Saturday, January 9, 2010


The Film: Avatar

The Players: Sam Worthington, Zoe Soldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, et al.

The Dealio: Oh, come on...seriously?! You have to ask? This latest entry in the CV of tiny, art-house flix-meister James Cameron, takes a paraplegic Marine and throws him headlong into the Avatar Program, replacing his boy-genius, deceased twin bro. From then on, it's pretty much a case of Disney's Pocahontas in Space. OK, OK, I admit the special effects were really, really (special). Sumptuous, evocative, unreal and psychedelic. The voicing was evocative...except for our main dude. (More on that later). But, as wowsers as all this is, I was bothered by the 'let's throw everything at the thing and see what sticks' approach to a project which clocked in at 12 years in development and mucho dinero in costs. Couldn't we have used at least some of that time/money to move into a more unique storyline? I know my better half will say, 'Well, there are only 9 original plots in the entire world.' This is true. But, why do some approaches seem fresher and more intriguing than others? This one, for example, had great potential to break loose and change/challenge current thinking. It didn't.
Am I saying this is a bad movie? Am I saying 'Don't go see this!' ? Nope. Not a bit. I am merely expressing my disappointment.

The Grading Session: 4.01 pengies out of 5. There is an old saying that fits this sitch: 'To whom much is given, much is expected.' Much was definitely given (hundreds of millions of dollars and almost 3 hours of our time). Is it too much to expect that an editor be chosen who is unafraid to tell the emperor (uh, sorry, 'King of da World') that he is, well, nekkid? Trim out about 45-60 minutes from this behemoth (say one or two fewer scenes of taming the flying pterodactyls? One less eye-candy shot of Sam's and Stephen's pumped-up-itude? A sliver less of the ooooohhhhh! aaaaahhhhh! fluffy little animated flowers, and hairy/scary leapin' leopards? Would that have irrevocably damaged the purity and fidelity of the message? (AKA: there go the Earthlings again, messing up their world, then, in a manner that would've given Victorian era Empirists pause- slaughtering the 'inferior', indigenous population in order to glom onto to 100% of the buttload of whatever needful thaang they happen be be roosting upon, in their nayb'?).
Here is something: Sam Worthington is playing a US Marine? He is an Aussie, I am reliably informed. Well, OK, I know this is will strike many as splitting hairs, but it has always bugged me whenever someone slips back into their own accents in the course of executing a role. Once or twice, I can overlook, but this happened throughout the entire second half of the film. And, in a movie of this sweep and span, I'd think someone- esp. that noted perfectionist James Cameron, would want to get that piece right. I don't even excuse this in a cheap-smack movie, let alone one which cost so much, and took so long to get into the can. So- there ya go. You owe it to yourself to see this film, but you also owe it to yourself to think about how you would have made this film. This is the greatest fun of all for me- a person who has absolutely no talent whatsoever for film-making. In other words: the perfect critic. Really.
Lessons Learned: It is never acceptable to trash your own 'hood, then expect that you have the right to scoot on over into someone else's and evict them so that you can strip mine the crap out of theirs. Additionally, even if you are a science nerd, on Pandora, your avatar will be tall (about 10' worth), long-legged and graceful, wear cool clothing and cornrows and really blend. The ultimate 'Revenge of the Nerds'.

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