“Awesome.” “Phenomenal.” “Epic.” Avatar is all that…sort of.

January 4, 2010

Who’s the Avatar? Mel was a blue-faced, freedom fighting Australian before Sam.

Okay, so Avatar…

Like a lot of you, I saw it over the holidays. Like some of you, I got to experience it in Imax 3D. The brass tacks: I liked Avatar. The movie lived up to the hype. Sort of…

I give it an A-. Yes, that’s a minus sign after the “A” not a typo. Not that it matters. The film is an event and a spectacle and it will make –is making- a ton of money. James Cameron has done it again. Sort of…

First, let me say I didn’t plan on writing about Avatar, as I rightly imagined hundreds of thousands of other moviegoers would. Obviously, a movie with this much hype, pedigree and cost is going to draw criticism. It has. The reviews have been mostly good to very good. The special effects have been deservedly singled out. They are “mind blowing.” Sort of…

Why sort of?

Because for all its brio Avatar is also random and predictable. I say random because it feels like a mash up of other movies: specifically Braveheart, Pocahontus, Terminator and Transformers. In this respect Avatar feels like an avatar.

At one point the lead character, (played by Sam Worthington) exhorts all the clans of Pandoria to fight for their freedom. Not only does Sam look and sound like Mel Gibson (they’re both Aussies), his face is blue too. What are the odds?

The story is so predictable it makes even the outcome of Titanic seem more uncertain. If I tell you the Avatar Hero betrays his country, race and planet to join the Pandorians is that a spoiler? Or that he falls in love with a beautiful alien? And that she is the daughter of the clan’s chief? I could go on and on. The clichéd plot devices pile up faster than you can say evil military industrial complex.

Make no mistake I was totally sucked into Cameron’s fantasy planet. It is simply magnificent and, in my view, the best part of the movie. For the scenery alone you should pay your 10 bucks. Happily.

The problem? I kept being reminded of those other movies and characters and ideas. Which kind of sucked. Someone I follow on Twitter said quibbling with Avatar’s plot is like complaining about the dessert at a Chinese buffet. Funny and true. Sort of. The difference is I went into Avatar expecting Le Cirque not P.F. Chang’s.

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8 Responses to ““Awesome.” “Phenomenal.” “Epic.” Avatar is all that…sort of.”

  1. I enjoyed Avatar, too. The one sentence pitch for the movie could have been “Dances With Wolves” meets “The Matrix”. Accept it for what it is – fantasy escapism.

  2. SRP said

    Reg-
    You see Dances with Wolves and I see Braveheart. But what I really wanted to see was Avatar!

  3. I agree, sort of, but I think the intention was to tell an old “timeless” story with groundbreaking technology. Even Cameron is not claiming to be original and in this case, that’s ok.

    I loved it, and I’m not ashamed to admit i cried like a little girl at times.

  4. SRP said

    Mark-
    Must say I did not cry or even well up.
    For better and worse, I thought Titanic was far more emotional.

    • I am also not ashamed to admit I have a weakness for emotive moments in sci-fi.

      I didn’t think Titanic was emotional at all. But then I was a cynical teenager when I saw that.

  5. Tad DeWree said

    Braveheart, maybe…Dances with Wolves, nearly identical. Of course, for a new generation of movie fans, it’s the next bog thing.

    As professional who concentrate on :30 seconds or less, the 2 hour scope and scale of the production was what I found stunning. And 3d… What I thought would be the latest itteration of a “smellovision” gimmick, turned out to be a compelling and legitimate improvement in Action movie cinema. Reminded me how George Lucas pioneered THX for theaters to meet his new level of production value.

    Cynicisim aside, I think we’re seeing the future of movies, albeit, in it’s new but still primative storytelling form. Once rendering hoursepower increases, Story will get it’s do. Until then, boy meets girl, man fights enemy, child comes of age will be the go-to scripts.

    Always a good read Stefan. Best in 2010.

  6. Sarah said

    I loved Avatar 3D and have been telling everyone to go see it — in the theater, in 3D, for sure. It’s not a rental. That said, I couldn’t agree more with your assessment, it was so predictable and familiar. I was reminded of the animated kids flick from the early 90s, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. I think its an even closer replica than some of the other movies listed here. A little googling proved I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Here’s a pretty interesting trailer mash-up of the two:

    All said and done, I think I agree with Mark — I don’t mind seeing a timeless tale done so well, and so entertaining!

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