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Avatar (2009)

by on 2013/08/30

avatar_2009“No one can teach you to See.”

* * * *

Sometimes – very infrequently – how we see a movie plays a really important role in how we feel about it.

There has been no clearer example of this than our two screenings of Avatar.

The first time, I dragged Hacker Renders to an IMAX 3-D showing of Avatar during the its first run in theatres. It was an early Saturday morning, we hadn’t eaten, and a laser light show complete with fog machine kicked off the proceedings. The theatre was packed, smelly and airless. Also Hacker Renders despises 3-D with his full heart.

I later learned that this was a laboratory-perfect set of conditions to create a migraine headache in a subject. Alas, since no one wants a migraine, my discovery has no business application. 

Hacker Renders said the experience of Avatar in 3-D was “like having his head torn in half.” By giant blue, gleaming monsters, I assume.

Me, I kind of liked it. I experienced woozy vertigo when looking down from the 3-D floating islands of Pandora. I gripped my arms of my seat when Jake Sulley’s big blue avatar voiced by the great Sam Worthington (Clash of the Titans) raced through the jungle pursued by lizardy panther things. I cried when the heartless mining corporation chose shareholder profits over the indigenous people of Pandora.

Pandora had me by the proverbial throat.

Unfortunately, like the good folks who were watching My American Cousin when Lincoln was shot, I felt it a little distasteful to exude about the excellence of the 3-D and intricacy of the world of Pandora when Hacker Renders was gripping his head in agony.

As this month is my celebration of Canadian-born writer/director James Cameron’s films, I knew I would need to see it again. Hacker Renders owns a limited edition blu-ray version of this James Cameron’s masterpiece and consented to watch it through with me again. This time it was in the comfort of his orderly home on his superlative TV. Sans laser light show, sans 3-D, sans starvation.

Despite liking the film, I wasn’t at all looking forward to the 171 minute run time. I was sleepy, cranky and not at all in the mood. But Hacker Renders is a dedicated man.

This time, I regret to report Avatar didn’t quite grab me like the first viewing. The world, while lovely, seemed a little …shiny? The slithery gloss on all of the beings of the world of Pandora prevented my complete immersion in the story. The human performances were by contrast – gritty and solid. Sigourney Weaver (Aliens) as the chain-smoking scientist Grace is, as usual, a lithe, lovely force of nature. I adored Michelle Rodriguez as the fearless pilot Trudy who takes a principled stand against an evil corporation. Strong women characters played by great actors.

Stephen Lang (Tombstone) gives an inspired performance as the melodramatic evil henchmen of the piece, as scarred, Pumping Iron Colonel Miles Quaritch. Giovanni Ribisi plays his evil role with more opportunistic apathy as corporate suit and profit-grubbing apologist Parker Selfridge.

The trouble is, as Hacker Renders noted at several points during the movie, none of the characters were particularly likeable. The corporate men and women were in it for the money and shareholder profits. The first peoples of Pandora, the Na’vi, are in it for the status, a slavish adherence to the hierarchical way of society they’ve established, a ‘learn or die’ lifestyle.

There were no real heroes here, only a tension between who was worse.

I profoundly admire the achievement here more than I enjoyed the second viewing. The real question I guess now becomes will I flock to the theatres to see the three sequels planned by James Cameron? The answer is yes.

But this time, I’ll be packing some migraine medication and emergency food.

* * * *

171 minutes

Rated PG-13 for intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking

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