Saturday, January 16, 2010

Avatar: You Knew This Was Coming, Right?

Yes, I saw it. Please stop asking. I'll even tell you exactly what I thought of it so I don't have to keep repeating myself because, frankly, it's gotten a bit tiring. I'll even start with what I liked.

It was really pretty and the 3D was amazing.

And now on to everything else. No really, that's about all the good I have to say about this movie. Sorry kids, if you wanted sugar and gumdrops you came to the wrong place.
For a movie that cost $500 million to make and has taken over a billion at the box office, I couldn't help but feeling like the movie is more of a success because of advertising than because it's a good movie. I guess when a director goes over ten years between big projects and gets a budget of $500 million people just automatically assume it's going to be AMAZING.
I'll start with my biggest complaint - I've seen this movie before. It was called Fern Gully, it was also called Pocahontas, it was Dances with Wolves, Braveheart and a book - Call Me Joe. It was a dozen movies I've seen before and who did it better.
As a friend of mine pointed out (and who I agree with, by the way), a movie need not be original to be good. There are hundreds of movies that are rip offs of hundreds of other movies, books, ideas, etc. and they're all really good. But what makes them good it that they took something I've seen before and did it in a way I've never seen before. Star Trek was a really good example of that and if you don't remember how I felt about that movie, I suggest you go reread my review.
But Avatar didn't do that. It didn't make these ideas its own. It just stuck in new characters and changed the name of the planet - TADA! New movie! Right?
Yeah, not so much.
It wouldn't even be so bad if that was my only complaint. Of course, it's not.
When the most believable character in the movie is animated, you have a problem. Neytiri seemed like the only character that actually belonged (even then, it was mostly when she was upset). Every other character was wooden, over the top or bounced between the two. Sigourney Weaver's over the top bitchiness combined with the decision to make her a smoker was just silly. Sam Worthington was so wooden for the first half of the movie they could have just used a cardboard cutout. Michelle Rodriguez was apparently playing Michelle Rodriguez: chopper pilot.
Then there were the bad guys - Gov. Ratcliffe... er... I mean Parker Selfridge played by Giovanni Ribisi (good work on making his name as close to "selfish" as you could, James) and Hexxus... er... Col. Quaritch played by Stephen Lang.
I'm not going to blame these guys entirely for being cast in roles that are so worn out they should be retired to the old roles home because, really, what are you supposed to do with that?
Giovanni was playing the typical corporate, money loving, environment hating, soulless bastard. His mantra throughout the film is "they're only trees and savages are stupid" despite overwhelming evidence. He's arrogant and stupid and about as one dimentional as a character can get.
Stephen got the wholly original role (where's that sarcasm punctuation when I need it) as the cartoonishly over the top bad guy with a gun. His motto is "shoot first, second, third... don't bother with questions". He's laughable to say the least and so unbelievable that it's hard to feel like he's a genuine threat.
All of this is compounded by some serious holes and leaps you're supposed to make. Jake mentions only once that on earth there's nothing green left but we've never been shown the earth he's from. We also have to assume that the humans aren't there to colonize the planet, what with it having air that will kill you if everything else on the planet doesn't kill you first. So they're just there for some substance James Cameron only thought to really mention once? And then what? They go back to their own dying world? What's the plan here? Are people really that stupid in the future? We haven't learned anything?
It's only mentioned that Jake's brother was a scientist and the one who was meant for the mission but he was killed off before he could leave. "For the paper in his wallet". So he was mugged? And an organization with that much money on the line decided to take an untrained, uneducated meat-head and put him in his place? And they didn't think a little training before hand would be, I dunno, a good idea? Uh huh.
But it all works out alright because Grandmother Willow... um... Eywa says he's cool.
Like I said, the movie is really pretty but everything else left me wondering how, exactly, James Cameron is still getting work. Even the prettiness got a bit mind numbing after a while, and not in a good way. As amazing as the animation was, when combined with real actors it still looked clownish and out of place. It was like spending two hours trapped in a technicolor acid trip nightmare. Pandora at night was so silly it was like "Las Vegas: the rain forest".
I don't know, maybe I've just gotten that jaded but this movie was a major disappointment and I say that as someone who wasn't expecting much.


Robin said...

Thank you for a real response to the movie other than "wow, that was cool!"

ps. I'm so ok with being one of the few people on the planet not to see it. I still haven't seen Lord of the Rings.

Gwenhwyfar said...

Would you accept anything less from me?
I wasn't all "OMG! I neeeeeeed to see it!" but I figured I might as well. Honestly, I could have lived a full, rich life without having seen it.

Robin said...

I'm still living quite a full rich life without seeing a lot of stuff like that. In fact, I might be better off. Hell I was better off without Twilight but then it added a new level of snark and who can't use a little more snark?

Gwenhwyfar said...


kapgar said...

I haven't seen the movie, but this pretty much covers all the fears I have about it. Plus this strikes me as one of the only reviews I've read (heard, whatever) that actually moves past the visual FX and deals with the movie at its core level... the storyline. I am sick to death of people saying I *NEED* to see this movie and the only reason they can give is how good it looks.

I am not seeing this film. I don't even plan to when it comes out on DVD.

Pedrosauriotl said...

Thanks about the "Las Vegas" joke

SartoEP said...

I agree with everything you say other than the end where you say they looked 'clownish.' I don't really see anything at all in the movie where they fit that other than Sigourney Weaver's avatar. And Pandora at night was awesome, I would've been pretty disappointed actually if they didn't make the planet have that extra and crazy appeal that it needed at night. If they didnt have that it would be King Kong all over again. The light show along with everything else on the Pandora made me feel like I was taken to another 'fictionalized' planet. The colors alone in this movie should make you be prepared for a not-so-serious planet

Gwenhwyfar said...

Kapgar - I'm taking that as a compliment. I've never been the kind of person who gets caught up in pretty colours to the point where I can't see that the movie is still crap.

Ped - You're very welcome.

Sarto - Don't get me wrong, the animation on its own looked fine. It was when you get the crossover between real actors and the animated characters that was the biggest problem. I also found the jumps back and forth between the Pandora stuff and the stark Human stuff really jarring and not in a good way. In a "this is taking me out of the movie" way.
Also, I understand that they were trying to make Pandora something completely different and alien, but when you're doing that you really need to be careful. Taking it too far and making it too alien makes it inaccessible for the audience.
If you were able to get in to that, good on ya. Me? I just couldn't dig it. (excuse me, I seem to be slowly turning in to a hip cat, you dig?)

Gwenhwyfar said...

Sarto - PS: I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Sigourney Weaver's Avatar looked off.

SartoEP said...

Good points I see what you mean. And yeah, I think it was sigourney's eyebrows or something that made her avatar look so cartoony and terrible. Also, I really agree with what u said earlier about Zoe saldana having the best acting out of anyone in there, and her crying scenes were what made her stand out. I feel like she didnt overdue and make her scenes overdramatic, i bought it

Anonymous said...
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Gwenhwyfar said...

Sarto - yeah, I don't know what it was about her avatar that looked weird, but something wasn't right. And that's exactly what I was talking about with Zoe. She really did a great job. (But then I loved her in Star Trek too.)

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

This is the best review of Avatar that I've read yet. For me, the word "vapid" came to mind. I'm not sure why, though, because I don't actually think much.

Nicely written, by the way. I'll be back.

Gwenhwyfar said...

Aw, thanks. You're gonna give me an ego the size of all outdoors.

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