So, no sooner did I write a status update on Facebook lamenting how wary I've become about movie reviews, than the film critics decide to get one exactly right. From the varying write-ups I read on James Cameron's long-awaited Avatar, the descriptions and evaluations of the film were mostly spot on. The long and short of it is - the visual nature of the movie is mind-boggling, the script is somewhat of an afterthought.
To say that Avatar is visually stunning would be the understatement of the decade. Being that the decade is over in two weeks, that's saying something. If you are going to see this movie, you absolutely MUST see it in IMAX 3D. I don't know what the regular 3D looks like, but I'm telling you - don't bother unless it's IMAX 3D. This was the first film I'd ever seen in IMAX, and I think my jaw practically hit the soda-stained floor upon the very first scenes. One reviewer, I forget which one, nailed it when he said that somewhere, Brett Ratner, Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich and the rest of the Hollywood action flick elite are peeing their pants because James Cameron just raised the bar for special effects through the roof. Everything - the colors, the creatures, the landscapes - simply mystifying. For that alone, all of the technical crew associated with the film should win every Oscar available. They should probably create new technical Oscars just for Avatar. The one award category in which it will not collect accolades is screenwriting. That's not to say the writing was terrible; it wasn't. The story was just completely overshadowed by the physical beauty of the film. The mythology, the character development, the dramatic turns in the story - they don't suck you in like Star Wars did 30+ years ago. It's not even up for debate as to whether Colonel Miles Quaritch will take a place in film history alongside Darth Vader, or if Jake Sully is this generation's Luke Skywalker. These characters will never pierce pop culture like George Lucas' did. The last quarter of the film was rather silly, actually. And again, that's exactly what was mentioned in some of the reviews.
So is it worth the $15 or whatever it costs near you to see an IMAX 3D film? I'd say yes. It's an experience. And once the movie is out of theaters, the opportunity to have that experience will be gone forever. There's no way watching this one on HBO would even come close to measuring up. I usually laugh when people say they want to go see a film just for the special effects. This is one time when I'm not laughing at that notion.