Tuesday, January 5, 2010

James Cameron: Avatar

So, I saw Avatar on Saturday. Anne Ida and I went to see it in 3D at Ringen. It was a really weird experience. It's very rare to see a movie that is at the same time both really really good and completely awful.

Not, I guess, that I should have expected otherwise. But still.

I hardly even know what to say about this movie. The effects are amazing, astonishing, beyond fantastic. In 3D it was like we were practically there. I will even admit to cringing a couple of times when tiny floating objects seemed to be coming a little too close to my face. ;-) But the effects are also all there is to it. I mean, literally. The script is toilet paper. The story is ... well, it's Dances with Wolves, pretty much. (And that sucked ass too.) The story in this movie is 100% predictable. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I was almost bored watching this science fiction spectacular. It's easy to tell why Cameron's gone so overboard with the effects on this one ... it's because without the effects, his audiences would all have gone to sleep. I could have written the screenplay for this movie myself. Watch one scene and you know exactly how the next is going to play out. You know right from the start what's going to happen, how it's going to end, who will live and who will die, etc. Without the effects, this movie's nothing. And it got me to thinking.

What's the point of making a movie like this? Obviously there's only one point, to show off technology. So it makes me wonder. Is mainstream Hollywood really so intellectually bankrupt that this is the best they can do? Are they this insecure, do they really have nothing to say to the world? If they've got nothing to say, I've almost got to wonder why they're even trying to communicate. (Don't say it, I know it. Money. Sheesh.)

Something interesting about this movie is that while the effects are spectacular, and the smurfs, I mean the Na'vi, look utterly real, it all left me completely cold. It didn't touch me emotionally at all. And I am very easily touched by movies. Seriously. I mean, I've seen The Sound of Music something like 25 times, and I don't even like that super kitschy scene with Maria and the Captain in the garden, but it still has me in tears every time. I am a seriously weepy moviegoer. Cartoons too, it doesn't have to be real people. But Avatar failed in every way to touch my emotions. I just looked at the pretty scenery, but I didn't for a second care about any of the characters or about the plot. (Which I had already guessed in its entirety anyway.) Has anyone seen The 10th Kingdom? That's one of my favorites. :-) The effects used on that show are like drawings by a toddler compared to the Mona Lisa when you think of it in comparison with Avatar. But even so, The 10th Kingdom is miles above in so many ways. I think that's so interesting.

So, my conclusion is: Beautiful to look at, but fundamentally one big yawn. Will never pay money to watch this movie ever again.

21 comments:

Paz said...

amazing how the smurf's have evolved :)

Off the Derech said...

I agree! The plot was ass-shit awful and the graphics were beyond brilliant.

DES said...

The 10th Kingdom rocks! I wonder if it's out on BluRay yet...

Anne Ida said...

Hehe! Dances with Wolves all over again... a great description of this s**t/fab film ;o)

Paz said...

saw this spoof pic this morning of Cameron using Pocahontas as inspiration for the movie.
I have had a busy morning so far.
http://www.i-am-bored.com/bored_link.cfm?link_id=46255

DES said...

@Paz: priceless!

(note: I haven't seen either of them...)

AudiX78 said...

It's entertainment honey. i saw it in 2D but still ifelt like 3 hours rushed by. It all comes down to if you like that kind of movies or not. And I must say that even though The 10th Kingdom is cool my favourite is still Pitch Black. So I guess I was easilly snared by the evil-dooers who made Avatar ;-) either way sci-fi and fantasy rocks (except the movie Dongeons and Dragons... have never seen worse crap in my life)

have a nice day ;-) in the COLD brrrr

DES said...

@Audi: Riddick should have died. AFAIK, in the original script, Carolyn was supposed to survive, but TPTB decided that Riddick had more “sequel potential”. I agree that Riddick is cool (I just finished playing the two Chronicles games; the first is so-so, the second is actually quite good), but the ending just doesn't feel right.

James said...

As soon as Avatar was announced I had a feeling that it would be absolute dross. I then saw the teaser trailer, which made me question my assumptions. And then I saw the main trailer, which - judging by all of the reviews I've read - seems to basically tell the whole of the movie's story in three minutes and I knew that my initial reaction was spot on.

So what was so different about the teaser trailer to almost change my mind about the movie? It basically had no dialogue aside from Sam Wothington's smurf exclaiming "This is awesome" or some such Americanism (in his still discernably Aussie accent...). The musical soundtrack (an emotionally neutral dirge) and the choice of images which ranged from extreme violence to extreme beauty invited the viewer to imagine any kind of scenario.

And then the main trailer arrived and force-fed my unwitting mind with all the usual Hollywood cliches wrapped up in colourful but unoriginal imagery. Nice one. At least I only wasted three minutes of my life on the trailer as opposed to three hours on the full film...

While I'd normally raise my eyebrows in a self-righteous manner at anyone willing to write off something withour experiencing it first hand, having watched the trailer plus Braveheart, Dances With Wolves and innumerable other high budget cliche-ridden nonsense I feel that I don't really need to see the movie itself.

But anyway, time to find something constructive to do as opposed to writing pointless comments about things I don't actually care about. At least now I know what it's like to be part of the internet generation...

Leisha Camden said...

Paz: Yeah, evolution rules. ;-) Thanks for the url, excellent. V. funny. I see that you've had a lot to do today. ;-)

AudiX: No, it doesn't all come down to whether you like that kind of movie ... sci-fi and fantasy rocks - this is obviously incorrect. Quality movies rock, bad movies suck. Doesn't matter what genre. If what you're saying was true, then D&D would also rock. >:-) I do like this kind of movie, I love fantasy, and a lot of sf too, but quality is king. That is what it all comes down to.

