Monday, December 28, 2009

One-Dimension in Three-Dimensions

Over the weekend our oldest two kids cajoled us into going to see James Cameron’s latest creation “Avatar”. I had planned on just passing this one over because the plot that I could work out from the trailers looked rather lame. I was convinced to go see it when several people that I trust informed me that the imagery in the film was nothing short of stunning and it would be worth my money to see it in the theatre. So here is a quick review of the movie.
Warning! There will be some spoilers.

First the good news:
As predicted the imagery was breathtaking. The CGI and the 3-D effects created a very believable and beautiful world. The variety of Pandoran landscapes and wildlife were so well done that it reminded me of a National Geographic Imax movie. Only on a few rare occasions did the graphics betray its CGI roots. This is clearly the crowning accomplishment of this movie. If for no other reason the movie is well worth the price of admission.

Now the bad news:
There really is no other reason to see this movie besides the graphics and the eye-candy I’ve already described.
The characters are profoundly one-dimensional, particularly the villains. Every preconception you make about every character turns out to be right on the money.
The plot has been recycled so many times that it is easily predictable. The story just seemed to drag along while you were waiting for the inevitable to occur. One friend of mine called it “Dances with Space Wolves”. The story follows a very similar structure. It’s hard to escape the parallel. The overdubbing, the journal entries, etc. It’s as if he just borrowed Costner’s storyboard for the first two hours of the movie.
Although I share their views, the heavy-handed environmental message was laughable in its rigid adherence to stereotype. The good guys were a bunch of self confessed tree-huggers looking for the life force of the forest and the bad guys were the mindless corporate drones driving fleets of bulldozers side by side in formation across the wilderness in order to meet a self imposed production deadline. Another friend of mine called the movie “a half billion dollar CGI remake of ‘Fern Gully’”.
I also had a hard time with the technological anachronisms in the movie. The humans had perfected near light-speed travel yet their military hardware was little more than Blackhawks with modified rotors. They had developed a way to clone human alien hybrids and transfer their thoughts from a “driver” to the hybrid, yet they still fought their battles hand to hand with flesh and blood soldiers in the field. Why? Even the bulldozers in the movie were remote controlled. So why risk the soldiers?
I really wish Cameron would hire a screenwriter for his next film. “The Abyss” was great. But ever since then he has been willing to sacrifice plot, dialogue, character definition and every other element that makes a movie great in exchange for magnificent images. Make no mistake; the images in “Avatar” are amazing. It just saddens me to see this much money spent on creating stunning three-dimensional images to tell a tired one-dimensional story.


  1. Hi, it's a very great blog.
    I could tell how much efforts you've taken on it.
    Keep doing!

  2. The CGI was amazing. I felt like I had gone into one of the worlds from the Myst series. I think writing a similiar story to that awesome game would have been intriguing, but obviously already done too. I think I would have been touching all of the flowers too.

    Sigourney Weaver is still playing strong women faves.

  3. I too enjoy films with strong female roles. This movie had several.