Avatar - a review
by Lord Rupert Everton
Avatar. Say it with me, children: Over-rated. Although singularly impressive in the movie industry at crafting epic, technically superior (and very very high grossing) films, James Cameron is receiving a massive bailout when it comes to his latest, in the form of hyperbolic media hype and the resurgence of the “3-D” fad. Critical and commercial hysteria has followed Avatar since its release with some, including Detroit News’ Tom Long, calling it “the future of movies.” Only time will tell if Avatar is to be enshrined with the likes of The Matrix, Blade Runner, and yes, Aliens as a sci-fi classic, and that is why I am here. You see, I am no mere Roger Ebert, critiquing movies as they come out. I come from the future, with the message that although the blue people and their eden of Pandora looked very pretty on their big-screen debut, their characters and story are just as bland, boring, and suspense-less in the future as they were in 2009.
Let’s be honest and call Avatar what it really was: a remake. There is nothing new here. If two years ago, someone described to you a movie that followed the story of an invading soldier with the initials J.S. who crosses paths with a beautiful woman of a different race and in doing so, falls in love with both her and her culture, culminating in their effort to stop war between the invaders and the natives, what would you say? Avatar is merely a 3-D, $500 million
conglomeration of Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, and the relatively unseen Battle for Terra.
Now some may think that I am condemning Avatar for being unoriginal, which I am most certainly not. Each year, quality albeit unoriginal films are released that I greatly enjoy. However, Avatar was not only an unoriginal story, it was a very poorly told unoriginal story. In fact, if you still are one of the lucky few who has not yet shelled out 10-15 dollars to buy an Avatar ticket and a pair of stylish 3-D shades, but you still want to, I propose an experiment. Bring a notebook with you into the theatre, and as the story unfolds, write down any predictions you may have about characters, plot-twists, etc. Now watch in amazement as all that you have predicted comes to fruition. No surprises. No built-up drama. Is it magic? No, it’s a lack of any suspense or imagination in Cameron’s fabled story-telling ability.
CHARACTERS / ACTING
Calling the entities who participate in Avatar’s story “characters” is a bit of a stretch. The better fit might be “caricatures.” No one exhibits any real depth or emotion beyond what one might expect upon first meeting them. There’s the hardened ex-marine who falls in love, the greedy corporate exec who cares about nothing but profit, the native princess who falls in love with someone she’s not supposed to, the crazy military man who just wants things to explode... everything you might expect, nothing you wouldn’t. Avatar has no character development aside from the protagonist, leaving the audience with shallow archetypes running around while things explode (in 3-D!).
As much as I disliked the characters in Avatar (or lack thereof), there’s very little to complain about the acting. Sam Worthington & Co. did the most they could with what they were given. However, there is one thing that stood out to me. In some movies, there are characters that, for whatever reason, make you cringe every time they speak. Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) is that character. There are only so many cheesy lines that can be said before one starts feeling a bit embarrassed and wonders, “does anyone actually speak like that?” And although she does not play a crucial role, it was enough to make me shudder.
VISUALS / ACTION
Prior to Avatar, the 3-D experience was like a sugar rush: after the novelty wore off, you left with little more than a dizzying headache. While the art of three-dimensional film has not yet been perfected, it has been greatly improved here. The fast-paced action sequences in Avatar may still hurt some eyes, but the slow and still shots are truly incredible. The clarity and depth of these images is astounding, and I will not disagree with the Academy when they present Avatar with the award for best special effects.
Avatar, at its core, is a summer blockbuster / action movie that was released in December. As such, there are plenty of battles and fight scenes to keep everyone entertained. As far as I am concerned, the action scenes in Avatar are neither better nor worse than what one would expect from any summer blockbuster.
Avatar is not a bad movie. However, it is not a particularly good movie and is far from the great movie so many critics are describing it as. The bottom line is this: if you are looking for a decent action movie with amazing 3-D animation but little else, then get in line. If you are looking for anything more than that, such as a story, character development, or any form of drama, you will not find it in Avatar.
About the author: Lord Rupert Everton is a charming, handsome, and well-bearded man who, among other things, enjoys writing movie reviews, traveling through time, medium-rare strip steaks, and mint juleps. He thanks you for reading his work.