I saw Avatar today, the much anticipated James Cameron 3D CGI extravaganza. I have avoided reading any reviews since I did not want to taint my expectations anymore than the trailer already had. I’m not a James Cameron fan boy by any stretch, but have generally enjoyed most of what he has created. To cut right to the chase, an utter disappointment and a waste of my $6.50 matinee and $3.00 3D glasses rip-off racket.
Let’s break it down and start with the positives…
- The CGI was amazing. Yes, utterly amazing. But after being mesmerized for some of the early displays of computer animation magic, it starts to be overtly apparent that many of the subsequent sequences are nothing more than gratuitous “look at how cool the graphics are” filler. Given the hype, I was a bit surprised I did not get lost more in the animation. There were moments where you certainly did, but those quickly disappeared when the giant blue people were on the screen.
- As is typical with Cameron, his realization of the environment is incredibly detailed. Portable displays, UI interfaces, the creatures, the jungle, you name it – and Cameron spent a lot of time focusing on the details. Or at least, the people creating his world inside the computers did, and I am guessing Cameron told them to do it.
Well, that is about it for the positives. After that, it was just disappointing. Let’s get cranking on that list…
- As my title suggests, my biggest problem with the movie is that is nothing more than a collection of stereotypes. I will admit right now that the portrayal of the military set me off immediately. Maybe I should give Cameron a pass on this since the “military” in the movie were supposed to be corporate mercenaries, but that is quickly lost after a fleeting mention in the opening couple minutes of the movie. Having served in the military, having friends who are still in the military, and knowing more than a few people that have gave their lives serving this country, I’m tired of the “war, bloodlust, and if it moves I want to kill it without any thought or remorse” portrayal of military members. Outside of the main character, Cameron’s story pushes the stereotype as hard as any film in recent memory. Throw in some choice “politically correct zingers” at recent military campaigns and I was lost as not only a fan of Avatar, but maybe of Cameron as well. It doesn’t stop with the military. We have the evil corporate types, the “we are one with the land” native tribe, the “going native” hero, etc. and there is nothing original in any of this. I know you need something to drive the story, but Cameron defaulted to the most one-dimensional, practically audience insulting stereotypes in his portrayal. It is all black in white in this super duper CGI animation.
- Next, because of gross “show off the CGI” story line, this movie is easily an hour too long. Clocking in at two and half hours, you would not miss out on anything if you watched the first 30 minutes and the last 45 minutes. The rest is nothing but “plod along filler” as far as story and action go. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I had to fight to stay awake during a matinee movie because things were drug out so long and at such a slow pace. Ugghhh… it was awful.
- 3D is a waste of a dimension. This isn’t really a problem with Avatar per se, but I just am not a fan of 3D movies. Besides adding to the cost to see a movie by charging a surcharge on twenty five cent glasses that you are asked to return at the end of the movie, I just don’t see the huge deal over 3D. Now, if I watched this movie on IMAX, then I think it would have really been something. I hear people talk about how 3D is supposed to immerse you into the movie more. Well, it just looks like some better depth of field inside the big rectangle at the front of the movie theater. You are still looking at a screen, so I don't get the “immersion” thing. Again, probably amazing on IMAX, but not worth a premium in a regular movie theater.
So, there ya have it. A yawner for me. Won’t rent it when it comes available. Not worth a second watch, and really wish I had waited for it on video since I could have fast forwarded to the good parts.