It’s been around 24 hours since I have seen Avatar. I have let it percolate in my head and I have also had the chance to to hash out some of my thoughts with fellow geeks. What follows will be spoiler heavy so if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t wish to know anything then stop reading.
First I’ll start with my gripes.
One of the biggest annoyances in the movie was the lack of any character development for the villains. They were all just evil dudes who were bent on destruction no matter the cost. In the case of Col. Quaritch he was just a Marine that was hell bent on kicking ass and killing whomever, or whatever, was in his way. Understandable but he was like a person devoid of any human emotions who seemed to hate the Na’Vi for no apparent reason. If he was the only person in the movie like that I would let it slide. However, virtually all the Marines (except for two) in the movie were also one-dimensional characters devoid of any moral compass or any semblance of a human emotion. I find it hard to believe that out of the thousands of people there 99.9% of them were completely on board with massacreing the aliens just because they wanted to get some unobtainium (stupid name btw). Besides I don’t think there is a need for anymore stereotyping of Marines as crazy, evil whack-a-doos. There was just too much black and white in the movie, and rarely were there any shades of grey–morally speaking.
Secondly, I get the whole allusions to slavery and the plight of the American Indians, but it was a bit much. Actually it wasn’t even an allusion it was pretty much a straight up comparison to the westward expansion of the United States. The unobtainium is gold, and the Marines are the evil frontiersman who murdered and pillaged their way across the west. Now is not the time for a moral or historical debate about that time period. What bugged me was the ham-fisted attempt to wed that time period with the modern one. Throwing in phrases like “shock and awe” and “fight terror with terror” took me out of the movie momentarily. I get it you’re against the Iraq War, slavery, and westward expansion. Good to know, but unfortunately it was all shoe-horned into the story. Plus there are other movies that have done a better job with those themes–namely Return of the Jedi. The ending of both movies is basically the same. The peace loving simple people defeat the technologically superior, but moralistically inferior people–except in Avatar there is the added element of a Deity that interjects and helps out.
Ok now you may think that with all that griping and complaining that I hated the movie, but if you thought that you’d be wrong. Watching this movie I got the same feeling I got when I watched Jurassic Park, Star Wars, or Terminator 2. This movie is a game-changer. All the work that was done by ILM over the years in creating digital sets and characters was put to spectacular use in Avatar. The interaction movie is virtually seamless in blending all the real with the digital. Watching this movie totally blew my mind. (And despite my gripes with the story, the story was actually pretty good. There is a decent and simple plot line to follow, there’s a bit of a love story, and there are some moral themes that could have been powerful if I wasn’t beaten over the head with them.) The 3D was great because it wasn’t a gimmick. The characters weren’t breaking the fourth wall trying to engage the audience. There wasn’t an overabundance of spears, vehicles, or whatever coming directly at the camera. Instead the 3D was used as a way to create a more immersive environment. Pandora felt more real. There was more depth to the world, and this helped to draw you in. This is how these technologies were meant to be used. I finish by restating what I’ve already said. The movie is a game changer, and it must be seen in 3D. This movie should become a blueprint for how 3D and CGI should be used to create new immersive worlds. If it does and other directors keep improving it then there should be a lot of exciting movies in the future. It’ll be amazing to see where this all leads too. So if I was going to give this movie a grade I would say it’s a solid 95%, so go see it now.