If youre one of the five people who has managed to abstain from watching James Camerons 2009 megahit Avatar, than I have one thing to say to you: stay home, watch Pocahontas, The Last Samurai, or Keith Olbermann and save yourself 10 dollars.
The shopworn story in Avatar revolves around Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed marine who is sent to a military/mining outpost on the faraway planet Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by 10-foot tall primitive blue aliens affectionately named Navi, who basically look like the most likeable and cute creatures imaginable. Jake is enlisted by a team of scientists to take control of a human-Navi hybrid body through some futuristic mind-link technology and is soon a 10-foot tall blue version of himself. Without giving too much away, Jake finds himself captured by the native aliens and soon has to choose where his loyalties lie.
Donâï¿½ï¿½t be fooled by the exotic premise, the movie digresses quickly into a clichÃ©-ridden mess with an ending that can be seen from a mile away. The two antagonists in Avatar are laughably one-dimensional white males (what else?). One is the head of the military complex, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The Colonel is everything that elitist Hollywood thinks of the military: aggressive, chauvinistic, callous, and eager for destruction and death. He has some of the most ridiculous dialogue: lines to the effect of Lets hurry up and destroy this peaceful native culture so I can get back in time for dinner and shock and awe(sounds familiar). On top of this he sports a ridiculous set of scars on his face that is only surpassed in dumbness by his over the top southern accent.
The second antagonist plays less of a role in the movie, but is equally comical, bland, and stereotypical as the Colonel. Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) is the corporate executive of the mining operation on Pandora that is seeking the mineral unobtanium which, as Selfridge explains, âï¿½ï¿½sells for twenty million a kilo.âï¿½ï¿½ And wouldnâï¿½ï¿½t you know it, the deposit of unobtanium is situated right under the village of the Navi. Selfridge thankfully makes only a few appearances in the movie, but Cameron makes sure to squeeze the max amount of populist anger from the audience out of each appearance by having him sit in his plush corporate office and whine about his profits. By his second appearance, I was fully expecting him to give lavish bonuses to AIG bankers or at least, start laying-off workers.
This film is as smug, simplistic, and manipulative as it gets in Hollywood. Especially in the movie business, you sometimes have to look past the absurd pseudo-philosophical politics and just enjoy the movie for what it is. And had this movie had the same politics, but instead looked like, say, The Godfather, I would have done just that. Unfortunately, Cameronâï¿½ï¿½s Avatar mixes a ridiculous message with even more ridiculous dialogue. The story is predictable down to me being able to foresee exact lines and the forest setting is a little too neon and fantastical to be taken seriously. Dont get me wrong, this movie isnt unwatchable. On the contrary, the visuals (especially in IMAX 3D) are everything theyre cracked up to be. But visuals donâï¿½ï¿½t make a movie, theyre meant to compliment it. As soon as Cameron sacrificed story and script for 3D effects, he ceased to be making a movie. The ultimate irony is that I would have sacrificed all the expensive stunning imagery and motion-capture technology in the world for a little bit of depth and originality.
There are three types of movie-watchers: passive, engaged, and intelligently engaged. Passive people will watch Die Another Day and like it just as much as the Bourne Identity. Engaged people THINK they know what they’re talking about, and generally love movies that are edgy in plot and execution but conventional enough to understand, like Fight Club or Inception (both good movies). Intelligently engaged people will appreciate the complexity of Inception, but also recognize it’s a little sloppy, self-serious, over drawn, and empty. They recognize its audacity, but don’t pretend like it is Kubrick or Paul Thomas Anderson. Suffice it to say, most people on this wall fall into the engaged category, and try to pretend like Inception is a ‘masterpiece’ and that they know everything about movies. They don’t. Inception is clever, but it doesn’t rank anything above respectable.