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Slick’s Nit-Picks: Avatar

So, the hype has died down for a brief moment and the average moviegoer's eyes have shrunk back to normal after previously being bigger than your average anime character or one of these major players in the hit movie: Avatar, which I am going to try to go into depth with a fair opinion. From the outset, I was anti-Avatar, simply because I watched all the promos, I read all the teaser information and I asked people who had seen the film and nothing made me mildly interested in seeing it. My literal reaction was: It looks like the mechs from the TV show Exo Squad and the HKs and jets from Terminator and Halo going up against a bunch of elongated Smurfs with bug eyes. I finally broke down and saw it because I had to see if there was some redeeming value in the film. Well, they are not smurfs: the “Na'vi,” as they are called look more like the character “Spider-Monkey,” from the TV show Ben 10: Alien Force, and they have nearly the same agility level. That is the bad about the movie: almost everything in it is derived from something else and the similarities are so blatant that it is hard to think that it was a mistake. However, to be fair, I am going to examine the movie itself before going into my final opinion.

First, we have to start with what the hype was all about and let's face it, if you have seen the movie, I don't care if you are still going oooh and ahhh, this is what made you do it. The movie is beautiful. Everytime the film steps away from the real and delves into the 3D imagery (which is often) and even when it chooses to blend the two, your eyes are served a heavy overdose of visual Blue Magic (no pun intended). Even though I did not see the movie in IMAX or 3D, you could tell and thoroughly appreciate the quality artistry and work that was put into the Na'vi and their world of Pandora, or Eywa as they call it. A quick sidebar: Avatar is nominated for the following oscar awards – Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Directing, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Picture, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects. Best Visual Effects is the only award it wins hands down (only one it really deserves) and it probably has a good shot at best art direction and best original score. Anything past those is absolute lockjaw on James Cameron if you get my drift. The sound I heard in Dolby Digital, but it was not even 5.1, so I must reserve judgement on that for now.

Now we move on to what should be the memorable part of the movie, namely the acting. Like I said, I asked many people who went out to see the film why it was so great because I have no problem being wrong and admitting it but all anyone ever said was “You just gotta see it!” That said to me that there really was nothing really memorable about the film. Unfortunately, that was true. The movie is absolutely stunning visually, but there is no substance behind that flair. The starts out like Starship Troopers; just seeing a lot of (in this case) mercenaries unloading from drop ships and getting geared up and debriefed. The debriefing felt like Full Metal Jacket mixed with Police Academy, I just could not take it too seriously. Shortly after that point, we switch to 3DCGI and the world of the Na'vi opens up to you. At this point, the acting pretty much stops dead and we go to full narrative provided by Sam Worthington for almost every CG scene. There are of course bits of dialogue between the Na'vi characters but they are few and far between and aside from the very cheesy “prayer,” not much stands out in terms of dialogue. For me, good acting mixed with a good story make a movie. The thing is that I cannot even say this movie had bad acting because it did not have a lot of acting at all. Yet another group of marines that Sigourney Weaver could not save from the aliens.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this section because people will say I am being too critical, which I admit to openly. If you want to know the story of Avatar beforehand, watch FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Last Samurai, Pocahontas and any movie with a similar story. Cameron waited some twenty years to make this film and in terms of the visuals he did the right thing. Apparently he also spent that twenty years writing this movie without taking a look at films that were coming out during that period. There is absolutely zero material that Avatar brings to the table in terms of freshness or originality in storytelling. The only interesting thing was how all indigenous creatures of Pandora had the ability to connect to one another.

So there you have it folks, Avatar is still in theatres and if you have some free time, you should probably experience it. If you are a true movie buff then do not expect much from it. If you are an acid user, stay the hell away from it because the pretty colors will cause your brain to explode. If you are like some people I know who are easily distracted by pretty graphics then you will love this movie. How the average moviegoer stopped caring about a good story is beyond me, but it does not say much for the intelligence level of the populous. This is the wrong place for me to get up on a soap box though, so I will say the following to summarize: Avatar is far from a bad movie. It has a definite introductory section and it properly introduces and fleshes out characters in terms of their roles. It does not do enough to explain why humans are on this world and the suspension of disbelief level is insanely high. Still, it does deserve praise for properly visualizing what seems to have been Cameron's dream work. I hope the inevitable sequels are better stories than the original and are more deserving of the praise the series has received. I also hope that the blu-ray release (also inevitable) is delayed at least until there is a firmware update to make players 3D capable. The Playstation 3 has a large enough fanbase where this makes a lot of sense and I hope the same way Cameron waited so long to put this on screen that he pushes 20th Century Fox into holding off the video release until it can be properly enjoyed at home. The movie is average and the only reason I dump on it is because it gets way more praise than it deserves. 7/10

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Josh Fuld
February 17, 2010 2:17 pm

Sheep? You’re kidding right? Do you see me walking around painting my body blue? Maybe you aren’t aware of the fact that there are many different types of movies for many different types of audiences. You think millions of people went to see Transformers 2 for the story? Do you think so many people saw Avatar because they thought they were getting the Godfather? DO you think so many people went to go see the Hannah Montana movie because they thought it was going to be really original like Memento? The answer to all three is no. People go see… Read more »

Josh Fuld
February 16, 2010 1:06 pm

Wow! You said a mouthful Slick, most of which i have to disagree with. The fact that you did not see the movie in 3D or even better IMAX 3D shows that you missed the whole point of the movie. Avatar has ushered in a completely new way of filmmaking. This is the first film to be shot in true 3D with the new technology and it is also the first film where the actors who portray the Na’vi wore cameras on their head to capture every facial expression. To say that there was very little acting in this movie… Read more »

Handel
Handel
February 17, 2010 5:54 pm

It would be unfair for me to review a movie without watching it; in fact, it would be idiotic. I watched Avatar with an open mind, willing and in some ways hoping to be wrong about my feelings on it I got from previews. I admitted that the movie was something to SEE, which is why I said I hope the blu-ray release is delayed until the PS3’s 3D firmware update. I had my own “oooh ahhhh” moments watching the movie, but it is what it is, a mediocre rehash of other films. Comparing Star Destroyers to the use of… Read more »

Josh Fuld
February 17, 2010 2:17 pm

Sheep? You’re kidding right? Do you see me walking around painting my body blue? Maybe you aren’t aware of the fact that there are many different types of movies for many different types of audiences. You think millions of people went to see Transformers 2 for the story? Do you think so many people saw Avatar because they thought they were getting the Godfather? DO you think so many people went to go see the Hannah Montana movie because they thought it was going to be really original like Memento? The answer to all three is no. People go see… Read more »

Handel
Handel
February 16, 2010 5:33 pm

I respect your right to disagree, but for me, that classes you in with the sheep, which is very surprising when referring to you. I do not give a damn how pretty a movie is, just like I do not care how good a video game looks – some of the best games have very basic graphics. The bottom line is that if the story is not there, then the movie is not getting my money. It’s a travesty that this flick may beat out movies like Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds for best picture – it does not belong… Read more »

Josh Fuld
February 16, 2010 1:06 pm

Wow! You said a mouthful Slick, most of which i have to disagree with. The fact that you did not see the movie in 3D or even better IMAX 3D shows that you missed the whole point of the movie. Avatar has ushered in a completely new way of filmmaking. This is the first film to be shot in true 3D with the new technology and it is also the first film where the actors who portray the Na’vi wore cameras on their head to capture every facial expression. To say that there was very little acting in this movie… Read more »

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