After three hours of nature tours, massaging six-legged horses with fiber optic cables and the big, dumb, obligatory Good Guy vs. Bad Guy brawl, the pure and innocent Na’vi send the evil human race back to their “dying world.” The campaign on Pandora was humanity’s last hope for survival, yet after all of Avatar‘s crybaby tirades about respecting life and walking in the Other’s shoes, you’d think it’d go both ways. But no, humanity’s sent off to die like the bunch of greedy losers we are, because replacing one potential genocide with another makes everything okay apparently. It’s suicidal, self-loathing smugness on par with The Day After Tomorrow.
According to James Cameron we all deserve to die, and since everyone’s heralding his boring, corny mess as a masterpiece, rewarding it with over $1 billion and counting worldwide, maybe he’s right. Just kill us all right now.
Something happened to James Cameron since Titanic. Something bad.
Maybe he rented Halo one afternoon and decided “Ah, I can do this, too, but with more tie-dye”, in a bizarre cannibalistic twist, since Halo and the rest of the video game medium lifts so heavily from Camerons’ milieu — y’know, bald space marines in dropships, of which there is no shortage in Avatar. It makes sense then that Cameron would come full circle and produce the longest, dumbest video game cutscene in history and put it before us, daring to call it a revolution in cinema. The man’s courageous for sure, serving us Krusty Burgers and calling them steamed hams when they’re clearly grilled.
Avatar is everything I feared it would be. No matter how much $200+ million visual bullshit you throw, if there are no characters or story interesting enough to engage me, then forget it. Next please. It really is a Fern Gully remake, or Dances With Smurfs, etc., all the jokes and hate, it’s all there up on the screen. There is nothing cool about Avatar. We all blew smoke up Cameron’s ass, bought into the hype, forgetting this guy has done nothing “cool” since Terminator 2 …or True Lies if you want to be generous.
Avatar‘s main problem is that it has a MESSAGE, you see, and the MESSAGE completely takes over and bulldozes everything because the MESSAGE is, like, so important. It’s so important it gives us corny, bullshitty names like UNOBTAINIUM for the ore the evil humans need that just happens to be right under HOMETREE, the HOME of the aboriginal Na’vi, who all LIVE IN and WORSHIP trees. And, and, and there’s this FORCE you see, that’s in EVERY living thing that GUIDES us and BINDS us (Never heard that one before, Shakespeare). And it lives in GAIA, I mean, PANDORA as well, and if you hurt GAIA, I mean PANDORA, you’re literally hurting Gaia because it’s a LIVING thing!
Get it, dude?
There’s no ignoring it. The Na’vi are Native Americans. Or any blissful idealized race or “Other” of your choice, but they dress and sound like extras from Disney’s Pocahontas. The father of the main love interest, Neytiri, is an almost exact vocal match for Pocahontas’ dad. And they’re all about as fucking interesting. They’re so perfect, and they’re all so juvenile. Neytiri, upon first meeting Jake Sully in his remote-controlled Avatar barks at him a bunch of times calling him “baby” over and over. And over. I thought that was awfully ironic.
The Na’vi are a fifth-grader’s sketches come to life and not the kid who goes on to draw for X-Men or direct Pan’s Labyrinth, this is the doofus kid who thinks Go-Bots is cool for hell’s sake, or the man-kid who unironically enjoys Naruto.
…oh, no wonder this movie is such a success olol.
The Na’vi are so in tune with nature they can plug their Willie Nelson ponytails into animals to mindmeld with them. Yeah. I tried to reason with that. “Oh, they’re plugging into nature just as humans are plugging into Avatars, we’re all connected, blah blah.” Nah, no, no, no it’s just the lamest shit ever, watching a bunch of fiber optics coil out of hair and then wrap some other animal’s gross tendrils to form a bond. I guess Pandora’s so perfect it doesn’t have sexually communicated diseases either.
When the Na’vi start pow-wowing in front of a giant grandmother willow tree, interlocking their arms together to sway around and chant and commune with the Great Spirit I couldn’t avert my eyes from the screen in embarrassment enough. Sure, Cameron could very well have based the Na’vi’s spiritual tantrums on actual religious ceremonies, but watching a bunch of blue furries do it kind of pulverizes any special significance. I had it, I was ready to throw in the towel. “This is so fucking lame,” I thought. “Fucking New Moon can’t be this lame, maybe I can find refuge in that theater down the hall.” But I didn’t escape. I stayed put, like an idiot.
And that’s the whole movie, really. Shit that could’ve been truncated into a montage gets elongated and beaten to death. Every scene has Sully discover something new and wonderful about Pandora’s flora and fauna. Every scene, it’s him or someone else gazing up into the sky or at a bird and making “O” faces. It’s absurd. Imagine if Jurassic Park was just Grant and Ellie looking at the brontosaurus over and over. Or imagine if Star Wars was just Obi-Wan telling Luke how fucking awesome the Force is … for three hours. No Mos Eisley Cantina scene, no Death Star infiltration and escape, no Han Solo, no action. Just the two of them walking around and admiring mushrooms and lizards. Until a piddly action scene at the end. I kept waiting for the killing to see if Cameron remembers how to stage action. I figured all the fucking buildup (“When do we get to the fireworks factory?”) would pay off, but nope, some mechs explode and some arrows and spears get chucked into guys. Yeah, real racially sensitive.
