I don’t usually do this on the internet but I decided since everyone raves about avatar I’d give it my own review.
Now I’m not going to discuss the new CGI slash 3D experience. If you came for that you’ll get plenty. And yes this is a new breakthrough for developing CGI and digital modeling for film and other media.
What I do find more relevant to my own film expectations is the quality of the plot, story, and characters in Avatar. This film pretty much occurred as I thought it would in these aspects. And the art and design direction were great (did Cameron design the biology? I don’t know, probably not).
When I first read the synopsis and developement of this film before it was released I thought “yeah nice camera show, but a flat story most likely.” Also James Cameron had this script written for years, but wanted the CGI performance to be at this level to do it. In other words he made a bunch of crappy 3D films for IMAX in order to do this project. That reads to me that Cameron’s story for this film was so flimsy that he needed great visuals to make this movie worth while. Not surprisingly Avatar also seemed like Aliens, Terminator, and Predator, combined into a green peace motion feature before seeing it.
The biggest problem with this movie is that the plot is too undeveloped and ideas float around without any gravity in terms of plot connections. Hear me out on this. For example Sigourney Weavers character is a scientist that made contact with the inhabitants. But I couldn’t even tell how close she was to the tribe. Vaguely she had students but never has any close interaction with the tribe leaders or even if she inducted into the society. Then she also made a point of the trees being an information system to the corporate douche (remember this was Sigourney’s dilemma with the corporate spokesman in Aliens?). But before that statement there was no announced research or discovery of this shown, only that the inhabitants link to organisms…but we had yet to see a tree link up. Then when did Jake Sully (the main character avatar) feel a connection to the forest. He did the rituals, developed the avatar body, and fell in love with his teacher. But nowhere is it clearly transitioned that he appreciates the planet. He says it but does he mean it? Also would it really be that easy for a humans idea of attraction to change that fast, that he would have sex with a tall lean blue alien? Maybe that would be explained with…more plot developement.
On a smaller note there was the other scientist who pissed that Sulley initially for being chosen and there was tension building. Then it was dropped for no reason other than Sulley said it was dropped… surprise. Along with the low plotline the film in general is easy to predict. From Sulley being taken in by the tribe to the fact that he conquers the largest flying animal in the area. Scene by scene you can almost always tell plot points that will come and go.
Besides the disappointing lack of plot details that couldn’t be done in 2 and half hours, is the lack of attachment I had to the characters. I felt sadness for the inhabitants and frustration with the human military and corporate personel. But so what? I never cared what happened in particular to important characters. The chief died…do I care? Sigourney died…do I care? The head warrior died…do I care? Hellicraft pilot dies…do I care? Sulley almost dies…did I care? Nope, I had no personal feelings invested in these characters as to their fates. Not to mention their deaths are relatively untouched overall…no formal declarations of almost anyone who dies in the film. In the end I don’t feel like I knew these characters and therefore don’t care that their gone.
Another mediocre quality about this film is that how it says thing that other films have said, but not as polished. The films I recognized from this story telling are movies like Dances With Wolves which spoke and outlined better the assimilation of a man into a another more naturalistic culture. The Matrix for plugging into new bodies, in avatar Sulley describes the planet as reality and his crippled body the dream. In general the military attitude and protocol in avatar seems almost no different from Aliens or the predator II sequel. The film largely is just a reinvention of the saga of the American frontier pushing against the existence of the Native Americans…except the natives win.
Then in the ending Cameron could have added something new to think about if Sulley had died. This is just my fantasy, but if Sulley died and his lover Neytiri couldn’t save him because she didn’t know his technology (ie the gas mask would save him or how to operate it) that would have been impressive. It would have led to a discussion in my mind of cultural exchange and importance of knowledge, and where ignorance of both cultures lead to…death. Instead Cameron gave the audience the same endearing messages that a lot of other hollywood films have done, and better than this film.
So in conclusion James Cameron made the movie we have seen many times with a new twist on visuals and setting. He got what he wanted, a CGI feature that has taken film making to a new level. He made what he already new would work…aliens, terraforming, new planet, conflict, humans get beaten but soldier on, with a new element that the aliens are the victors and are good. I guess James Cameron must have been just as pissed as everyone else when he saw the terrible CGI in Titanic as a super 3 dimensional iceberg closed in on the ship. Never again will I make bad CGI and now he never will and he can sleep soundly at night.
This year Avatar will receive nominations at the Oscars for its visual achievements but probably won’t be in the category for best motion picture. Will avatar be remembered later on? There are bound to be other movies made like this now and maybe they will overtake avatars story and film legacy. However I am not hopeful for that. With 3D movies not matter what the title is I don’t think there has ever been a good or monumental made. 3D films are gimmicks, flashy shows that belong in theme parks, not movie theaters. I have never seen or heard anyone in public or at the academy awards announce that one of their favorite movies is a film that was initially released in 3D. Those films don’t exist because they don’t have long-lasting stories or images worth treasuring. So even with this new CGI quality are people going to enjoy Avatar as much without on a big 3D screen, and not a blueray 42 inch flat screen? I don’t think so, without that it’s just another hollywood sci-fi flick.