Avatar, the IMAX Experience…

I saw Avatar with my wife, 7 year old daughter, and older brother on Christmas day on an IMAX screen. I had chosen Christmas day because I figured that the crowds at the Palisades Mall in west Nyack, NY would be a lot less than usual (with the stores being closed and all) and the exorbitant fees IMAX charges for buying tickets online were cut in half to $2 per ticket on that day (please don’t get me started on that!), bringing the total for one ticket at $16. Mind you, I paid for the whole group. My wallet had a large whole in it. I had to bite the bullet however because epic fail or not, this movie was meant to be seen and experienced on a giant screen.

The line was huge as always on IMAX showings and the wait was bearable. My iPhone proved to be a great time sink. Once inside the lobby on yet another line, we were given some rather awful and large 3D glasses. All the millions spent on this big 3D extravaganza and they hand out cheap ass flimsy glasses? I actually like the ones that were handed out when I saw Beowulf in “Real 3D”. I kept a few and should’ve brought them with me. I wonder if they would work on an IMAX movie. I guess I’ll find out when I take my daughter to see Alice in Wonderland in March.

When you go to an IMAX showing, you HAVE to arrive early. The reason being is that where you sit in this giant theater determines your viewing experience. If you sit in the front, you’re forced to look basically up at the screen as if you were staring at the side of a building when you’re at its entrance. The best seats are in the back. The minute people are allowed in, everyone races to the top. It’s really a funny scene. Suffice to say that I was one of those racing to the top with my daughter in tow like two children in a darkened playground. Once at the top rows, you have to move to the middle of the row. There are no breaks in the row, folks. The theater ushers urge people to fill up every seat towards the middle with no gaps.

Once seated with my family, I observed others fill in to the theater. I look at the confusion that ensues as people realize that there is only two ways into a row from either side. I watch the people put coats, hats, bags and other stuff on seats to hold it for someone else. I hate that crap. I can understand if you’re holding a seat for your girlfriend, wife or buddy. But several seats? I used to be forced to hold seats for friends when going to the movie and I hated it. I had to fend off everyone and their grandmothers who would come and ask if the seat was taken, often getting dirty looks as they walked away. I put a stop to that crap and refuse to do it. Want a seat? Wait in line just like everyone else. I don’t care if we’re childhood friends.

Sometimes entire rows are “on hold” for people that are too freaking lazy to wait in line. Occasionally, many arguments would arise because of this. I treat it as part of the movie-going experience. If a fight breaks out, so much the better. This is “reality viewing” at its best.

Then there’s the large family or group of friends that come in just before the movie begins. They have no choice but to split up and go to different parts of the theater, filling in single seats. This happens every time and it cracks me up.

This movie was 2 hours, 46 minutes long. If you want to go to the bathroom, go WELL in advance! Get your popcorn, Raisinettes or drinks as soon as possible. Getting up in the middle of the movie is a pain in the ass as you would have to go through a whole mess of people just to exit the row. It’s an inconvenience to you and the viewers already seated.

At an IMAX screening, there are no previews. At least not for this movie. I remember years ago seeing 3D previews at the Lincoln Square IMAX in New York City. I guess none were shown this time around because the movie is so long they don’t want to waste any time. The movie starts right away. It gets down to business.

After several seconds when the movie begins, it took a bit for my eyes to get adjusted to the 3D. Once they did, I was blown away by the opening scene. I must admit that seeing the entire movie through these glasses kinda muted the color palette for me. The glasses have a gray tint to them and I feel that the movie’s brightness and colors are slightly diminished when viewing the movie through them.

All throughout the movie, I soaked up every frame of it, appreciating the hard work, talent and millions spent on this film. When the characters land on Pandora, the world is absolutely stunning and beautiful. You actually believe that the fawn and fauna of this imaginary world are living and breathing.

The Navi is a technological achievement. I thought King Kong and Gollum were great as CGI characters but these creatures are supremely well done! For a while there, I completely forgot that I was looking at CGI characters. I wondered how much processing power was used to render just one frame of this film. Simply amazing.

The story is standard fare nothing out of this world (excuse the pun). Dances with Wolves in space is what this film is often referred as. So what? It was nevertheless very entertaining and action-packed.

I couldn’t believe how great Stephen Lang looked! I used to see an NBC show back in the 80’s with my mother called Crime Story, a cop show based in the 60’s in the city of Chicago. It was created by Michael Mann and it starred Denis Farina. Stephen played a lawyer whose career took a dark, downward spiraling path. He was not physically fit, just average sized. Through the years he’s played bit roles here and there on film. All of a sudden, I see him all buff and looking hardcore! His performance was brilliant and I hope to see him in more roles.

After close to three hours, the movie ends predictably (from the get-go you know where Jake Sully is going to end up). James Cameron plans to make a trilogy out of Avatar. I can see how the second movie is going to be even bigger than the first as far as action goes. This first movie was an introduction to Pandora and the Navi. I can only guess what parts two and three will show us.

Was it worth seeing in IMAX? Absolutely. Will the experience be the same without the 3D? I don’t know. I will definitely buy this movie on Blu-ray when it comes out sometime next year. I can imagine that the colors will be even more vibrant and clearer on a small (compared to an IMAX screen), high definition TV screen.

My best friend has been bashing this movie as well as others out there. They feel that the story is not original and that we’ve seen it all before albeit much prettier looking. They bash the 3D (despite not even seeing it yet) and hate James Cameron’s over the top statement that this film will revolutionize how we see movies from now on (I must admit, I hate the whole “king of the world” attitude he sometimes displays – but the man is good at what he does so I’m willing to overlook it). Pay no heed to the haters. Just go see it for yourself.

I’m a movie-goer. I LOVE movies. I love movies with sweeping special effects AND a good story. Avatar IS a cinematic event to appropriately end the decade. I’m glad I took my daughter to see this movie as it was meant to be seen. We had a blast. My older brother who does not speak any English enjoyed the movie immensely. That said a lot to me. He was able to follow it through without any explanations during the movie (although I did had to clear up some points he had afterwards).

As the lines thin out, I say take the time to go out and see this movie at an IMAX screen. You won’t regret it.

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