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December 23, 2009

Avatar

The hype for Avatar has been immense.

Nothing can live up to that. And Avatar doesn't. It's long, clich├ęd and completely predictable, with design that reminds me of non-SF Disney films. No matter what people say, I can't stand the blue aliens and glowing plants. Yuck. Meanwhile the design of the military half of the film is just a copy of Aliens, from all those years ago.

Lots of people seem to be amazed at the 3D, personally I find it distracting. It doesn't help that I wear glasses, and putting 3D glasses over normal glasses is uncomfortable and results in the odd reflected glare, less than ideal. But then for each shot, half of it is out of focus, to gain the 3Dness. It takes my eyes an good hour or more to settle into it and relax, which is not fun. And although the CGI shots in Avatar had decent 3D, it wasn't any more spectacular than Monsters Vs. Aliens, with the non-CGI shots looking achingly annoying and jarringly different.

But the worldbuilding! gasped the crowd. Please. Yes it's a whole world, just like Star Wars was thirty years ago. There's plenty of films that have all encompassing worlds. Many of them even look cool.

And the story. Twelve years to write that? I don't think so. A day cut and pasting between Dances With Wolves and Pocohontas maybe.

The positives? The graphics were pretty good. In places. There were some explosions. But that's it really.

Disappointing.

6 Comments

Can't disagree more, but I know the futility of arguing my point! After 20 minutes I got over my 3D scepticism and allowed myself to buy into the whole thing. Glad I did too, cos I enjoyed it immensely.

I don't think 3D is the 'future of cinema', but I think the subtlety with which it was used in parts of this film show that there can be applications for it.

I had the same exact problem with the 3D, and for the exact same reason. They had these rigid plastic 3D glases over here which were nearly impossible to put on over my normal specs.

Over here, some critics are calling it "Dances With Smurfs," which I thought was funny.

I agree with James' assessment on "Avatar."

Regarding the CG, more than anything, I simply don't believe it. That is, I don't believe what I'm seeing, and so the movie is screwed. Say what you will about 1976's "Star Wars," I believed every second of it, despite its imperfections, and perhaps because of them.

Also, though, it doesn't help that James Cameron is a bona fide hack. Seriously, he and George Lucas should have a showdown of god-awful dialog. I didn't believe the effects. I didn't believe the characters.

Actually, Cameron and Lucas are two filmmakers who were once capable of a making a good film. I guess if you get enough success you can surround yourself with yes men, and then churn out shit. That's what of them do now.

Finally got to see this a couple of nights ago in 3D.

Yes the story was derivative (To me it was reminiscent of Pocahontas, Dune, Dances with Wolves etc). You already knew that and yet you all went anyway. Yes the dialogue is crass in places. Yes the vehicles and "Marines" looked and acted as though they'd just stepped out of the Sulaco in "Aliens".

Now get over yourselves. What I don't understand is how you find any of that a problem? Originality can help but it is NOT a prerequisite for telling a good story. A budget this big would've ensured that tried and tested story arcs are the order of the day.

To me this felt utterly consistent with James Cameron's back catalogue. Remember that 90% of the SF I've read (admittedly a good deal less than the average reader of BDO), watched or listened to has borrowed ideas from the SF that preceded it. Who cares if you get swept along with the story all the same? This movie, for me packed genuine, undeniable, emotional punch, the first movie where I've 100% connected, moving past that nagging "This feels like CGI to me" feeling. The performance capture, particularly the facial motion, was superb and yet this was so much more. The world building spectacle and sheer scale of Pandora represents a true step change in how movies are made. Nobody does action like James Cameron.

The sneering, SF purists can argue the toss all they like and I know I'm not going to bring any of your around to my way of thinking but think on this.... the technical toolkit that was designed and used for Avatar is now available to other movie makers who may take your preferred direction. It's success ($600m + worldwide dollars after 2 weeks! ) guarantees that SF will maintain and probably increase it's share of movie making dollars in the next couple of years. Chances are you're going to enjoy SOME of that output.

This movie will also doubtless inspire hundreds of talented budding film makers to get into the business and better make something better (just like Star Wars did - btw was THAT story original?). And you'll have James Cameron to thank....