Monday, January 11, 2010

At play in the fields of Pandora

I finally saw Avatar. My short review: Fabulous effects, pedestrian story. James Cameron has certainly set the bar at a great new height for all future action movies, but he hasn't broken much new ground when it comes to sophisticated writing.

Not that it matters. This is not a boring movie, and you won't rue the price of your ticket. It's the first 3D film I've ever seen, and I'm glad I waited this long. For the first few minutes, the 3D effect seems a distracting gimmick, but as the movie unfolds it becomes much more natural. I considered only one scene gratuitous: a machine gun barrel protruding out of the screen. Elsewhere Cameron showed admirable restraint. In the Pandoran jungle, the judicious and subtle use of 3D makes the alien flora and fauna seem vividly real.

My only problem with Avatar is that every character is a stereotype drawn from other films. Remember Vasquez in Aliens? She's back, as Trudy Chacon. Wind in His Hair from Dances With Wolves? That would be in Tsu'Tey in Avatar. And so on. David Brooks has a smart column in the New York Times where he illustrates this quite well. But you don't need to read it recognize this latest incarnation of the White Messiah theme in Avatar.

No, that's not the worst thing in the world. As they say, there's nothing new under the sun. But when you're invoking such an oft-used narrative, it's probably a good idea come up with a few surprises. From the moment you meet each character in Avatar, it's possible to guess the story arc and status of each one by the movie's end. If you haven't seen the movie, try it. Avatar disappoints because the only surprises are visual.

8 comments:

Jessie K said...

Can you see Avatar in 3D in any theater or do you have to go to a special 3D theater?

Dave Knadler said...

As I understand it, only certain theaters are equipped to show it in 3D. The one here charges extra, to pay for the glasses (which you keep) and presumably the extra equipment.

Richard Crowson said...

Cameron showed what he was not capable of in Titanic, one of the most laugh-out-loud awful movies I have ever tried to sit through. Since then I never expect much in the way of script or plot from him. But mindless entertainment that overly relies on special effects? Sure thing. I'm actually looking forward to seeing Avatar in 3D.

Dave Knadler said...

Oh yeah, I think it's definitely worth seeing, and it well deserves all the technical Oscars for which it's sure to be nominated. But best motion picture and screenplay? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

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M said...

Personally I enjoyed the movie. The effects, needless to say were fantastic. As for the story, it was suitable for a movie of this kind.

I think the story was more a story of redemption and what happens when humans start to act like mindless beast.

Jake from the movie didn't actually save the Pandora, Pandora saved itself. So don't think the story was about a "noble white man" saving "native" people.

Anonymous said...

We saw Avator in Mesquite, NV last night. We were in a theatre of 500-700 seats. It was effectively a private showing, with only one other couple in the whole place. Mesquite maybe a 21st century ghost town. Except for the casinos, which seemed to have decent crowds as we drove past, there is not traffic or evidence of other humanity. Movie was fun, but would have been awesome in 3D. Your comments seem to be on the glide path.

Stock

EA said...

This movie is the next stage in the evolution of movies.