23 December 2009

Culture Roundup: I See Blue People

Took the wife to see "Avatar" last night. Holy mother of Eywa, this is one incredible movie. I'm thinking "Best Picture" in a landslide, as the worst part of the movie is the story, and even the story is not terrible, just predictable.

First off, the effects are beyond belief, and that's in 2D. I'm not sure I want to try the 3D version, as I'm prone to a bit of vertigo and I can't imagine the scenes where characters navigate across mile-deep crevasses as the camera passes overhead will be good for my stomach. Then again, it might be worth it after all. Both Beloved and I commented that the CGI was as good as, if not better than, everything we've ever seen to this point. The landscapes and terrain are as realistic as anything in the Star Wars prequels, and however the motion capture was done with the characters, it blows the socks off anything Robert Zemeckis has done (think The Polar Express and Beowulf), and I don't think Zemeckis is half bad. As one reviewer put it, it's one thing to create 11 feet tall blue skinned humanoid characters with tails - it's another thing to make them so realistic they seem, well, sexy.

The acting is first-rate, especially Zoe Saldana in the role of Neytiri, the female Na'vi and Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, the human who makes contact with the Na'vi. Also, Stephen Lang is excellent as Colonel Quaritch, though whenever I see Lang in a movie I'm reminded he played the cowardly Ike Clanton in Tombstone and I have to giggle a few times.

As I said, one quibble is the fairly predictable storyline, but the movie is so good you hardly notice the unsurprising surprises. The politics are fairly predictable, also, but as we watched, I thought to myself, "I hate to admit it, but sometimes we actually are this stupid about people who don't look/act like us." Some of the names are unimaginative, especially the uber-valuable mineral that led the humans to Pandora in the first place: "unobtanium." Yep, you read that right. One wonders if Cameron spent so much time dreaming up the Na'vi and their language (which is exquisitely well done, by the way) that he left that minor detail to a summer intern or something.

These are extremely minor concerns, however, overwhelmed by the spectacle and creativity on display in abundance. I'll be seeing this one again in the theatre, just because it's that good. You should, too.

In other culture news, we finished Surprised by Hope in our Friday book club last week, and I'm glad to say that things picked up in the end after slogging a bit in the middle. A recurring frustration for our group was Wright's tendency to refer to his own books for further explanation of detailed points; for those of us just beginning to read his work, it was annoying to say the least. But his discussion of death, resurrection and "life after life after death" was worth the read, and our discussions were always thought-provoking and enjoyable. That's kinda the point of a good book group, so in that sense it was a great read.

I'm on to The Gargoyle right now, and finding it interesting, if a bit weird. It was a book I picked up from my in-laws when they were offering my father-in-law's extensive library after they'd culled what they wanted to keep for their new, much smaller house, and I'll be honest: it's not what I expected from their usual tastes, which makes me wonder if it was a "hey, that title looks good" find for one of them. Sorry, Troy and Annette, if you're reading this and I've just insulted your taste. :-) Anyway, it's engrossing, though now that I'm halfway in, I'm wondering where the major crisis in the plot will fall.

I'm catching up on almost an entire season of Sons of Anarchy now that most shows are on the holiday hiatus; I just haven't been able to keep up as this is one show Beloved has absolutely no interest in watching with me. I watched the first of several episodes this morning and found myself thinking, "I forgot how good this show is, even with the ugly subject matter." Hopefully I can get fully caught up before we cancel the dish in January. Yep, you read that right - we're going internet-only for a while once the football season is over. It's time to get serious about digging out from under our debt mountain, and considering most of our shows are available for free on teh internets, DirecTV is one of the few completely unnecessary things we can cut. But, like all cuts, it'll hurt for a while. :-(

Then again, I'll have more time to read, and that's never a bad thing, right?


  1. Hey Scott,
    Yeah, I gave the storyline a 6 out of 10 and the special effects a 9 out of 10. and I saw it in 3-D. Yowza! I have vertigo and some of those scenes made me look away!

    I just finished reading Sergei Lubyanenko's 3 books in his series:
    Nightwatch, Daywatch, Twilight Watch and don't have the final one yet. I recommend those.

  2. I saw Acatar on an IMAX screen in 3D. It was even better because my boss paid for it!

    And yeah, the 3D was awesome; especially in some of the flying scenes. I was fascinated by how much they made pop out at you -- even little things like bugs flying past you or drops of water splashing.

    I think of Avatar kind of like Titanic -- we all knew how the story was going to go before we stepped in the door. It's not like Cameron could remake history. But we had to go see it anyway.

    In a similar manner, the story to Avatar is predictable. But it is so fast paced and the graphics are so cool that the storyline wasn't a distraction.

    Yep, I am going again. Maybe I can get Julie to go too. What'cha think, can I count Avatar as a "chick flick"?