Last week, I wrote about the attempts to capitalize on the success of James Cameron’s film Avatar. At that time, I hadn’t seen the movie. Well, now I have. At least, the first two hours before I finally got up and walked away. I watch a lot of bad movies, and very rarely do I ever turn one off, but this one didn’t make it. I don’t know what I was expecting, blockbusters are usually pretty limited story-wise anyway, but I didn’t expect it to be this bad. Well, not really bad, just juvenile.
If you haven’t seen it, you may not want to read on. Of course, the story is so predictable and simplistic, there’s really nothing to give away that can’t be gleaned from the 30-second trailer. There are much better things you can do with those three hours (yes, it is almost three hours long). Sure, the effects are cool and all, but an even slightly coherent plot would be nice. Basically, you have humans invading this alien world to steal an element called, believe it or not, unobtanium. No joke. I very nearly turned the movie off when they first said it. Wasn’t unobtanium one of the three fundamental elements they needed to get the Cobra death ray to work in the old G.I. Joe cartoons?
Despite being armed to the teeth, and apparently having the will to blow this extra terrestrial paradise to pieces, the humans instead choose to grow mindless clone bodies of the native aliens, and then linking them by remote control to people. My thought was they would do this for infiltration, you know, sneek into the enemy, gather intelligence, engage in a little sabotage, what have you. But what do they do once they have these bodies? They head down to the planet dressed up like the A-Team. Nothing like subtlety. They have an understanding of the alien language and culture. Would a little native dress have killed them?
When the main character gets captured by an alien female, he discovers that they all speak reasonably good english. And despite the fact that they know he came from the humans, and that the humans want to kill them, they inexplicably welcome him in, offering to teach him all of their secrets. Sure, here’s all of our valuable information so you can go back and use it to better slaughter us. Perfectly reasonable.
The aliens, which look a lot like a blue version of Shrek, possess the ability to connect with plants and animals of their planet through a built in USB cable in their pony tails. And apparently, there’s this one tree that contains all the knowledge of the planet and tells the aliens what to do through floating jelly-fish looking spores. I didn’t even see the ending and I can tell you that the aliens win. Despite the fact that they have flying lizard looking things, big land animals that look like an elephant had a hot date with a hammerhead shark, and some bows and arrows against the best military technology humans can conceive of, even as far into the future as the film is set. Again, perfectly reasonable. Everybody knows that you can defeat tanks by throwing rocks at them. Haven’t you seen Return of the Jedi?
But all of this is a moot point because I went into the movie expecting something more. I’d read review after review touting the great story line, and the message Cameron was telling us about respecting nature and the dangers of colonialism and all. I thought this might actually be a somewhat intelligent movie. Hey, I liked Terminator. I enjoyed The Abyss. Aliens was even pretty good. Didn’t care much for Titanic, but I’m no Cameron hater. I was just misled.
For all its great effects, Avatar is little more than a high-tech cartoon with a plot designed for the sensibilities of a 12-year-old. For a movie repeatedly described as groundbreaking, it’s shockingly unimaginative, amounting to little more than a mash up of various other sci-fi movies set to a fancy background. Why are there floating mountains? And why, exactly are there waterfalls cascading from them? Where is that water coming from? It’s a giant floating rock in the sky connected to nothing but air, how can there be a steady river of water up there? See, I tried to bring an actual adult sense of reality to the film, because that’s what I thought it was, but it’s a Saturday morning cartoon. And that’s okay, if you just want to watch some interesting visuals for three long hours with only a modest plot to drive you from background to background. But if I’m going to spend three hours watching a cartoon, I’d still rather see Scooby Doo.