This movie is a polished turd - shiny and pretty, but best not poke too much at it. >:-)

Leisha Camden said...

James: 'Hollywood cliches', thanks, I knew there was a phrase I'd left out of my review. ;-)

DES said...

Speaking of fantasy movies that rock, I saw Stardust last week... highly recommended!

KAS said...

Hell, I like Dances with wolves! Don't give me all the pc about how bad it is. So, I also liked Dances with smurfs, in spite of all the negative stuff.

And while I realise that the film cost like a gazillion dollars, the tech should get cheaper and more available some time, shouldn't it? Imagine the possibilities!!!!

Trilltrall said...

Sweet sweet cliche-not-good-for-you guilty pleasure! Yummi! Licked my fingers ;-)

Leisha Camden said...

Yeah, Stardust is really good. The book's great too, I recommend it. :-)

KAS: 'Don't give me all the pc about how bad it is' - I'm sorry, isn't my opinion as valid as yours? When I say that I didn't like this movie much, or DWW, that's all I'm saying. That I didn't like it much. Feel free to like it as much as you want. You're not going to change my opinion, and I'm not trying to change yours. I'll say whatever I want here, and I think this movie is beautiful and boring. You are entirely entitled to your opinion, but I'm just as entitled to mine, and I'm not 'giving you any pc', I'm just saying what I think.

Just because my opinion doesn't match yours, that doesn't mean I'm trying to insult you by sharing it.

Yes, the technology will get cheaper and that will open up a lot of great possibilities. BUT I don't think I see any point in those possibilities if future filmmakers will not spend more money, time and effort on the stories. Because with a truly good story, you don't really need all the SFX. Again, I'd like to mention The 10th Kingdom. Mmmm, Wolf ... Aw, I want to see The 10th Kingdom again ... !! If you guys do get that flatscreen TV that trilltrall wants when you move to the new apartment, we'll have to do a 10th Kingdom marathon ... !! :-D

KAS said...

Hehe, the pc was in general, not you specifically. ;-) Of course we're all totally entitled to our opinions.

Ah, but the possibilities! *drool* Must have good stories, of course, but assuming good stories, just imagine what they'll be able to do!!! I personally can't wait.

Oh, and all for 10th Kingdom marathon. We'll see about the flatscreen. ;-)

AudiX78 said...

I didn't mean "that kind of movie" in the genre way. I meant that kind of easy stories. I actually i love stories that are not too complicated because sometimes I just want to escape into another world. And a movie that keeps me entertained for 3 hours have done a good job. I knew presisely how it had to end and I was ok with that :-) I also like heavier stories but all at it's time. I meant that if you don't like the light stories that's ok.
I didn't mean that all fantasy or sci-fi is good by that statement and therefore I can dizz D&D as much as I like LOL.

By the way.. Wolf (yummy), Riddick ( giant badass who off couse shouldn't die)... (although in babylon AD Vin D had BOOBS and that was a bummer.. but that movie sucked anyway)

By the way, horrible movie you never want to see is Cannibal Holocaust LOL. I am all eating in movies but that one was soooooooo boring I had to fast forward a LOT.

DES said...

/me has a flatscreen TV... albeit a small one—“only” 40″ :-)

DES said...

@Audi: like I said, I like Riddick, but Pitch Black would have made more sense if Riddick had sacrificed himself for Carolyn, as originally intended, and not the other way around—and it wouldn't have done any harm to the projected franchise, since the “sequel” is actually a prequel.

Not that they seem particularly hung up on continuity: the plot of Assault on Dark Athena, which is a prequel to both movies, is basically the same as that of Dark Fury, which is a sequel. The main differences are:

- the name of the mercenary ship (Dark Fury vs. Dark Athena) and of its captain (Antonia Chillingsworth vs. Gale Revas)

- Riddick's companions and ship (Jack and Imam in the ship in which they escaped from Hades vs. Johns in the ship in which they escaped from Butcher Bay)

- the child (the stowaway Jack vs. Lynn Silverman, who lives in the Dark Athena's ventilation system à la Newt)

- who kills the captain (Jack coming to Riddick's rescue vs. Riddick with Lynn's assistance)

Finally, Assault on Dark Athena has a longish (and very Half-Life 2-like, and very enjoyable) planetside sequence which I suspect was inserted into the game solely to provide additional multiplayer maps.

Perhaps more importantly, there are four different versions of how Riddick received his night vision:

- elective surgery paid for with, I kid you not, a pack of menthol cigarettes;

- from the mad hermit Pope Joe, who treats Riddick's wounds during his escape from Butcher Bay, in exchange for retrieving Pope Joe's “blessed voice box” (aka. portable radio) from the Shiner-infested sewers;

- from the mysterious Shirah, a disembodied woman's voice who speaks to Riddick while Pope Joe is treating his wounds;

- developed naturally.

operafantomet said...

I agree, the story was awfully predictable and something I've seen probably 50 variations over in the past.

And I've been thinking this a lot lately: if they want to say something about the current world situation, war on terrorists, climate changes and all that jazz, can't they make a movie about THAT? I'm a bit tired of wanting to see a fiction, and it's basically reality wrapped in fantasy. Sure, there must be something I can relate to, but why such an obvious political voice? Yawn...

And what was up with the Titanic plagiating soundtrack? Felt bizarre, especially when Celine Dion came in singing it at the end.. Was is meant as a joke?

But yeah, the visuals were stunning. It's a world I wanted to step in to, and I totally bought details like "having to connect to your horse/dragon with your hair"...

Trilltrall said...

Leona Lewis sings at the end. But yes very Celine Dione-like.

http://www.amazon.com/Avatar-James-Horner/dp/B002P5XXR0/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1262950574&sr=8-1