Avatar (or, Dances With The Blue Man Group)

January 2, 2010 at 4:16 am (Movies and TV)

Everything you hear about the visually stunning nature of Avatar is true.  Everything you hear about Avatar‘s storyline being completely cliche, and a shameless re-tread of Dances With Wolves, is also true. I would even go a bit further and say that my family and I also picked out certain elements of Harry Potter, Braveheart, Star Wars, and The Matrix. Even the beautiful neon creatures created to populate the planet of Pandora, owe something to fabric designer Laurel Birch. (Go to eQuilter.com, search Laurel Birch, and you’ll understand.)

I counted Sam Worthington’s accent slipping from gruff American back into his native Australian (cue Ferris Bueller school secretary voice) NINE TIMES in the first twenty minutes. That’s even worse than Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon movie. I quickly realized that if I kept count I’d drive myself crazy, and that Worthington’s American accent is  Worthingless. That Cameron insisted the character must be American was in error. Would any part of the story, or the story’s outcome, have been different had the character been Australian? No.

The marine colonel is an over-the-top stereotype. How much more effective it might have been, had Cameron chosen to put any kind of twist on that character or his outcome. Female characters showing any strength get killed, except the main character’s squeeze.  That people 150 years in the future still smoke, and still have military equipment with clunky-looking controls, confused me. That foreshadowing is used in a way that assumes the audience is stupid, and that new age concepts are compared to technology, disappointed me. That the film gets preachy about materialism but has inspired a full commercial franchise including action figures, fast food toys and a video game, downright disgusted me (just as Wall-E did).

2009, overall, was a weak year for movies. Several really good films (like The Maiden Heist) never went into full release and several planned films were discontinued, as the entertainment industry was hardly immune to financial hardship. In an otherwise weak year, Avatar will stand out in terms of its box-office returns and may get a Best Picture nomination because AMPAS chose to expand the field to 10 nominees and include more populist choices, and, because this was a movie with excellent special effects. Avatar will be well-justified in winning any technical award it is nominated for, but, I can’t vouch for anything else and I am frustrated by the amount of  “critical acclaim” going on here. Perhaps James Cameron should have stuck with marine documentaries, which are at least worth seeing at full price. My recommendation is to either pay matinee price to see Avatar while wearing earplugs along with your 3D glasses, or else, send your avatar to the theater.


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