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Avatar

I’ve been eagerly looking for a good opportunity to take Janet to go see Avatar ever since the film opened a month ago. It’s a little tricky to manage since Janet works during the day, and I’m either working or otherwise busy several nights a week, and we have these two darling little girls that we love to spend time with at home. Furthermore, even when we do both have a free evening, Janet’s always short on sleep these days. Plus, it’s hard to arrange getting away for that amount of time simply because even if we get someone else to watch and feed the girls, she still has to be able to pump milk every few hours — so everything has to line up perfectly in order to pull it off. But yesterday Janet was off work thanks to MLK Jr., so it seemed like the best opportunity we were likely to get for a while.

My parents were more than happy to care for the girls while we were out, of course. For Janet, this was the first time she had left them with anyone other than me, and it was the first time we’d gone out together without the kids since Elizabeth came home from the hospital about 7 months ago. The only question was which showing of Avatar would we go see — 3D or regular old 2D? I like the theater here in Livermore much better than the one out at Hacienda, and it’s obviously much closer and more convenient, so that would seem to be a natural choice. But although the Livermore theater was showing Avatar on two screens, both of them were 3D showings. Hacienda had several 3D showings, but also had a couple screens that were displaying in nice old fashioned 2D.

Here’s my dilemma. I was really curious about seeing it in 3D, really really hoping that it would be extra fantastic. But frankly, I’ve always thought that the current 3D film technology is still woefully inadequate. I guess you could say I was skeptical and curious in equal portions. I know a great many people think 3D movies are super cool, but I just think it looks super lame and gimmicky. The system uses polarized light and glasses to produce a stereoscopic image; this does produce some sense of depth in the image, but it’s a far cry from the kind of 3D vision produced by our eyes. Every time I’ve seen a 3D movie in the past I have hoped that maybe the technology had advanced enough that it was actually worthwhile, but I’ve always been disappointed. The system seems especially incapable of handling fast action sequences. Inevitably, I end up wishing that I’d just seen the film in regular old 2D. Rather than adding anything new or extra to a film, the lame and gimmicky look of 3D effects simply ends up distracting me from enjoying the image onscreen and the story as a whole.

Anyway, I finally made up my mind to see a 2D showing at Hacienda at 11:40 AM with Janet, and figured maybe in a couple weeks if I still felt curious I might go catch a late show in 3D. We got everything ready, we dropped off the girls, we drove out to the theater, we dashed through the rain to get up to the ticket line, we waited for our turn… And then we found out that the showing of Avatar that we had planned on seeing featured Open Captions, meaning that there would be text at the bottom of the screen throughout the movie. Now, I don’t really mind watching subtitled films if it was shot in a language I don’t understand. But when viewing a film in English whose major selling point is the visual effects, I really don’t want to be constantly distracted by printed dialog that I understand perfectly well and notations like “bomb explosions” and “creature roars”. Needless to say, the fact that this showing featured captioning was NOT mentioned in the theater listing that I looked at. And needless to say, that pissed me off! I think I will probably NEVER see another film at Hacienda. They have disappointed me for the last time.

The next showing in 2D that wasn’t captioned was 3 hours later, and we couldn’t make that because I had to work in the evening. We had a pretty narrow window of time in which to see this 2 hour 40 minute movie, and we were already going to be pushing back Janet’s next appointment with the breast pump. I knew there was a 3D showing in Livermore at 12:30, so I gritted my teeth and resigned to seeing a 3D showing after all.  We hopped back in the car to drive back to Livermore, and made sure that my parents wouldn’t mind the extra hour. They didn’t, of course.

The movie was pretty much exactly what I expected, and I enjoyed it. The CG visual effects were absolutely magnificent, and the 3D effects were lame and gimmicky, and I wished my original plan had worked out. I definitely would have enjoyed the movie more in 2D. But despite the distraction of the consistently lame 3D effects — and even despite the overly politically correct storyline — I have to say that it was a very entertaining film. Yes, it made me want to be a giant blue skinned alien, running and flying through the beautiful jungles of Pandora. I may even still try to go see it a 2nd time if I can find a theater other than Hacienda showing it in 2D. And I don’t think I’ll bother with another 3D movie until the next generation 3D technology gets invented. Polarized light and glasses just aren’t good enough to be worth it.

2 comments to Avatar

  • Dan

    A friend of mine on Facebook commented “I’ve been hearing lately that the US Marines are upset at how they are being portrayed. What do you think?” This was my reply:

    It is inevitable (and unquestionably intentional) that the corporate employed military in Avatar should be compared to our US Marines. The thuggish brutes in the film seize whatever they want by force, at the behest of a corporation, destroying and killing every beautiful thing that gets in the way. Obviously, there are plenty of ignorant fools around the world (and here at home) who think similarly about our own military.

    I think the reality is that there are relatively few bad apples in our military. The film, on the other hand, shows us a total of TWO good apples (not counting the scientists, who are perennially portrayed in movies as the enlightened ones opposed to everything military). Other than this small handful, basically every other human in the film is portrayed as soulless and bloodthirsty.

    It’s still a fun movie, but I’m getting pretty sick of that theme. Give me another Aliens or Starship Troopers!

    • Dan

      “Give me another Aliens or Starship Troopers!”

      It’s been over a year since I wrote that, and Hollywood is still plunging headlong over the cliff of stupid, gimmicky 3D films. These are sad times for lovers of truly good films! But even in this disappointing climate, I’m pleased to say that Battle: Los Angeles is the answer to Avatar that I’ve been waiting for. It certainly wasn’t as beautiful as Avatar, and the stories deal with themes that are fundamentally very different. But Battle: Los Angeles does a great job eradicating the “politically correct” nonsense that oozed nauseatingly out of every frame of Avatar.

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