Avatar pulls that trickiest of hat tricks, earning perfect metascores of 100 from top critics in the nation’s 3 largest cities coast to coast: LA, Chicago, and now Manohla Dargis in New York:
…one of the pleasures of the movies is that they transport us, as Neytiri does with Jake, into imaginary realms, into Eden and over the rainbow to Oz.
If the story of a paradise found and potentially lost feels resonant, it‚Äôs because ‚ÄúAvatar‚Äù is as much about our Earth as the universe that Mr. Cameron has invented. But the movie‚Äôs truer meaning is in the audacity of its filmmaking.
Few films return us to the lost world of our first cinematic experiences, to that magical moment when movies really were bigger than life (instead of iPhone size), if only because we were children. Movies rarely carry us away, few even try. They entertain and instruct and sometimes enlighten. Some attempt to overwhelm us, but their efforts are usually a matter of volume. What‚Äôs often missing is awe, something Mr. Cameron has, after an absence from Hollywood, returned to the screen with a vengeance. He hasn‚Äôt changed cinema, but with blue people and pink blooms he has confirmed its wonder.
With 32 critics weighing in, Avatar can now confidently claim its place among the best-reviewed movies of the year. It might be worth remembering that most of us felt The Dark Knight’s stellar metascore of 82 would be enough to vault it into the Best Picture circle. Avatar stands at 84.
Manola Dargis talks about the impact of 3D after the cut.
It‚Äôs a world that looks as if it had been created by someone who‚Äôs watched a lot of Jacques Cousteau television or, like Mr. Cameron, done a lot of diving. It‚Äôs also familiar because, like John Smith in ‚ÄúThe New World,‚Äù Terrence Malick‚Äôs retelling of the Pocahontas story, Jake has discovered Eden.
An Eden in three dimensions, that is. In keeping with his maximalist tendencies, Mr. Cameron has shot ‚ÄúAvatar‚Äù in 3-D (because many theaters are not equipped to show 3-D, the movie will also be shown in the usual 2), an experiment that serves his material beautifully. This isn‚Äôt the 3-D of the 1950s or even contemporary films, those flicks that try to give you a virtual poke in the eye with flying spears. Rather Mr. Cameron uses 3-D to amplify the immersive experience of spectacle cinema. Instead of bringing you into the movie with the customary tricks, with a widescreen or even Imax image filled with sweeping landscapes and big action, he uses 3-D seemingly to close the space between the audience and the screen. He brings the movie to you.
A quick look at one measure of critics’ esteem, with the matascore rankings of the mainstream narrative films in English most often touted as BP contenders:
94 – The Hurt Locker
91 – No Country for Old Men (for comparison)
88 – Up
86 – Slumdog Millionaire (for comparison)
85 – An Education
84 – Avatar
83 – Fantastic Mr. Fox
83 – Star Trek
83 – Crazy Heart
83 – Up in the Air
82 – TDK (for comparison)
81 – District 9
80 – Coraline