Thursday, December 17, 2009

The King of the World is back! (Avatar Review)

So I got to see Avatar at a screening at work this morning. The trailers included Piranha 3D (ironic, considering who directed the sequel to the original film) and Alice in Wonderland (looks a lot better than the first one). But did the movie live up to the hype? Yes and no. It's not a jawdropping, mindblowing gamechanger. But it is an expertly crafted action movie with CG effects so seamless I forgot I was even watching a bunch of pixels a short amount of time into the movie.
The film is classic James Cameron; both the good (likable blue collar heroes, action scenes that never let up, a stunningly realised artificial world) and the bad (on the nose dialogue, a bloody awful end theme song). It could even be seen as a greatest hits collection, borrowing the mech suits from Aliens, the hippie aliens from The Abyss and the star-crossed lovers from Titanic. What Cameron lacks in originality (Dances With Blue Aliens is not too far off in summing up the slight plot) he more than makes up for in spectacle and gung-ho enthusiasm. What always separates his films from those of obnoxious wannabes like Michael Bay is that, behind the action, there is also a heart. The Na'vi are fully realised characters, and by the end of the movie I was cheering for them to wipe out those lousy Earthlings. Which is quite subversive for a Hollywood blockbuster, if you think about it. The commentary on America's treatment of its enemies is none too subtle ("Fight terror with terror" as one character says).
The cast is fine, especially Sigourney Weaver as a good scientist and Stephen Lang as the film's villain (a marine so badass he doesn't even worry about lack of air before running out and shooting at stuff on Pandora). Zoe Saldana has a powerful and (dare I say it?) sexy presence as the blue alien love interest. The detail of the alien planet is amazing, especially the various beasties, most of them highly dangerous to humans. The plot does drag a little before the final battle, but once all hell break loose all I could do was sit back and enjoy the ride. The 3D is actually used fairly subtly, without lots of jump in your face moments. All in all, highly recommended. I just hope Cameron doesn't wait another 12 years to make his next movie.

Don't get sold out! Buy advance tickets for Avatar in IMAX 3D.

Monday, December 07, 2009

New Moon

So I finally broke down and saw The Twilight Saga: New Moon. The kindest thing I can say about it was that it was better than the first one. The same flaws are there (especially in the ridiculously emo segment where Bella mopes for several months after Edward leaves her) but the production values are better and the plot, at least in the last third, is actually pretty interesting. It also has some real actors this time, in the form of the superb Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning as two of the Volturi - vampire royalty that seem to have stepped out of an Anne Rice novel. The werewolves look good, too (I'm referring to them in wolf form, of course, not the hot guys with their shirts off).
I have to admit my biggest problem with this series (apart from how awfully written the first book was) is that if any vampire story was going to become a giant cultural phenomenon, why this one? It is almost certainly the least interesting interpretation of vampires in history. Is it too much to hope that all the Twi-hards will sit down and watch an episode of Buffy or Angel and realise how inferior Stephenie Meyer's universe is compared to Joss Whedon's?