Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Couple of Things About Avatar

There was never any question that I would go to see Avatar. My husband and I love science fiction and, as fans of James Cameron's work, we followed the progress of his latest offering long before the title moved into the public consciousness. Film snobs we are not. Our life is already jam-packed with gritty realism so, on the rare occasion the stars align to give us a date night, we tend to favour escapism. While I'm happy to be challenged, provoked, or broadened by film, it's not necessary. In fact, sometimes, it's just too much work after I've put in a day at work and then tucked two rambunctious kids into bed. It is not important for me to be on the cutting edge, but it is important that I fill my precious leisure time with things I will truly enjoy.

So we have seen Avatar...twice...and we loved it. We've heard all of the arguments against it - it's all special effects and no story, the dialogue is leaden, the themes are cliche. Some of this criticism is warranted. It's clear that James Cameron has a viewpoint on war and climate change and he often uses a sledgehammer to drive home a point which could be made with a thumbtack. But that is immaterial. Avatar is a beautiful movie and more importantly, it's a movie event, the likes of which we haven't seen for many years.

From an etiquette point of view, Avatar has also renewed my faith in the movie-going public. Although I love going to the movie theatre, I am always dismayed by the lack of respect and manners displayed by my fellow attendees - feet on the back of seats, talking through the movie, constantly leaving the theatre to answer a ringing cell phone or worse still, answering it during the movie, texting with abandon, etc. At both showings of Avatar I attended, people of all ages behaved themselves. They were quiet, they were transfixed, they turned off their electronic devices and they stayed in their seats, not wanting to miss a thing. Whether or not you like Avatar, any movie that can do that has my vote.

While we're on the subject of etiquette, I generally argue against the excessive tooting of one's own horn, believing that if there is anything worth tooting, someone else will do it for you. Much ado has been made of James Cameron's overzealous acceptance speeches with such phrases as, "I'm the king of the world" (for Titanic) and now "I see you" (for Avatar). I get it, but I'm willing to make a teeny exception for James Cameron. Whether or not you enjoy his particular brand of entertainment, the man has a stellar track record, three blockbuster franchises (Terminator, Titanic and Avatar), the current #1 movie for ten weeks with a box office take that is rivaled only by another of his own movies. In his career he has contributed to the creation and perfection of film-making techniques and technologies that many of his peers have used to great effect. And, this is a guy who, over a 20 year time-frame has turned down many opportunities, preferring to retreat after each success, honing his craft and slowly working on his next project, determined to "do it right" even if it means being out of the limelight for years. Very few people in this world deserve to sing their own praises but I think, in his case, he's allowed.


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