Last summer, about fifteen minutes of AVATAR was screened during the special “AVATAR day” around the world. I can’t say I was impressed. On the contrary. This felt more like AVATURD.
Well, now I’ve seen the whole movie. Have I changed my mind?
Okay, let’s begin talking a little about James Cameron. What do I think about him? Well, nowadays, I don’t really know.
I loved THE TERMINATOR when it came out in 1984 – and it’s still his best movie, I think. Then came ALIENS, which I for a long time thought was one of the best movies in the world, till I re-watched it a couple of years ago – and suddenly didn’t think it was that good any longer; sometimes it feels like it was written by a 17 year old who likes tough soldiers in space.
By the way, some time after seeing ALIENS, I rented the Corman production GALAXY OF TERROR from 1981, which look felt strangely familiar. The explanation for this came when the end credits started rolling – Production Designer: James Cameron.
I didn’t like THE ABYSS at all, by now it got a bit too bombastic and pretentious, but I seldom like movies taking place under water. On the other hand, I liked TRUE LIES, a movie you’re not supposed to like because of several reasons, mainly moral and political, but I didn’t give a shit about that.
TITANIC was rather awful. I’m not attracted to Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio looks like he’s twelve years old.
Haven’t I forgotten something here? Besides co-writing RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II? Sure, I have to mention his debut PIRANHA II. Cameron claims he directed less than half of this Italian co-production, since he was fired, but according to quite a few, that wasn’t the case. But come on, PIRANHA II isn’t a movie to be ashamed of! It’s pretty damned fun! (I skip T2 and some movies Cameron has written, and cut to the chase)
The man hasn’t directed a feature film in twelve years, but now he’s back with the most expensive movie ever, which doesn’t surprise me. Hey, he’s James Cameron!
The plot of AVATAR is simple: in the future, Earthlings plan to exploit a planet called Pandora, where there’s a nine feet tall and blue race called Na’vi. Sam Worthington is wheelchair bound marine Jake Sully, who disguised as a Na’vi is going to make the Na’vis give up without a fight. Thanks to some advanced machines and Sigourney Weaver, Jake gets to mind control an organic copy of a Na’vi body, and then he heads for the jungles of Pandora.
There he gets to wrestle some monsters, ride a flying lizard and hang out with the nature-loving, spiritual blue ones, and what do you know if he doesn’t fall in love with Na’vi chick Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Eventually, he realizes his commanding officers are wrong; Pandora must be protected.
I found the first half of AVATAR rather lukewarm and boring. It’s way too much Native American Romantics – albeit with aliens from outer space, there’s rotten tribal music on the soundtrack (James Horner’s score isn’t very good as a whole), and the computer generated Na’vis aren’t convincing. They’re too cartoony and feel like lifted from a video game. I don’t accept them as “real”, they’re only slightly more realistic than Jerry the mouse dancing with Gene Kelly.
The Na’vis are also into silly rituals, they like for example to sit in front of a big tree rocking sideways, just like the moon people in Doris Wishman’s NUDE ON THE MOON. I was waiting for some Ewoks to show up and join them in a ridiculous jungle party.
There’s quite a lot of lousy dialogue, unintentional humor and not very good acting – I found Giovanni Ribisi as Parker extremely annoying.
Okay, almost half the movie to go, will it continue like this? Hopefully not… Jake and Neytiri kiss and it fades to black…
And now, boys and girls. Now it’s time for Cameron to do what he does best. It’s time for:
A tough chick in a tank top!
By now, the troops from Earth have had it and decide to get rid of the blue ones. So they attack in their giant, futuristic helicopters.
Time for ACTION! All of the Na’vi tribes gather and form a giant army. They ride funny looking horses and use bows and arrows against the enemies’ spaceships and robots, and even if it isn’t very bloody, the action is muscular. I almost caught myself holding an invisible game controller in my hands – it reminds me a lot of very, very advanced video games. The final battle id epic and goes on for an incredibly long time.
Maybe I sound like a blood-thirsty and childish imbecile, but I think it’s these scenes of action that prevents AVATAR from becoming a pekoral. The movie is fairly close to crossing the border – let’s put it like this: when it comes to messages, Cameron isn’t very subtle. The Pandorian rain forests are devastated. People have prejudices about those with blue skin. Terror must be fought by terror. Cameron more or less shoves the messages down your throat.
I must say I was surprised when the American reviews started popping up last week. The highest rating at several places. It’s almost like they’re bought by Fox. I’m not. AVATAR has lots of flaws. The young audience attending the screening I went to didn’t seem to care. They were ecstatic after the movie. They absolutely loved AVATAR and its world. So yes, Cameron has made yet another successful blockbuster.
Oh, yeah, right – what about the 3D effects? In this case, it’s mainly about creating depth in the picture. Few things fly out in the audience’s lap. And it works really well; image is clear and sharp.
To me personally, the best part of AVATAR was Stephen Lang as the bone hard, evil Colonel Miles Quaritch (yeah, of course I was cheering for the humans, hey, the Na’vis are the wimpiest race since the elves in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy). And I liked Michelle Rodriguez wearing a tank top, holding a big gun.
AVATAR also contains a few funny ways of hiding nudity. The Na’vi women are topless, but wear strategically placed necklaces that cover the naughty bits.