Yes, I Saw Avatar

. . . in 3-D on an IMAX screen. In Las Vegas. At 11 p.m. That’s got to be the ultimate movie experience!
So what did I think? It’s breath-taking–literally, like when you’re tottering on the edge of a cliff with the hero and nearly plunge into the falls. Or taking a ride on a reptilian creature with a 12-foot wingspan. Avatar is what movies are all about: why D. W. Griffith re-imagined Babylon for Intolerance, or why William Wyler tore up the turf in the Ben Hur chariot race–Spectacle! Danger! Romance! Casts of thousands! Transporting viewers to other times and places! There’s no point complaining that the story is shallow, anti-American, or tree-huggy (just try hugging that mother tree!); it’s true James Cameron called it an ecology fable, but he was after spectacle, not proselytizing. Nobody is going to be converted to radical environmentalism or paganism who wasn’t there already. And it’s not conversion if you’re already there, is it?
Cameron spent a whole bunch of money and a whole lot of time on a gamble that paid off, just like Titanic. To me it was as emotionally engaging as a roller-coaster ride, that kind that when you get off you’re glad you did it but don’t particularly want to do it again. Some fans have expressed their feelings of letdown after leaving the theater, going so far as to seek group therapy on fansites. I understand this too: it’s possible to be so transported by cinematic fantasy it’s hard to slip back into your place in the world. Much harder if you’re not sure of your place. But this too shall pass, both the individual displacement and the buzz about the movie, and eventually the movie itself. What’s it going to look like on a flat TV screen? Blue kitties in space.

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