OBJECTIVE: Watch Avatar once per every week of 2014.

WHEN: January 1, 2014, 11:50 am. (Week 1, Jan 1-4.)

WHERE: In my apartment in Portland, ME.

FORMAT: Blu-ray on a Vizio 47″ LCD HDTV.

COMPANY: None.

PHYSICAL AND MENTAL STATE: Eating Cream of Wheat, trepidatious.

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“The Na’vi say that every person is born twice.
The second time is when you earn your place among the people forever.”
-Jake Sully

In the world of film, every movie is born twice. The second time is when it is released on home video. But as I sit on my couch, watching it on the small screen, I wonder if Avatar will ever truly earn its place among the people forever. If becoming a classic requires more than just a theatrical run, it may be out of luck.

When I saw Avatar in 2010, I was less than thrilled with it. Several of my friends were shocked. Upon learning that I had attended a 2D showing, however, they responded with, “Well that explains it. You just didn’t like it because you didn’t see it in 3D.”

I’ll be griping about Avatar a lot this year, but after just one day, I’ve already heard that same argument. It happened after I made an incredibly intelligent, well-worded point about the film:


Someone quickly responded with “it’s meant for the big screen in 3D…” The author has since deleted the tweet. In any event, it seems as though there are a decent number of people who feel that if you haven’t seen Avatar in 3D, you haven’t really seen Avatar.

This is extremely problematic. I’ll be watching Avatar 52 times this year. If I’m lucky, one or two will be in 3D on a largish home television. So, to purists, will my year’s worth of criticism be considered irrelevant? I call bullshit.

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Or whatever-the-hell-that-thing-is shit.

If this supposed cinematic classic can only be fully appreciated in 3D, in a theater, how is it supposed to find new fans? Or keep the old ones? Did everyone have to be present in 2009-10, for the film’s original run? Can the magic of Avatar now only be experienced if you’re able to shell out several grand for a 3D TV?

ARE MY ISSUES WITH THE FILM VALID?:
The problems I have with Avatar are not skin-deep. The plot is recycled, the characters are paper-thin, and the dialogue is clichéd. I can’t see how being able to look deep into the 3D depths of the Pandoran jungle could change that. A shit cake is still made of shit, no matter how much frosting you pile on. As such, I see no issue in criticizing Avatar without seeing its 3D incarnation.

Yet, would it be fair to judge Jaws with its sound? Surely not. Can people who grew up watching The Wizard of Oz on black-and-white TVs truly appreciate that film? Surely the loss of its color is a major problem. So why shouldn’t this apply to Avatar?

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I’d kill for a version with the 3D, but without the dialogue track. 

Any movie released simultaneously in both two and three dimensions is in an odd state. We are told that both versions of the film are viable. We can buy a ticket to, or purchase, either one. Yet we are also told, either by critics, the director, or both, that one version is better. Should they be considered as two separate entities? In this case, I think the original theatrical run sets the precedent. Upon Avatar‘s release, both options were available, so I regard both as being fair game to judge.

ADAPTATIONS:
Perhaps the “You don’t get it because you didn’t see the 3D” argument is  best paralleled by another oft-heard retort: “You didn’t get the movie because you didn’t read the book first.” It’s an issue that Cinemanaut Bill will no doubt have to address while watching The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. (I know he will, because I’m already guilty of citing the book while discussing the film with him.) Watching an adaptation that leans heavily on its source material, be it Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter, puts you at a certain disadvantage without having read the book first. There will be plot points you just won’t get.

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What the hell is this shit?

But it’s the movie’s job to translate for us. Unless every ticket were to come with a copy of the book, the movie has to stand on its own. I think the same applies for 2D versions of 3D films. Unless every copy comes with a pair of 3D glasses, the film has to speak for itself without that extra dimension.

WHAT NOW?:
I’d love to be watching Avatar in 3D every week this year, but I can’t, and that’s one of its biggest problems. If the vast majority of viewers don’t have access to the allegedly superior version of a film, its existence in culture is necessarily going to suffer. I’d probably be watching Star Wars every year if I could see the original cut on Blu-ray, but I can’t, so I haven’t watched it in the last decade. I’m sure die-hard Avatar fans are in a similar boat.

In lieu of shelling out $2500 for a 3D TV, I’m going to be watching Avatar in 2D. It’s the version most people will have access to, and it’s fully sanctioned by the studio. Would I appreciate the film more if I were watching it in 3D on a huge screen? Perhaps. But, any and all criticisms I make about the film will still apply, because if I wasn’t supposed to watch in 2D, the studio shouldn’t have sold me my flat old DVD and Blu-ray.