Hey everyone, how was that holiday weekend? Hmm? Did you have fun? Did you get some great Christmas presents? Eat some Christmas ham? Or did you, like me, decide to spend the majority of your day asses to elbows with 300 other coughing, text messaging, fist pumping civilians in a large dark room, all adorned with goofy glasses and popcorn? Did you commit to a Christmas with Avatar?
Avatar is, if nothing else, the most all-encompassing blockbuster I’ve ever seen. There is not one single cliché or device this film does not utilize. All of the ingredients here are store-bought, selected for their instantaneously recognizable, and therefore comforting, reminiscence. All the directions taken, the paths followed here are worn to the core, their surfaces trekked by countless footprints before, a steady and true path nonetheless.
James Cameron has taken everything that has come before, starting with “A Trip to the Moon” way back in 1902 (the world’s first sci fi film). Every nuance, every line, every piece of footage can be traced to an ancestor, be it Dances With Wolves, Aliens, Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, take any instance you’d like and it can be analyzed to demonstrate its already proven maximun entertainment effect.
In short, James Cameron has made the movie to conclude all movies, if not end them entirely. And we love him for it.
This film has made me realize that I am a bit of a cynic, a humbug, a skeptic to say the least. I went into Avatar with my objective side of the brain in full alert. I did not want to allow the story to overwhelm me, to take me away to this fantastic new world. I wanted to see the strings. And mostly I did.
To begin, the 3-D effect, though about as good as I’ve ever seen it, is still not a natural look to me. I did not think I was seeing a fully realized look. There were obvious layers, like characters looming in fore- or backgrounds that looked blurred or simply 2 D within a 3 D image. It was like paper stacked on top of paper, not a true three dimensions to every shape.
The other CG effects were all very good, but I’m not sure how this took 15 years to create. LOTR looks just as real, just as tangible. The alien species and even plants around them usually looked as fake as they were. They looked rendered, not real.
The story and characters are all so ONE dimensional it’s hardly worth a mention. You have seen these characters before. Sam Worthington plays the soldier character about as wooden as possible, and little weight is given to the science behind him inhabiting a lab grown alien body! I mean, jeez, it’s all so matter of fact, “yea, we got these human alien hybrid bodies we grew, and I’m going to plug in Matrix style and walk around in it.” Try just brushing that one off on Mulder and Scully
Even the Na’vi tribe that Avatar Sam infiltrates totally knows what he is, a human controlling a lab grown hybrid creature made from their DNA (maybe not that much), and they’re all, “come in, it’s not weird that you are here like that at all. We are an incredibly spiritual people, but that doesn’t mean we’re not cool with alien technology as well. ” There is only one instance, where Avatar Sam gets unhooked and the body falls limply, that one Na’vi guy is all, “See? He’s not actually one of us. It’s a guy controlling a body like a toy car.”
The villain, Colnel scar tissue is a great villain, one part Patton, one part Duke Nukem. Though his actions are so predictable you feel like you could’ve written his lines. Giovanni Ribisi basically watched the beginning of Aliens the day before heading to the set. There is absolutely no unique character under Pandora’s Sun.
We know exactly where this movie is at all times, and we know where it is going. James Cameron lays out his map as wide as can be, pinpointing the places where a romantic scene happens, where a motivating speech must occur, where the battle seems lost, where the crowd needs to cheer. And we happily followed him, tracing those steps. All of us. Everyone who clapped at the end, who rooted for the CG characters on screen, (my God she was actually throwing punches alongside them!) we all bought it.
And for that I give the movie credit. I don’t think ANYONE could have packed this movie so full of rhetoric, so full of obviousness, predictable fluff, stereotyped clichés, the black and white/good vs. evil simplicity, all of it, every single drop of familiarity in this “brand new world” and gotten away with it.
For critics and audiences to proudly say that they saw and did not object to the plot or characters in any way is mind boggling. For them to trump, even critics, to trump the FX over story is very telling. What we are willing to give up for some eye candy, eh?
For Cameron to make this film a success, he needed to show us everything we already love about, well, everything; from sci fi to war films to romance and religion. Everything that has shaped us since movies were invented. And he did it. And we loved it.
But, still… I saw the strings.