This is a movie where, when I saw the trailer, I said to my husband, "Who the hell would want to see THAT?!" It looked boring. Then people started going, and word of mouth was getting around that I absolutely HAD to see this film. So, trusting some of them, I went. And I'm not disappointed that I went, and would recommend it to anyone.
With a caveat, of course. I think Entertainment Weekly said it best when they described Avatar as being like a rollercoaster ride: when you're on it, it's exhilarating, and as soon as you get off, that's it. It's over. Nothing more to say, nothing really to think about, and you move on. Or you go and experience it again.
The look of Avatar is extraordinary. The LOTR trilogy are three of my all-time favourite films, and after seeing Avatar I wished WETA had had the technology they gave Avatar when Jackson was making those movies (let's just say I'm even MORE excited for The Hobbit now than I was before!) The CGI is unparalleled. Watching the blue avatars blending with the Na'vi, I was entranced. You cannot figure out where the actor ends and the computer takes over. It was like James Cameron had really found this tribe of blue people and asked them to be in his movie.
There is a scene when the protagonist, Jake, is stuck in Pandora overnight by accident, and these things that look like a cross between a jellyfish and a puffy seedling of a dandelion come floating through the air and land all around him. It's incredible to watch (and with the 3-D, many people were reaching out to try to grab them) and the lights and the music and his facial expressions were mesmerizing. I loved the idea of scientists creating avatars of themselves that were controlled by their minds, but separate from themselves physically (yet if something happens to the avatar, the real body suffers as well). There's a scene where
So yes, this is a movie to go and SEE. Take it in, imagine what it would be like to live in such a dangerous glorious paradise, and just be awed by the sheer brilliance of the look of it.
But as for the story? Ugh. As my husband said, "It's like Dances With Wolves... with blue people." Exactly. And a friend of mine (right before the big controversy erupted) told me that as he watched the movie, he was stunned by the sheer post-colonial ignorance of it all. White man goes in, becomes "native" and is the white knight to save these "noble savages" because they're too stupid to do it themselves. Think Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves. Think Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Both great movies, but they both shared this same inherent "white man must save those who cannot save themselves" mentality.
Now, I'm not trying to be controversial or political; this was just my thinking as I watched it. The Na'vi come across as more intelligent than the typical stereotype, I'll give it that. But, quite simply, James Cameron is a mediocre writer. We all marveled, jaw-dropped, as the Titanic went down. It was spectacular and mind-blowing. Aaaaaand... then a crazed Billy Zane with a gun is rushing through the sinking ship trying to kill Leonardo diCaprio. I mean, come ON. Really? You thought the boat going down wasn't going to create enough tension or suspense? You REALLY needed such an OBVIOUS bad guy to do it? Well, at least Cameron learned his less- oh wait. No. There's Giovanni Ribisi standing at the deck, looking at these people living in their beautiful land and growling from the side of his mouth, "Tear it ALL DOWN, boys!!"
I DID enjoy the idea of the people being connected to the Earth (connecting the strands of their hair to the animals or to the tree was a very unique stroke I hadn't seen before). So I will give Cameron kudos for that.
But... the metal the "bad guys" are about to destroy Pandora to find? It's called "unobtanium." SERIOUSLY. I laughed out loud when they said that. It's a word that's often used as a JOKE in sci-fi, and he goes and actually calls the stuff that. It's like he skipped creative writing class when they were doing the "subtlety in writing" subsection of the curriculum. I'm surprised he didn't send in all of the redshirts who get blown out of the sky in ACTUAL RED SHIRTS.
A friend of mine described James Cameron's writing as like that of a little boy. It's full of adventure, clumsy romance, and bad guys dressed in black and white guys dressed in white, and it's like he's never matured beyond the age of 14.
So. Last night when James Cameron took Best Director, my husband (who actually would disagree with the positive stuff I said above, because he REALLY disliked the movie) said he didn't deserve it. I argued that he absolutely did. Avatar is the best directed film of the year. He had to coordinate thousands of people. He brought his vision of Pandora to life. He pulled together the actors, the CGI, the music, the story. This has nothing to do with the writing of the script, the over-acting, etc., this has to do with the look of the movie. So I argued that he 100% deserved that award.
My husband, on the other hand, said a director's job is to weed out the crap of a script, to bring in the best performances of his actors, and to make all of the elements perfect. I said no, that would be a Best Picture award: to give a movie that indicates that everything worked well together, that it was well written, well acted, and well directed. I said I thought Cameron deserved the Director award, but not Picture (this was before he won that). Hubby disagreed.
(And when he DID win Best Picture, hubby simply got up and left the room. Angrily. We get a little too involved in our pop culture.)
So do I think Avatar deserved Best Picture? No. Did it deserve Best Director? Absolutely. And would I recommend it to people? Yes, but go because you want to be bowled over by a visual masterpiece. Just ignore the silliness of the story, and you'll still enjoy yourself.
Your thoughts? Do you agree with me or my husband? Or do you disagree with both of us and you thought the story was well told?