Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On the Big Screen...
Avatar
dir. James Cameron

Last week, before the snows swept in, I caught the big budget spectacle that is Avatar at the cinema in 3D. It's fair to say that I went without particularly high expectations; and although the film was reputedly twelve years in the making, not much of that time seemed to go into the script. Nonetheless, overall the film exceeded my limited expectations. The 3D was genuinely jaw-dropping on occasion, and for a long film it zipped along with minimal longeurs. Of the plot, the less said the better: a confection of familiar ideas and conflicts, with not a single surprise in sight. There was no danger of the audience becoming so wrapped up in the story that they forgot to admire the special effects.

Avatar is great cinema, but not a great film.
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9 comments:

Matt Curran said...

Hi Tim

Mmmm. I've been tempted to take the time out to see this, but one thing has stopped me: the curse of Cameron’s scripting.
Other than Terminator 1 and Aliens where the script deficiencies were dwarfed by the scale of the films and the imagination on display, all of James Cameron's films are plagued with awful scripting and awful dialogue (just look at Titanic - god knows how that got a best Oscar). Cameron is up there with Lucas for a being cinematic visionary and I for one love their films, but they just cannot script for toffee. Avatar may be screen candy, but to be honest I haven’t been blown away by the trailers enough to convince me I should shell out £16 for two tickets and a further £20 for a babysitter. If I’m going to do that, I’ll probably wait until The Road hits the screens and just settle for the DVD later this year.
What do you reckon?

(PS: Word verification sums it up nicely: "coids").

David Isaak said...

I'm going to go, because we can see it in IMAX 3D, which should be a spectacle. But I appreciate your distinction between great cinema and great movies.

On the other hand, the movies are a visual medium, and I cut them a lot of slack if they are truly visually innovative--one of the reasons I so love Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam, who sometimes miss by a mile story-wise.

To tell the truth, if I really want a great story, with real depth, I'll reach for a novel. Movies are fascinating, but inherently more superficial than prose.

(And I second Matt's assessment of Cameron in general and Titanic in specific.)

Tim Stretton said...

That makes three of us on Titanic. What a stinker!

Matt, if you're going to see Avatar, see it at the cinema in 3D. The DVD will keep all the crappiness but lose the cinematic experience.

David, I agree that a novel is likelier to be a richer and more absorbing narrative than a film. On the other hand, I remember how disappointed I was by the novel of "The Godfather": how Coppola extracted gold from such base metal is truly amazing. (Something which makes The Godfather Part 3 tragic in a very different sense to the director's intention).

Frances Garrood said...

I know this post isn't about Titanic, but I just had to say that it was the worst, most boring film I've ever seen. I thought the boat would never sink. And I agree with Matt - how on earth did it get all those accolades? We were kept going by ice cream served by my son, who was being a cinema usher at the time. And we laughed a lot.

Tim Stretton said...

Glad to see such unanimity on Titanic. A bloated horror, cringeworthy on every level.

It defines "risible".

Frances Garrood said...

My grandmother was on the Titanic, but she dismebarked before it met the iceberg. I just thought I'd tell you.

Elfy said...

Avatar stunned me, it was a visual feast and I've read all these comments about the story. What else would people have preferred he do? He's rumoured to have 2 sequels in the pipes as well.

Tim Stretton said...

Elfy, this is a really good question: what else would I have liked to see in Avatar, given that I entirely agree with you on the visual aspect? "Stunned" is the right word.

My touchstone for excellence in science-fiction movies is "Gattaca". This was a film which engaged deeply with its ethical issues, and presented a narrative which was able to surprise at every turn--a narrative that unfolded through characters who felt unique to that story. For all its visual bravura, "Avatar" didn't have that narrative depth for me.

Eliza Graham said...

That's fascinating about your grandmother, Frances!