I recently went to see “Avatar.” I give it an “A” for special effects (with reservations) and a “D-” for plot.
Here are my random comments about the movie:
- The plot of the movie is as old as the hills. Boy meets girl under dishonest circumstances. Boy falls for girl. Girl finds out about subterfuge and dumps boy. Boy wins back girl. At least by using an avatar, the director was able to dance around the issue of inter-species lovemaking.
- The back story involves ruthless miners (a surrogate for modern society) against nature-loving primitives. Anthropologists and historians have long railed against comparing the reality of one culture against an idealistic version of another. In “Avatar” the comparison is even worse, you have the worst of western society contrasted to a perfect eco-friendly tribe. The comparison lacks subtlety, and the plot of the movie is deeply compromised as a result. The more you think about the plot, the shallower it gets. One side is too good/perfect and the other side too bad/evil. The result is a movie that plays like farce.
- Annalee Newitz, writing in late December 2009 (on her science blog io9), critized “Avatar” for depicting “yet another white man as a hero in the liberation struggles of oppressed people of color (think “District 9,” “Dances with Wolves” and “The Last Samurai”).” Why couldn’t the leader of the natives during the final battle been one of their own? The avatar (Jake Sully character) could have just as easily been an advisor, if in fact he had to be in the final battle at all. The “Avatar” race issue has been widely discussed on the Internet. At least this national discussion has been good.
- I’m tired of “transformer” endings. I didn’t like the one in “District 9,” and I didn’t like the one in “Avatar.” The finale, a battle scene, is too long. And the ending is vapid.
- The floating mountains on Pandora are silly for any number of reasons. The bioluminescent and phosphorescent rainforest shown in muted 3-D is eye-poppingly stunning. The various outdoor scenes are moving works of art. The cat people are magical and fit nicely into their lush ecosystem.
- A friend of mine would like to know how the avatar pods are able to communicate with the avatar bodies? A reasonable question.
I saw “Avatar” in a regular theater in 3D and enjoyed it, but it was too long. The fanciful and stunning visuals are betrayed by the plot and character development. One reviewer referred to this movie as “Dances with Smurfs.” Maybe someday someone will figure out what to do the incredible potential of today’s movie technologies.
Recommendation: See it!