So it’s no great cop as a film alone, but what really sets Avatar apart is the digital animation. Make no mistake: Avatar will be the benchmark by which CGI is judged for years to come. Cameron’s world is brought to life in quite incredible detail. It would be lazy to say you forget you’re watching digitised characters, but the quality and imagination of the animation allows it to co-exist with the live action actors seamlessly. It’s quite a thing to behold.
It’s not a spectacle especially enhanced by 3D, though – at least, not in my opinion. I should add that my impressions are coloured by our less than ideal seating position - it being universally acknowledged that you need to be in the sweet-spot to appreciate 3D fully - but this positional sensitivity is just one of my problems with the experience.
My first is with wearing glasses and my complaints have nothing to do with looking like Joe 90 for the evening. No it’s rather simpler than that: they’re uncomfortable. Yes, this might sound a somewhat churlish, simplistic argument, but as someone who hasn’t ever needed glasses, wearing some for the best part of three hours felt awkward and alien to me. I constantly found myself readjusting and fiddling with my glasses, not forgetting the irritation of the occasional fingerprint on the lenses. In any case, anything that causes discomfort while watching a film is a bad thing.
More importantly, I find it hard to reconcile the commonly quoted line “it’s like I’m in the film” with my experience. Watching Avatar in 3D didn’t feel like being in the film, but rather watching a film in a cleverly constructed hall of mirrors – an analogy that isn’t a million miles from the truth. On occasion the presence of 3D did noticeably enhance my enjoyment, but these occasions (mostly in the last 20 minutes of the film) were too few and far between to make any lasting impression. I strongly suspect watching Avatar at an IMAX theatre would generate a quite different response, but that’s a pleasure only a small minority will be able to enjoy.
As such, if you do plan on going to see Avatar, I suggest you either go to an IMAX or settle for good old 2D. In the latter case, it’ll probably cost less and you won’t enjoy the still stunning animation any less. Or, better yet, wait until it hits Blu-ray, where you can ensure you’ve got the best seat in the house. Much as it surprises me to say it, on this evidence the home might be the place where 3D comes into its own, though as yet that's just speculation rather than fact.