Monday, December 28, 2009

Avatar



After seeing Avatar for the second time, I have definitely solidified my opinion of the film.  It is funny to look at the original opening quote about the film.  This is what I said:

I knew for sure, after seeing Avatar, that I would have a strong opinion about it, but still, after a night's sleep I'm not sure if it was a good movie or a great movie.

Avatar is by no means a great film.

If you consider the top 10 Best Picture nominees as a cross section of the films of 2009, Avatar absolutely belongs.  And I really think it has some amazing elements.  If it was simply a Summer blockbuster (as this poster suggests it was originally intended), it would be the greatest of all time.  But with its horrendous screenplay (seriously, I wanted to yell at the characters to stop talking!  Less is more!) and bad acting (Saldana the only exception), it has no business being considered for the best film of the year.  And Cameron, though a nice ringmaster, did not direct his actors well and most importantly did not tell the story in the best way possible.  If that is not a director's job, I have no idea what is.  Visual Effects, Sound, Sound Editing, even Art Direction.  It deserves all of those awards.  And that is absolutely where the awards should end.

Below is my original review, with a few changes.  Especially concerning the acting.

I guess this is the point where I need to say that I'm not a Cameron hater.  And I'm not a Titanic hater either.  I was living in Hattiesburg, MS when Titanic came out, when it was supposed to be a huge failure.  I saw the very first screening the morning it was released.  I wanted to know before anyone else.  Now, remember this was before the time of immediate reviews.  Yes, the internet was a factor, but I don't think rottentomatoes and metacritic were as relevant to movie following (and Oscar watching) as they are now.  Thanks to these websites, I knew before Avatar was released that it was probably going to be good.  I was completely surprised at how good Titanic was.  The ending completely blew me away.  A wonderful sum from some pretty good parts.  Avatar is a completely different experience.  The entire film, at least visually, stunned me.

First off, the film is not a spectacle.  And that is a relief.  To say Pandora is beautiful is an understatement.  There were moments, even early on, when my breath was taken away.  Halfway through the film, this was a literal thing.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I saw the film in 3-D and can't imagine seeing it any other way.

The amazing "world" of Avatar aside, the achievement with motion capture is remarkable.  But I don't buy into the idea that I was really seeing the actors performances in the avatars.  Why was Worthington so much better as a human?  His avatar acting seemed much different and quite weak.  Remember the odd delivery of his lines as he is waking up as the avatar for the first time.  And the moment he is swatting the jelly fish type creatures and basically any odd thing around him.  I felt like Cameron said, "act like a child here, because she is going to say you act like a child.  And don't worry that you haven't acted anything like that up to this point."  Mess!  And poor Sigourney.  Some of the worst line readings in the film came out of her mouth.  And her avatar's "timing" seemed a bit off as well.  When you aren't simply staring in awe at the visuals, you notice these things.

And speaking of visuals, I couldn't believe how subtle they seemed to be.  No 3-D element seemed unnecessary to me.   (There is no moment when you say....OH MY!  The boat just ripped in half!!!! )

If only he could've had some restraint in the metaphor.  I can accept that the movie is part Dances With Wolves, Pocohontas, and Fern Gully.  But what I can't accept is that he didn't allow me to really think for myself.  Did the military really have to be wearing exactly the same type of uniforms as the present day?  Couldn't we have seen a little conflict with Ribisi's character?  How could a 3-D film has such one dimensional characters?

Maybe we should've seen how bad things were on our dying planet, so we could see how important this mission was.  Instead we got:  Millitary bad.  Planet pretty.  Mineral important.  But won't tell you why!

And I hate when exposition is so completely obvious, such as when Ribisi tells Weaver about the mineral (or whatever it was) that was in plentiful supply under the Tree that they must destroy.  Yeah, like she didn't already know about it.  Whey didn't he just look directly at the camera and tell US?

Are these things so bad that they make the film bad?  Maybe, maybe not.  I did have a great time, the first time around.  And if it was May, I would probably be in a different mindset about it.  But it does mean that if the film wins Best Picture, it doesn't deserve it.  And I'm a bit afraid that it is a precursor to who Cameron might become.  I wouldn't be surprised if in 20 years we get Avatar:  The Phantom Menace.

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