I fully understand why people love "Avatar". Its exciting. It's easy to follow. It's very colorful to help out all the ADD people out there now. It has a solid moral to the tale. And of course, its in badass (read: gimmicky) 3D. Its everything a main stream audience looks for in a film. Now I'm not your normal main stream film kind of guy though and I found this film more irritating than not. There's reason for it though, but lets hit the synopsis first.
Jake Sully has been recruited to fill his brother's position. He will be piloting an 'avatar' of an alien species meant to investigate and gather intel on the Na'Vi people of Pandora. Of course, capitalism lives on and soon they find that their mission of learning was all meant to move the native Pandorians from their land over some precious natural resources. Jake is torn between his life as a Na'Vi and his duty to mankind and eventually learns that nature can indeed kick ass and soon the two cultures clash in some serious ways.
Let's start with what works. Visually, "Avatar" is a stunner. The colors, the design, and the general visual style of the film is epic to say it in the least. Honestly, that's what makes this film worth watching. The spectacle. That's exactly what "Avatar" was made for. The sheer spectacle of being transported to another planet. It's impressive that Cameron was able to focus for well over two and half hours on making this film so fucking epic that I do have to give the man props for that.
"Avatar" is also undeniably and ironically hypocritical. For a film toted as so original and a breath of fresh air, it came off as a bombardment of rehashed ideas. For a film that was so 'cutting edge', it felt almost like it was never willing to actually press any boundaries (expect in scale of visuals). It was joked that "Avatar" was simply "Pocahontas" in space and as ridiculous as that sounds, its absolutely true. A bit of "Pocahontas" here, a smidge of "Fern Gully" there, a nice little spice of "The Dark Crystal" to mix it up, its all been done before just in a less than arrogant form. The lesson is all the same in those films and it doesn't change here. I've seen the story so many times now, that if it wasn't for the visual side of this film, I would have been insanely bored (which I was at least some of the time any way for the first solid hour and a half).
Which brings me to the next point, did it really need to be well over two and a half hours? Not really. Many moments were padded to the extreme for visual flair and much of the pacing seems to be hindered be its own need for CGI color. How many shots can I take of people running across tree limbs? Dear lord I'm sure if you timed it there is a good 25 minutes was spent showing people do that! It got almost irritating more often than not by the end. I felt like the film wasted a lot of time padding a story that ended up being so simplistic that I felt a bit cheated.
So if the story is simple and its taking forever to get there, I better have some damn solid characters to carry me through. Although I can't say many were bad, in fact much of the supporting cast was solid, I really got nothing from our main hero Sam Worthington. Why he is so popular right now is a bit beyond my understanding. I wanted to see him grapple with his new found legs and having to go back and forth from running to the chair. I wanted to see him struggle with his changing ideologies from world to world. I wanted to see him actually give me a character study. The film was fucking long enough to do it, why do I feel like it never really got an arc from him? He seemed pretty okay going from scene to scene never really changing his demeanor. Its like the film was only doing enough dialogue between characters to get to the next visual shot. Not a whole lot of chemistry going on here between Worthington and most of his cast (although the love portion seemed pretty adequate I must add). Its almost as if Cameron wanted broad stroked characters that came off more as stereotypical fodder than true "people".
I feel as though "Avatar" was so hyped and loved that people forget that Science Fiction can also have weight behind it. Well, I still think calling this film Science Fiction is shit, since its a fucking fantasy film, but whatever. To me, "Avatar" was a great main stream surface level movie that depended far too much on visual flair to carry it's cliche driven story. A hit or miss cast and an arrogant run time burden the film too much for it to rise up. For a man that has give us so much great Science Fiction, "Avatar" seems like it embodies most of what I dislike in American cinema. All fluff and no weight to it. Sorry Cameron, looks like I'm going back to "Aliens", when you truly understood how to make Science Fiction work.
BONUS RANT: Speaking of "Aliens", I'm pretty sure that Cameron decided to steal every piece of 'technology' from that movie. The robots look like Mech Warrior inspired loaders. The ships look almost identical and even the set up for the cryo chambers marks a striking resemblance. Even some of the characters do! I'm sorry Michelle Rodriguez but you ain't got shit on Jenette Goldstein...aka...Lt. Vasquez. "You always were an asshole,Cameron....errr...I mean, Gorman!"
Written By Matt Reifschneider