Monday, January 18, 2010

Oh Avatar...

I saw Avatar in IMAX 3-D. And I'd be lying if I said I was not entertained. It was certainly a unique cinematic experience. (At least unique for now.) However, I cannot understand the amount of praise that this movie has received. There seem to be too many obvious flaws that would disqualify it from any of this "best of the year" talk it's been getting. Flaws? What flaws? Well, that is part of what is baffling. In general, critics have found plenty of problems with the movie, and yet they still love it.....a LOT. I get the feeling that there is some kind of sentimentality at work. Avatar has been getting comparisons with Star Wars. Maybe the critics have been longing for some new revolution in filmmaking to occur, so they subconsciously have decided to dub Avatar as some leap forward in cinematic evolution. They want the next Star Wars. I'm sorry, but this is not it. This is new technology - that is all. Motion-capture technology is impressive in its own right, what? Just because a movie is the first to do something - even if it's technically excellent - that does not make the film great. It's like if the very first color film was just 10 minutes of a gorilla scratching himself. Maybe Avatar is better than a gorilla, but even so the best part of it is the visual spectacle. But that is also the best part of any number of experimental films or action movies. So why don't they get such incredible buzz?

The story? It's an orgy of tropes. Dances with Wolves, The Matrix, Lord of the Rings, and even Fern Gully, among other films. It really seems like Cameron just stole from these movies what he wanted. There is no homage.

The acting? It was pretty decent at times, but greatly hindered from the screenplay's inability to portray real people. They are all just characters. It's like a paint-by-the-numbers for thoughts and emotions. I think all the actors give valiant efforts, but there was only so much they could do.

The dialogue? Did Cameron have George Lucas proofread for him?

The satire? Yeah, well....

I've decided that this film is unintentionally patronizing. Cameron is so hyped-up on his imagination and ideas that he does not give the audience a chance to use any of their own. You are almost physically inserted into Pandora and then forced on a tour of what Cameron wants. You can't use your imagination because he has filled in all the places where you'd normally need to be imaginative. Perhaps there are several layers to the premise, but you'd never know it because Cameron has told you what the right answer is from the start. I don't think he means to treat his audience like a receptacle, but he does. The best experiences you can have with a movie are interactive. It is an exchange of thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, Avatar's sheer weight pushes you into your seat and doesn't give you any room to move. It's a visual bully.

OK, all that being said....I would see it again. Cameron is a technically great director. The movie is fun. It's on par with watching any number of mindless action movies. This is my point - it is a mediocre movie with somewhat unique visuals and a bucket of good intentions. It is not a great movie. Sorry. (Not really.)


Anonymous said...

I wondered why they were not able to tunnel underneath the tree as any number of modern mines do? I agree with the bucket of stereotyped characters critique. I felt like i was slowly drowning when i watched it. It sucked me in and eventually engulfed me to the point where i didn't care what made it good or bad i just wanted to know what happened at the end. I feel like if i watched it a second time i would really notice how long it is and I wouldn't be able to sit through it all again.

ross charles said...

Your review basically describes my expectations. I haven't seen it, but I don't know if I will. I know it's one that people will say needs to be seen in theaters, but the flaws that you mention and the price of a ticket are enough to hold me back from dedicating 2+ hours of my life to it.

What you mention about imagination and interaction is interesting and a little disconcerting if Avatar is actually a trendsetter for the future of cinema.

R Logan L said...

There were also some aspects of the movie that I found somewhat disturbing....including the ending, which I think was supposed to be beautiful or inspiring - I guess.