Review: Avatar

I'm struggling to articulate my feelings towards Avatar at the moment.

On one hand this is a milestone achievement. Where other films have already accomplished hyper-realistic computer generated imagery before, Avatar marks the end of the era in which it matters. There wasn't a single frame of this film I didn't believe. It was 100% real down to the most minute detail. In other words, I wasn't thinking about it. In other other words, all I was focusing on was the story.

Which brings me to the other hand. I was bored. Against all probability I was actually bored. The logical part of my mind tells me this was due to all the hype surrounding it, how people were hailing this as the second coming. There was no way Avatar could have lived up to those expectations. I suspect that should I see it a second time I would enjoy it much more. So, wanting to be fair and rational about this, I attempted to break it down to it's core strengths and weaknesses.

It had a solid structure, it was brilliantly shot, the acting was great the writing was decent and it had lots of great little details that helped make it all feel really... well, real. So how come it didn't rock my socks off? I think I know why now.

It was the right message for the wrong time.

Now that might seem like a strange thing to say, especially because of how environmentally aware the world has become and how the oil crisis is coming to a head, but that's the very reason why it's irrelevant. We all know how important our planet is and we're making strides to improve how we live within it. We all know how invading countries for resources is wrong and that's why there's such an uproar whenever our governments move to do so.

James Cameron wrote Avatar back when this stuff wasn't being taken seriously. Then he waited, what, fifteen or so years for technology to "catch up"? Well, in that time the world moved beyond the need for it. Now it just feels like preaching to the choir after the choir boys have all become priests. You're not selling anything mainstream culture hasn't already bought.

Even worse, the message is delivered with all the subtlety and nuance of a sledge hammer to the face. I spent the whole movie drawing effortless parallels between Pandora and our world. Oh, the Navi are just Native Americans. Oh, those creatures they ride are just horses. Oh, those humans are just the worst attributes of Modern America. It's all been done before and usually with more tact.

To quote the darkest depths of the Ain't It Cool News Feedback Section... "It's Pocahontas meets Ferngully in space."

That is a painfully accurate analogy of Avatar. Mind you, despite me saying I was bored at times, it's not as bad as them. Thankfully. It's just by-the-numbers storytelling done well. I could see exactly where it was going from the first minute and, while done with quite a bit of style, it never once surprised me. There are no twists and it plays out exactly the way you think it will.

My only other qualm with the film is that the romantic thread completely diminishes the nobility of the protagonist's actions. It's exactly the same problem I had with Disney's Hercules. If the hero becomes entangled in a romantic relationship with the sympathetic party, their motivations are no longer selfless. They have a personal incentive to save the one they love, and incidentally their people. But that's a pretty fickle personal gripe. Oh, and the villains are one-dimensional in the extreme. But besides that...

The verdict? Avatar tells a very familiar story well and while it's a little thematically dated and heavy-handed it pretty much makes up for it with great action and strong performances.

Just don't go expecting anything new or, sadly, the next Titanic.


  1. Mutt said...
    "It's Pocahontas meets Ferngully in space."

    Woah, they said that? We said that, ages ago. Just goes to show how obvious it is.
    Mutt said...
    Also, I know exactly what you mean about the message... not that I've seen the movie.
    Luke said...
    Yeah, I burst out laughing when I found out we weren't the only ones who thought that after seeing the trailer.
    Timothy J said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Josh said...
    Martin heads please.
    Anonymous said...
    Hey, Revheads you mean!

    A great 3D movie with 2D storyline and 1D characters
    Luke said...
    Wow. Way to out-review me. :P
    Ludicrousity said...
    I'm not sure I agree 100% with all of that, but I largely agree.
    It's visually stunning! Very predictable story though. Entertaining to watch, but it's no masterpiece. And could Michelle Rodriguez be any more cliche?!

    If you want to read an insane article on Avatar, check out this one:
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