Ludicrously Belated TR Review: Avatar


?Let me preface by saying I’m sorry this is so late. It’s late because I took forever to see Avatar, and then after I saw it, I still don’t really what to tell you. I guess I should start at the beginning.

You should see Avatar.

Seriously, go see it. But go see it in 3-D, or don’t bother seeing it at all. A large portion of the hype is indeed real; James Cameron has very likely ushered in the next major breakthrough in film with his incredible use of 3-D. It is a spectacle that deserves to be seen, in a theater. There’s nothing any preview video or screenshot that can convey the awesomeness of what Cameron has achieved in Avatar; if you are at all interested in film, you have to see Avatar.

That said, Avatar is not a good movie.

I understand this sounds contradictory, but it’s really not. Avatar is a visual revolution, but the story it tells is exactly as clich?d as we thought. It really is just Pocahontas or Dances with Wolves with blue cat people. There’s no drama, because the story is so by-the-book you know where everything is going, things are awkwardly introduced so you know exactly how they’ll be used later, and the characters are as flat as the film itself is three-dimensional. The bad guys have to be Snidely Whiplash-levels of evil to drive the plot forward, and — although we’re told Na’Vi are supreme badass warriors who are a massive threat to the humans — the Na’Vi never once attack the humans on screen until the human military attacks, and the first time that happens, they just sit there and get shot to show how good and noble they are. I wanted to do an Avatar FAQ, but the story isn’t stupid, it’s just obvious.

Look. Years later, when the 3-D Cameron has pioneered in Avatar becomes commonplace, Avatar will simply be a shitty movie. A technically important movie in which 3-D filmmaking was pioneered, but a shitty one.I have a few more notes after the jump if you’re interested.

? As beautiful as the film is, it needed to lose 40 minutes — which still would have kept the run-time at two-hours. The visual splendor does get tiring after a while, then and you’re left with the plot, which… yeah.

? I still think the Na’Vi look ridiculous and far too cartoony, but they’re spectacularly animated. It bothered me much less in the theater because they moved so naturally. It was only when they stood still that they looked like big blue Garfields.

? Zoe Saldana gives the best performance of the movie. Seriously, she is amazing — she truly sounded feral and alien but conveyed her emotion with every grunt, wail, hiss and snarl. I’d rank her performance up with Andy Serkis’ Gollum. Seriously, she’s that good.

? Sam Worthington is terrible. He’s kind of a blank slate as a regular actor, which means that as a voice actor, he is fucking terrible. Never let him near a microphone again.

? The planet is called “Pandora” and the valuable mineral — whose worth is never explained — is called “unobtanium.” There is no way James Cameron didn’t write this shit in the fourth grade.

? Apparently Cameron’s thinking of there being two sequels to Avatar. I guarantee these will be just as essential as Ferngully 2: The Magical Rescue is to Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

? I can’t imagine any one wanting toys from this movie. Again, there’s some amazing action scenes, but I can’t imagine any child wanting to “relive the adventure” of Avatar. Besides, all the humans and their gear are the bad guys, and there’s only two Na’Vi good guys with anything resembling personalities. Someone at Mattel should be fired hard for signing that license.

? The Na’Vi have hair, which they braid into ponytails, which somehow ends with some kind of orifice full of tiny tendrils which they stick into Pandora’s other wildlife to commune with them. This is as dumb as it is creepy and unsettling.

? I don’t care what anyone says, that end theme is fucking terrible. I could not walk out of the theater fast enough when it started playing. It’s inclusion was absolutely about tricking soccer moms into thinking Avatar is another Titanic. It’s not.

? Well, let me clarify that. Avatar is not like Titanic in that it’s a goofy sci-fi flick. But it is like Titanic in that it’s a cinematic spectacle held together by an incredibly simple story. The spectacle is worthy of seeing. The story is not.

? Supposedly Cameron has been working on avatar for like 20 years or something. Now, the technology he used to created his visual wonders has only been available the last few years, and yet the story reads like a first draft short story from a junior high creative writing class. What the fuck was he working on those 15 years? The mind boggles.

? This.