Dear Avatar: Coraline is still better

I’m not going to get into a full review of Avatar. There are lots of reviews out there, take your pick, and I’m pretty sure I was one of the last people to see it. I will say that if you value visual over storytelling, you’ll love it. Otherwise, it’s like talking to that hot guy in college. So pretty, until he opens his mouth and ruins it.

But I saw Avatar in 3-D as it was “the only way to see it.” And I gotta say, I wasn’t impressed.

Understand, I’m not talking about the amazing CGI; that still goes unparalleled. I will even say that Jake Sully the Doc Manhattan look-alike had better facial expressions than Jake Sully the human. But I’m talking the 3-D portion of it.

I’m starting to worry that 3-D is a gimmick, like Flash on a website, that everyone is now using because they can, not because it’s a good idea. You’d think Avatar would have that reason, but most of the uses were just to give the scenes depth, and I am not willing to pay extra money for a tweak to the image depth. There are scenes with bugs, and with falling ash and seeds, that makes for an interesting experience, I’ll grant them that. But on the other hand, the couple of times the movie tried to give you a real OMG 3-D experience, like when someone aimed an arrow or a gun right at the camera, the image would lose its sharpness and get awkward and blurry, making you squint and turn your head, trying to get your bearings. Other objects placed in the foreground had that problem as well; I was distracted in a scene by a rock that I simply couldn’t focus on.

CoralineCoraline, however,  had fantastic 3-D, some subtle enhancement, other plain freaky scenes, all perfectly done. (I’ve gone on about this before.) You might say that since Coraline was my first 3-D movie, it’s bound to be my favorite, but I don’t remember a headache at Coraline, or squinting as if the problem were with my eyes instead of with the movie itself.

There are similar scenes in Coraline and Avatar, both illustrating a walk between worlds as going through a twisty or unraveling corridor or canal. It’s one of my favorite 3-D moments in Coraline, really giving you the feeling of traveling. In Avatar, they couldn’t even get it in focus, and I can safely say that Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure had better animation for a twisty otherworldly tunnel.

I know I’m in the minority with my opinions of this movie. But I hated Titanic too, so I guess I’m just not cut out to be a Cameron fangirl. I will say that the animation was indeed spectacular, and I want my own flying dragon thingy, but the 3-D needed work, and if I had to sit in a theater for three hours again, I’d do it without the glasses.

Mur Lafferty is an author and podcaster. She is the host of I Should Be Writing and the author of Playing For Keeps, among other things. You can find all of her projects at


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