Avatar was my first 3D dramatic movie. Actually I saw a 3D movie with the polarized glasses last summer, but it was a visual representation of the universe and the galaxy, strictly as a visual aid. After Avatar, when I got back home and turned on the TV it took me 5 minutes to adapt to a flat and two-dimensional picture screen. I suppose movies, and the visual trickery they present, affects different people in different ways, but I don't think I'm alone in getting a more immersive experience with 3D. Also, I should mention we were up pretty close to the front, about the sixth row or so. So it looked about as big as an Imax from our seat. This was not Imax, but Avatar is also available in Imax depending on the theater.
Normally I'm not a lover of weird looking aliens. A couple of pointy ears and funny eyebrows are about all I can deal with. But the blue catlike 10 foot tall aliens in this movie are OK with me. One thing I want to mention is the main female alien is played by Zoe Saldana, who also played Uhuru on the latest Star Trek movie. Maybe a difference for me in this new type of alien is a breakthough in technology with the detailed motion capture animation on the facial expressions. I only noticed consciously a few times, especially when the Aliens showed their extreme emotions such as joy, fear, or horror. But likely it was part of the appeal of these computer animated aliens especially when I was not aware of it.
So much for the technology. I got interested in Avatar originally when I saw an interview with Sigourney Weaver, who is in the movie. I think I have liked every movie I have seen her in, like Ghostbusters, Alien, Gorillas in the Mist, even Galaxy Quest. James Cameron is also a favourite of mine with movies such as Terminator, Aliens, and Titanic. Usually 3 and a half stars from Roger Ebert is a movie that both Mary Ann and I will really enjoy. This was 4 out of 4.
Near the beginning of the movie is the comment "You're not in Kansas any more". I recently did a blog about Kansas, and I see a double entendre in this statement. One meaning of course, is that the scenery is different and exotic. But the second might be that is that this is not a conservative right wing movie by any stretch of the imagination.
The movie Avatar itself tells a pretty simple story that you might have seen in Star Trek or Star Wars. Evil empire exploiting alien natives etc. But because it has the potential of becoming a cultural touchstone, I'm glad it is going in the right (actually "left") direction philosophically and politically. Meaning back to more liberal ideas of nature and peace. Putting corporate greed, racism, and unjust wars in a bad light. A really bad light.
Here is something I didn't see. At no time was torture used by either humans or aliens to obtain information. Thank God we are starting to get away from that type of film. A big part of this movie was using Avatars to obtain information by gaining the trust of the natives. Not really ethical, but I think actually more realistic than using torture. Maybe the pendulum will swing back from the Nazi mindset of racial superiority, power and domination, to a way of thinking that encourages people to be more tolerant and to make the world a better place. Like Star Trek did.
I am also glad that it was not a movie about angels, ghosts, devils, witches, miracles, or people going to heaven then coming back for a second chance. In that way it was kind of a secular movie. The native people had a spirituality, but it seemed to have a real or natural scientifically provable basis. That was kind of refreshing.
I wouldn't call the movie deep. The natives were a hundred percent good. Maybe they got mad from time to time, or were occasionally suspicious, but good through and through right to the end, which I am not revealing, but it's not really a surprise. The Humans were totally bad except for the ones that helped the aliens. Twice after the movie I overheard people say "That movie made me hate humans". One thing they do not show at all is why the humans hate the aliens so much. I guess it would be too confusing to give us reasons, and would make the movie even longer. I didn't mind the length, except that I can only go so long before I have to pee. There was no intermission, not even a slack time that I could walk out of the packed theater without missing something. My advice is don't get a coffee just before going in.
The natives (called Na'vi, I looked it up) are all about respecting nature. And their "nature" is both horrifying and staggeringly beautiful in equal measures. Of course it's all make believe, so to a real bird watcher like Mary Ann it might be cartoony. But she enjoyed the spectacular 3D scenery and imaginary flora and fauna as much as I did.
When we went to a restaurant after the movie, Mary Ann recommended Avatar to our waitress, and suggested to me we should go see it again (She said "I suppose the 9:00 show would be too soon") I believe those would both be firsts, and she normally hates science fiction movies.
I think I may end up ranking this movie as one of my all time best movie experiences. "Peter Pan" was the first movie I ever saw at about 5 or 6 years old. Not only the first movie, I had never seen a TV, or even a play. And the movie itself was pretty exciting, even if it had not been the very first time I experienced moving pictures. So of course that experience is hard to equal. Star Wars in 1977 also was a standout movie for me. I drove my motorcycle 600 km. (each way) just to see that movie. It had amazing special effects for the era, but nothing I had not seen in projector technology. Avatar is a great movie that also happens to be the first 3D movie I have seen, and I suspect I would have liked it even without the 3D. With my fear of heights, a few 3D scenes were a bit too much.
I'm looking forward to seeing Avatar again, which is pretty good for a movie with no motorcycles.