23 December 2009

3D's a Crowd

I had my first full-length, 3D movie experience this evening. We went to see Avatar in downtown Cannes; as it was raining comme une vache qui pisse, as the French so eloquently put it, the cinema was packed and we picked up our 3D glasses and took a seat. I'm not sure whether we had to pay extra for the glasses but it only cost 21 euros for the three of us and after London prices, this was a veritable bargain.

I wasn't sure I was going to like Avatar, not least because it is well over my two-hour length limit. I was somewhat thrown because as soon as the lights went down, we were immersed into the film--no trailers, no anti-piracy warnings, no BBFC certification (or the French equivalent), no credits (not even for any of the production companies), no nothing. The 3D effect was quite cool, although there was probably a novelty value involved. As I was watching a version with French subtitles, the subtitles themselves appeared almost 3D; this probably wasn't intentional and it was also a little distracting. It took a little while to get used to the fact that occasionally, characters would appear to walk "in front of" the screen and you would initially want to tell off a fellow audience member for standing up in the middle of the movie. Parts of the film were visually very stunning though with all sorts of floating jellyfish-like creatures, flying dragon-like creatures and all sorts of other 3D charismatic megafauna, which would regularly slide, soar or leap out towards you.

As for the plot, it was pretty cheese-tastic: paraplegic US marine gets signed onto a project exploring the planet Pandora, which is a resource of the incredibly useful substance unobtanium and which hosts the Na'vi, a species of nine-foot-tall, blue-skinned humanoids with tails and carbon-reinforced bones. Except, when he goes on his reccies, he has to climb into a pod that allows him to be connected up to his Na'vi avatar. Jake, the marine, is supposed to get friendly with the Na'vi so that he can find out if they can be persuaded to move from their sacred lands (which is where the unobtanium happens to be found), allowing the humans to put up some huge oil rig like structure. But of course Jake falls in love and life gets oh-so-complicated when he has to choose between his new girl and friends, and his own race. Ironically for a 3D film, the characters were all pretty one-dimensional: the disadvantaged goodie, the baddie, the brave heroine, the love rival for the heroine who is mean for most of the film but dies valiantly, and so on.

The film has a lot in common with Titanic, besides the same basic character types: a James Horner soundtrack, the dramatic shots of people falling and meeting their end when hitting a hard object, the meeting of two cultures, two worlds. In fact, when Jake's Na'vi gal is trying to save him by giving him an oxygen mask, I almost thought she was going to say, "there's a mask, Jake" (à la "there's a boat, Jack") and when Jake learns to fly one of the dragon-like creatures, he so nearly said, "I'm the king of the world."

But it did look very good and the story was just about engaging enough (even if the tautness of the plot was sacrificed in favour of creating some really cool-looking shots) to keep me going for the whole 2h40. My nose was killing from the heavy 3D glasses by the end, though, or, as the two random northern girls in the audience put it, "oh nerrr; I've bruised me conk."

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