I finally found someone to go see Avatar with me. (Thanks Doug! A year into Indiana and I still don’t have a movie buddy yet. This is something I really have to change.) We went for the full effect and saw it in 3-d on the IMAX. If you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to know too much, just looking for a recommendation here is my take. It is a visually mesmerizing movie that really blows your mind with its creativity and technology. At first the concept of watching people who are really CGI characters the whole time sounded lame, but there was nothing lame about the production value of Avatar. It cost 300 million and you understand why. It is a movie you should absolutely experience in the theaters to truly appreciate it. If you like fun, creative, action packed movies without too much violence, too much blood shed, cussing or sex, well then you have my full recommendation to go and check it out.
If you don’t want to know anything else, then stop reading now. The rest of this is all details and impressions.
I have to give James Cameron credit, he certainly made a movie that got a reaction out of me. The reaction is decidedly mixed, but it is a reaction and a pretty strong one. On face value I really enjoyed Avatar and would rank it up there with most any sci-fi movie going experience I have had, no doubt. On the other hand I was seriously disappointed by parts of the movie.
The first part I struggled with was the absolute lack of creativity or depth to the story line. There was no subtly or surprise to the storyline or the characters. Maybe it is fitting that in a movie named Avatar everyone seemed to be a caricature of a real person. I have no question that my buddy Todd and I could have sat down and dreamed up everyone one of the characters in the movies and their back stories and their role in the film in one night. No surprises at all there. That is okay, I guess, when you are simply trying to make a blockbuster, but the film obviously was trying to make points regarding environmental, corporate, and national issues, so I frankly expected better.
Sociologically I found the film almost offensively basic. The indigenous people of Pandora, the Navi, were a strange mix of every stereotype ever created around “primitive” or “tribal” cultures, especially from the eyes of white western culture. The Navi were a mix of Native American, African and Amazon tribes wrapped in blue feline humanoid form. Seriously James you couldn’t have stepped outside of any of the stereotypes? At times I wasn’t sure if I was watching Dancing with Wolves, Shaka Zulu, or Rambo. The Navi were so simplistically portrayed with no creativity regarding their religion (completely pantheistic with the added twist of them physically connecting with creation around them), their tribal social functioning, or their mannerisms. It was almost offensive in some ways. It felt one hundred percent like a film a rich white movie maker from America makes about an indigenous people anywhere, here in the US, in South America, in Africa or on the moon Pandora in 2154.
The characters themselves were almost laughably simplistic. Sam Worthington’s lead character Sully was a stupid jarhead who found feelings. Sigourney Weaver was enjoyable as always, but she was the hardcore scientist environmentalist who hated the marines. Giovanni Rivisi whom I find really entertaining was the corporate guy looking for cheddar. Stephen Lang as the Colonel channeled his best Sam Eliot or R. Lee Ermey and was the hard as nails marine who just wanted to blow stuff up. Michelle Rodriguez was good, but she played the same character she plays on every show. I mean come on, couldn’t someone have been a little surprising or interesting? (I did enjoy Joel Moore as Norman Spellman, Joel is a frequent character on Bones and I thought he was well cast.)
Theologically there was a strong pantheism throughout the movie with an emphasis on the interrelatedness of all creatures. That was fine, I am not exactly expecting a Christians motif in Avatar, but once again the religious practices of the Navi, with tribal drumming, chanting, ecstatic swaying and the such was just so cliche that it was annoying. Once again there was just no depth or creativity to this part of the film or the Navi people. There was such potential to add different levels to them or to the story or to tackle interesting questions but that was obviously not something they spent any time worrying about.
Politically there were a couple of interesting things happening. First, it was telling that it was an evil corporation, not a nation or government that was on the planet exploiting its natural resources. The greed that effected, paid for and spawned scientific research was also its demise. The mixture of a corporation with its own private military also bore a lot of similarity to much of what we see happening today. There was some commentary in the film on the fact that the soldiers used to be marines, they used to fight for something that mattered, but now they were just fighting for money and they were soulless, essentially. Secondly, anytime a powerful group attacks a less powerful one for a natural resource you feel like Hollywood is making some sort of commentary on oil and our current environmental issues. That is fine, it is a real enough issue for movies to cover, but once again the movie added nothing to the conversation.
What did it have to say about the environment except for trees good, roads and trucks bad? Nothing!This movie even made tree huggers a caricature!
So overall the sfx were amazing, the experience was really good and the movie was very enjoyable, it just wasn’t amazing. an amazing movie makes you walk away from it more aware of yourself or struggling with questions about the world or inspiring you. This movie did nothing for me except for entertain and slighty annoy me for its lack of script creativity.
Any of you seen it? What did you think?