I would like to add a disclaimer at the start of this post with 2 primary points:
1 – Spoilers are coming. If you haven’t seen Avatar and care about the story, then stop reading now!
2 – I am very picky and admittedly over-critical of cinema.
With those 2 points out of the way, I submit my review of the movie “Avatar” directed by James Cameron.
I do not like this movie. I don’t hate it… But I REALLY did not like it.
The effects, look, and composition of this film are certainly noteworthy. Is it going to change the way films are done for the near and foreseeable future? I don’t think so. For me, given the visual stimulus and photo-realism of the CGI are nowhere near enough to save this film from its plot and lack of several important aspects.
My first and most significant gripe with this film is the lack of a backstory. What was Jake Sully doing before the Avatar program? Why did he blindly agree to it? Why is he paralyzed? What is he FIGHTING for? With Jake’s character I have no idea what motivates him through any of his actions without saying “oh, he’s just a good person”. This is simply not enough for me in a story such as this.
It’s also frustrating because it would seem so simple to bridge this gap… With a few small lines of dialogue it could be determined that Jake is disgusted and angry with his physical disability and the Military’s lack of support or empathy for his situation. Maybe that scenario makes him jaded. Maybe once he sees now the Na’Vi don’t do that he attaches on a deeper level to their culture and way of life. Or, maybe he just falls in love with the queen to be in a typical teeny-bopper fashion; leaving him with a weakly formed bond to their culture (in my opinion).
Another example of the lack of backstory/plotbuilding is the rushed nature in which we learn there is a precious resource on Pandora. I dont remember the name of it – I’m not even sure if they said it. I don’t know why it’s precious; I don’t know why it sells for so much money “per kilo”. Is it a drug? Is it a fossil fuel that can further satisfy the greedy industrial appetite of the evil human race? WHO KNOWS. Giovanni Ribisi does I guess. It’s even further annoying to me that I feel a lack of story to any degree on a movie that is pushing 3 hours. Sigh.
Aside from the lack of these important pieces (again, in my opinion), the next most disappointing thing about Avatar is it’s “Typical-ness”. Vanlandw has commented on this very same thing to me, and it is with good reason. The TYPICAL love story pulling the TYPICAL protagonist through the TYPICAL war-monger’s evil intentions with TYPICAL results.
The movie was overall just too predictable… “Oh, look Jake Sulley – there is this crazy huge dragon that nobody has ridden in 1 hundred trillion millenniums!!!” Gee – I wonder if Jake Sully is going to ride it!? Of course he is. From the humans villainous intentions, the love story, the “final battle”, and the end of the film; nothing seemed original to me. Sure, the setting of Pandora and the Na’Vi are original ideas and are note-worthy. But the storyline is exactly the opposite.
To summarize my experience, I really didnt even like the 3D effects. The movie had a sort of grainy and fuzzy feel to it in 3D. It seemed to lack some saturation in certain parts so I can only hope that minus 3D the film will actually look better.
Am I being overly critical due to this movie’s insane level of hype? Probably. Should I / Will I watch this movie again? Sure I will. Is Cameron leaving out an intentional level of detail and plot so he can give us a couple sequels? Probably. But, even so, I didn’t like this film. I gave it 2 stars out of 5 on the Netflix scale.