The boys and I originally planned to do an Avatar review in one of the episodes, but everyone’s schedules just kept conflicting and hardly anyone saw the film in time. Thankfully, my better half Jad Montenegro wrote this review on her Facebook, and I feel it encompasses all the points any of the komikeros could have possibly come up with… and then some.
Movie Title: Avatar
Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy
Director: James Cameron
I loved Avatar. And I can name a whole slew of parallelisms and analogies that some critics are probably going to whine about, including some casting flaws, but I sat through an almost 3-hour length film, counting off the themes I saw and yet I was riveted. In the end, strong filmmaking and its “formulas”, no matter how disdainful to some, still works. Cameron knew that, and every sci-fi fan (the ones that read actual books) will appreciate a good tall tale, even if it’s not the first to use a particular concept.
There are at least 5 books** I can name that have similar (and definitely earlier) concept developments, but I’m surprised to note that while it seems to be a concern in theory, it’s a completely insignificant factor in application, meaning that as I watched it I didn’t give a damn who wrote what first.
Regarding some parts of the story that inevitably many varied groups of people with obviously varied interests (and therefore foci) will find distinctly lacking in the movie (such as one friend of mine wishing more focus had been given to “dreamwalking”), the answer to that is simply: A movie cannot contain all the concepts one can think of for it, it can only hope to create a wondrous blend of them, and in the “blend” Cameron did his magic, including paying so much attention to the computer graphics that you barely care that you are inundated with it from the start.
I use casting “flaws” loosely, because one may take it different ways. A consequence of the rich and magical universe that is Pandora and the Na’vi is the resulting bland contrast the human world makes in the movie. Therefore the characters are not fully developed, and may remain “flat”, or “token”. Token nerd, token scientist, token broken hero. I forgive this, fully, for the obvious advantage it brings to the special effects and graphics department. It’s only logical to keep the backdrop bland in order for the effects to stand out, and it’s insane to keep the backdrop busy and then raise the bar even higher for complicated effects and graphics just to maintain the balance.
Jake Sully in my opinion was perfect exactly as he was as a human: unremarkable. I also disagree about his character lacking development. His human character did not, but his avatar certainly did. His matter-of-fact reaction to all the changes he undergoes isn’t a bovine lack of understanding or concern for his own well-being – it’s the logical and expected behavior of a Marine, a hardened soldier who is fazed by nothing. He’s a cripple who’s lost touch with his own humanity. That is not apathy at all. His almost instinctual assimilation of the Na’vi culture is reasonable: it’s easy to fill a cup that’s been forcibly emptied. Besides, according to my better half, people forget that Jake Sully was a TWIN. He wasn’t going to get more “un-individual” than that. He was BEGGING for an identity, and the Na’vi way of life fulfilled that need.
I’m not even going to go into the political aspects of this movie (how it’s too “green” and that it’s a direct play on the whole Bush-Iraq rape)- that’s just asinine. To judge something by your current socio-political weather isn’t very smart, considering this movie is going to be around longer than your current president.
This has been called by some the “Dances With Wolves, even Last Samurai-ish, but with 10-foot blue aliens” movie, and in a way, they’re right. But these creatures are expressive, believable, and totally relatable, the CG universe they steep you in is next to flawless as they create the moment of immersion, and that’s why it’s so much fun. You’re actually PART of a movie, not some sheepy viewer who paid to not get bored on a Saturday night. You return to that old self 3 whole hours later, when you step out of the movie house and realize, staggeringly, that these guys made all that shit UP (and there’s no way you’re going to encounter anything remotely close to that in real life…so how come it felt completely natural while you were watching?).
The notable lack of explosions right off the bat (meaning the movie didn’t start with something getting destroyed in the first 5 seconds) is something that I consider positive, as well as the intimate focus given to the ways of the alien race (almost like the viewer is being given a walkthrough), considering that our generation seems to become number and number to flashy effects-driven movies each year: the future of cinema is in the storytelling, not just the plain story, not just the plain telling. Avatar may not yet be the future, but it certainly raised the bar for everyone else.
I gave Avatar 4.5 stars out of 5 only because I saw some parts of the movie that could have used a bit more subtlety, including how 3 main characters managed to meet up at a single spot in a war that supposedly covered hundreds of miles. But aside from that, I’ve tried to keep my review and criticism rant-free. One thing that pisses me off about movie reviews that come out after a highly publicized movie is that every single smartass suddenly turns into the world’s best amateur screenwriter. “This movie sucks because this idea that I have isn’t in it.”
To again quote my better half, “Go write your own stupid movie.”
**Poul Anderson’s Genesis, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Orson Scott Card’s Children of the Mind, Ursula LeGuin’s Rocannon’s World (Ansible), James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis, Stephen Harding’s Animate Earth, etc