX version), we're seeing a perverse reverse Robin Hood.  Plus at the showing I caught mid-week, there was an obvious prevalence of repeat viewers most obviously evidenced by people leaving with little more than a few minutes left in the story, but after the magnificent climatic scenes had completed.  People are going to this in droves for the thrill ride experience.  Those people are young.  Those same people are anesthesized to just what a crazy price their experience represents.  But, as is always the case, this is the economic future we're seeing.  And no amount of blogger snark is going to reverse that universal trend.

"Avatar" is the sort of transfixing, transformative art that will change a million college majors.  The technical meticulousness is mind-blowing, and there will be ample jobs for the sorts of brainiacs that can drive the machines that head into this new class of film production salt mine.  But I think more than enough has been said about that side of "Avatar".  What I saw was a movie that dares people to give a damn.  Though not really about the story or the technology or something broader than a few hours spent in a large darkened room with a few hundred strangers.  No, "Avatar" is all about what all the best movies have at their core.  The lazy call it escapism.  So, let's call it escapism.  Or, if I can be so bold as to take it a step farther, "Avatar" is about thinking outside of yourself for a period of time, no matter how short-lived.  Hence the brilliance of the metaphor, I must concede.  

Almost no one can or will identify with the characters in "Avatar".  Sam Worthington is the sort of preordained oracle that we've seen before, but with an entirely unique physical metaphor that forms the basis for this ordination.  I will go so far as to say that "Avatar" should be shown at AA meetings, in juvenile delinquency rehab programs, or to the clinically depressed to say "think big, insanely big...because why the hell not."

I should probably take my own advice and post a more complete, inspiring review.  But I'm about to take my wife to the airport for a short-duration but impressively broad trip to Nepal.  I'm avoiding my own editing work and a wide range of writing that is starting to get a bit moldy unless I take off the SaranWrap and rotate things a bit.  Getting a few thoughts out on "Avatar" seemed important enough at the moment to put those grander, more intensely personal things aside.  That's how good this movie is, and I recommend that you see it.  Even if you're surrounded by rude frat boys sipping beers and your 3D glasses give you a splitting headache when it's all over, you'll be glad you did.  Rock on.

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