My Late As Hell Avatar Review

25 01 2010

So…Avatar.  I saw it a few weeks ago, and now that I’ve had time to marinate on it, I’d like to throw in my two cents.  It was very much like a Victoria’s Secret model – that is, utterly drop dead gorgeous to look at, but ultimately vapid and shallow.  Yes, it is a technical achievement, and yes, it will change moviemaking on a technical level.  My problem, and the problem a lot of people seem to have with it, is that it is derivative as all hell.  You have seen this story played out MANY times before, in such films as Dances with Wolves, Disney’s Pocahontas, and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.

That’s not to say it’s horrible.  Zoe Saldana gives an incredible motion capture performance, though it sadly ends up highlighting just how bad Sam Worthington’s acting is.  Seriously, why the fuck do studios keep casting him?  He’s so wooden you could whittle with him.  Everyone else is pretty much just coasting, I guess hoping the tech nerds will improve their performances. The only possible other exception is Stephen Lang, the badass Col. Quaritch.  The thing is he’s got only one setting (pissed off at the sissy tree huggers) and no depth of character whatsoever.

And some of the naming in this movie is just childish.  Giovanni Ribisi’s company man is named SELFridge, perhaps highlighting that he’s SELFish.  Angry Col. QUARitch’s name sounds like QUARrel, which is what he’s going to do with the natives.  Sigourney Weaver’s Dr. GRACE…well, you get the idea.  And the whole reason the company and the military are on this planet?  Because it’s full of UNOBTAINIUM.  You read that right.  Cameron apparently just said “Fuck it, names are hard.”

Humans are bad, because they want stuff and don’t hook themselves into nature like a green Matrix, and the Navi are good because they are into communicating with nature like your roommate’s girlfriend that smells like patchouli and bitches at you for not being more “in touch with Gaia”.

The big battle at the end is really vintage James Cameron, because Cameron is nothing if not a masterful stager of action scenes. But at almost 3 unnecessary hours, by the time you get to the final showdown, your ass is so numb you could be getting an epic cornholing by someone hidden underneath your seat and you’d hardly notice.  Speaking of things being thrust in your direction (a weak segue way, I know) the  3-D is very well done.  They never do the stupid “OoooOOOoooO it’s coming right at you!” trick, the 3-D is instead used to immerse you in Pandora’s lush ecology, and the effect is that you do forget that’s you’re watching what amounts to a really well drawn cartoon most of the time.  But it’s still just a cartoon, and the special effects, while good, are not mind-blowingly awesome.  Some will disagree, and I’ve seen worse *cough*WolvervineandGIJoe*cough* but for a movie that’s supposed to be the ultimate technological marvel, showing us the way to a new level of realism in computer generated imagery, I just left the theater unimpressed.

I know I’ve been hard on the movie, and most of what I have to say about it is negative (and believe me, there’s more I didn’t mention, like Cameron’s heavy hand with a metaphor and his willingness to beat you over the head with it like Buffy Season Six) but I really have to recommend it, with the insistence that you MUST see it in 3-D.  No point otherwise.  You won’t see anything like it for a few years, but believe me, better stuff is on the horizon, and soon.

Charlie

Follow me on Twitter! @CharlieHamlin

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