Smile Through It II: The Next Chapter

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Posted by Oli on Friday 18th December, 2009

This may well be ultimately premature as I defy anyone to go and see this film and come away with their head clear and their mind made up. I currently have two major thoughts banging around my head. Before I explain myself, though, a word of advice. If you are remotely interested in film at all – not this film, just film in general – you HAVE to see this film on a big screen. It simply will not have the same impact on your telly or – God forbid – downloaded to your computer. This is justification for shelling out your hard-earned on a trip to the flicks.

Amazing. Stunning. Awesome. Incomprehensibly beautiful. Art on an IMAX scale. THe most utterly visually amazing film you will have ever seen, guaranteed, bar none and no exceptions. When they say this film is a game-changer for the 3D world, a concept I didn’t really understand beforehand, “they” are absolutely right.

I’ve never seen photo-realism to this extent. I’ve never so greatly empathised with, nor felt an emotional connection with, any animated characters like this. I’ve never seen near-lifelike creations communicate with such raw emotion and depth.

There has never been a film with digital environments this flawless, with a fantastic world created in such a way that makes you wonder where on Earth it could be. But unlike Middle Earth, you can’t just pop to New Zealand and find the back drops – this is pure artistry from the best in the business. ILM and Weta, two of the CGI and physical effects supremos in the business, have created undoubtedly their best work from first frame to last in this film.

Style over substance. It pains me to say it, but this is the genuine article. A world so rich and nuanced, a planet so beautifully rendered, a people so carefully crafted and a script so atrociously hackneyed it makes you groan.

However, there is an argument to say that the last thing you want with a movie on this kind of grand scale is a complicated plot which bogs the whole thing down. I would, however, have liked some characters who weren’t straight out of “How To Write A Blockbuster Movie 101”. Giovanni Ribisi is a great, and hugely underrated, actor. But in this he’s given nothing but “conflicted corporate fat cat” to play with and it appears is boredom is only assuaged by marvelling at the brilliance of the effects which weren’t even there when he shot. As if he knew what’s out the window behind him was going to be more interesting than the stuff happening in front of it.

More than this, though, what disappointed me was James Cameron’s shoe-horning of a ridiculous, over-used and way-too-heavy Afghan metaphor into the whole thing. If he was any more overt about the message he was trying to get across, he’d have needed a banner with vast, IMAX-screen, 3D words all over it proclaiming “THIS IS ABOUT NOW, AFGHANISTAN AND WHAT WE’RE DOING TO OUR PLANET AND THEIR LIVES”. And disappoints me is that I know he’s a better filmmaker – and a better writer – than that. Hell, the rest of the film proves that, if nothing else.

I can’t let it lie on a down-note, though. This is undoubtedly the most remarkable film that has ever been made. It contains images, creatures, people and effects that you will never, ever have seen anywhere else. It has a level of beauty in both craftsmanship and sheer visual brilliance that has never been seen and I’d venture to so won’t be again for a good long while.

This is a truly ground-breaking movie of epic proportions and will be a firm favourite of many people for many, many decades to come. It will, no doubt, be a favourite of mine, to. Because despite my misgivings, it’s one of the greatest filmic experiences anyone can ever have.

Once again, I reiterate from the start: do not wait for this movie to come to you: GO AND SEE IT IN THE CINEMA because you simply will not appreciate what this film is until you see it 20 feet high with your sexy 3D specs on. Enjoy. And let me know what you think.


One Response to “Avatar”

  1. jen said

    hey Oli,

    Thanks for the review: I saw this last night in 3D, and I agree that the artistry is unlike any film I have ever seen. The world they created was truly magical and pure dreamlike. Wonderful!

    I also agree that the script and story was terrible!! What annoyed me the most was that it was basically a mash-up of Dances with Wolves with Ferngully with a little bit of all those other hackneyed Hollywood movies where white people “go native” and become ultimtately the saviours of black and native american people. I found the script confused itself: On the one hand JC is trying to spread an ecological message, but in the end the Na’Vi people need Jake’s technological prowess and shoot-em-ups to save themslves, the very one he is railing against. It is anti-imperialist yet at the same time promotes the superiority of the white man as saviour. It promotes the wise Navi people, yet they are thinly characterized complete with sterotypical headdresses, nakedness, ceremonies and superstitions suggestive of their primitiveness.

    As you say though, the experience of watching is a truly incredible experience… if you go see it, see it in 3D on a big screen or even better an is well worth shelling out for!

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