Avatar doesn’t even work as a super-duper ZOMG LOOK AT THE VISUALS delivery system. The art design sucks. Pandora is a giant screensaver or a trapper keeper from the early 90s. Florescence and floating rocks? Tie-dye on everything? Are you kidding me? This is DeviantArt, Thundercats fan art on a Geocities web page caliber shit. You breathe through your mouth and growl “Who cares about plot and story, it’s about the visuals and the action”, but what good is that when even that sucks?
The 3D? Who fucking cares? Honestly, who is impressed by spears and grass poking out of the screen at you? It looks terrible. It looks blurry. I wanted a clean, hi-res picture and got a discomforting, distracting kaleidoscope of crap. Roland Emmerich of all people (!!!!) had it right in a RottenTomatoes.com interview:
“In a movie theater, the 3D effect just takes me out of the story. I just get a headache after 45 minutes, an hour. And I feel like, ‘What does that really add?’ I always ask people, ‘So what does it add?’ What does the third dimension really add to the story? More depth? Anything?”
The argument is that it increases audience participation with the movie.
“I’d say it doesn’t do that at all. Movie theaters are about the interaction of the audience, with the film and with the [rest of the] audience. When you have glasses on, you don’t turn to your neighbor and say, ‘Hey, that was great.’ Somebody should make a study of the noise level in a 3D movie compared to a 2D movie. The audiences in 3D movies are awfully silent.”
Besides a few kids behind me, whose reactions to the movie were way more entertaining than the movie itself, that describes my theater experience to a tee. Dull as dishwater.
When the theater prompted everyone to put on the glasses I actually got a little excited. The rrrrip of the plastic echoed throughout, the shuffle of everyone taking the glasses out and the hush as everyone sat and readied themselves for 3D splendor. Then a Despicable Me trailer, with a big Penguin-looking guy popping out of the screen at me, played and I threw my hands up in defeat and left to take a piss.
Maybe it’s the technology that doesn’t suck. Maybe it’s the content, the movies themselves that suck. Well, it’s definitely that, but 3D does not help. Like the director of Godzilla says, it adds nothing to the experience.
The dialogue. Good god, the dialogue. It sounds like shit you’d hear on a basketball court. “That’s right, bitch! Yeah, walk it off! Pussy bitch! Yeah, I’m the top dog! Come to papa!” Every line sounds like it’s coming from Terminator 2‘s John Connor. Makes sense considering this movie is aiming squarely for that age bracket but that doesn’t make it okay. Not by a long shot.
Being a clunky MESSAGE movie written by a knucklehead there are contemporary references to “shock and awe” and “fighting terror with terror.” James Bond couldn’t even escape these buzzwords in his reboot, but why must Avatar, a movie that’s supposed to take place in the year 2140something, feature such obvious, stupid Iraq War parallels? Cameron’s kicking your knee out and banging your eye on the edge of his point of view. It’s not by accident either. There’s an ultra-obvious, eye-rolling shout-out to 9/11 when the Na’vi Spirit Tree topples over. I was breaking my own fingers in horror at this point, not at the atrocity the Na’vi suffered, but that Cameron expected me to take that seriously.
Did no one else look at Cameron’s script and tell him what a fucking embarrassment it was? Children of Men features a boat called Tomorrow and a child named Hope and it’s still not as awkward or hokey as Avatar. Avatar treats its audience like morons, slapping us around like we’re Cameron’s own personal furry fetishist dressed in a blue catsuit. And we’re wiping the blood from our lips, sputtering “More please.”
The music annoys as well, as it’s the typical warbling vaguely ethnic baloney you’ve heard since Gladiator. Whenever anyone or anything dies it’s nothing but “OOOOOOOOH AHHHHHH TIKI TIKI AHHH” in the background pumped up to 500 decibels. It wears on the ears and the mind after the 27th time. That the movie demands we take everything so seriously gets tougher when you have pan flutes and bells up the ass every 20 seconds.
So, all this CG, are there actual human actors in this overblown turkey? Sort of. There are inconsistent performances. Of the entire cast, Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang get it. They’re fun to watch, mostly. They manage to turn one-dimensional caricatures into watchable people despite having no reason whatsoever to do what they’re doing. Why is Lang’s killer General Derp so intent on killing? Who knows. Maybe he just likes doing it. Any case, he’s an incompetent moron, a psycho. And the Earth government puts him and Giovanni Ribisi’s CEO Limpdick in charge? Sigourney verges on science hack — it’s always “Science! Science! Samples!” with her — but in the first half of the movie she’s constantly fed up, demanding cigarettes and calling everything “bullshit.” And I was right there with her.
Cameron talked up Sam Worthington forever, even before Terminator Salvation was out. So what does he do? He delivers tired exposition and runs around as a blue person. Sorry, Jim, can’t say I’m impressed.
Thankfully Michelle Rodriguez, in her 24th turn as a pissed off marine, barely appears.
So, great. James Cameron, director of luminary greats Aliens and The Terminator, finally joined the deluded, ego-fueled ranks of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Michael Bay. It was only a matter of time.
Ten years ago The Matrix came onto the scene and shook things up. It would’ve been great if, in 2009, Avatar, with its new-agey philosophy, mecha suits and out-of-body “dreamwalking” technology — Matrix technology, basically — was the heir to that fresh sci-fi actioner we all enjoyed a decade ago. Turns out it really carries the DNA of that other 1999 release, The Phantom Menace. Using sterile special effects to cover up a horrendous script penned by a madman with total control and no voice of reason or anybody to challenge him? Hmm!
Well, if the analogy fits we must wear it. Or drive it. Like an Avatar. Straight into a wood saw.
Oh, and the body transfer thing was bullshit.