Avatar (2009) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Avatar (2009)

Avatar came out in the winter of 2009 and destroyed everything at the box-office.  Even though the films released during that same holiday season including Sherlock Holmes and Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 did really good business they paled in comparison to what Avatar was doing.  When the dust settled late spring of 2010, James Cameron’s 3-D epic was the highest grossing film ever by a pretty wide margin and made more money then anyone could have imagined.  The fact the film made that much money not because it was the greatest thing ever made but because James Cameron figured out how to turn the movie going experience into an attraction.

Avatar was the best film to have used the 3-D technology to that point and that is still true today.  Although it wasn’t as groundbreaking as Cameron promised it would be the 3-D really did let you experience a movie in a different way.   After seeing the movie that holiday season I left thinking that the visuals were great, but was that great a movie.  I neither hated the film or liked it all that much and had no desire to see it again.  When I started this 30 Years at the Top Series I knew that in the end I would watch Avatar again and I wanted to watch it in a way that nothing would distract me from the actual film.  I wanted to see if it had any merit as a film or was only worth experiencing because of the extra bells and whistles.

I decided that instead of watching the film on a big HDTV with booming surround sound I was going to watch it on my iPad with headphones.  This made the film intimate and I wouldn’t get distracted with “shiny things.”  I started up the movie and realized it wasn’t bad.

They had bows and arrows and they went against ships and tanks, not smart military tactics.

Wasn’t bad is a far cry from a great film or even an Oscar caliber film but once again Cameron made a film that had some great action scenes amazing special effects and interesting ideas.  By watching it on the little screen I noticed that it is the one film that Sam Worthington shows the most spark in (even though he is still on the dull side) and Cameron again wrote a perfect role for Sigourney Weaver after turning her into an action hero in Aliens.

Still if I were to compare it to the rest of Cameron’s films I would definitely put it at the bottom of the list next to The Abyss. Much like that undersea film, I think Cameron got so caught up in the effects and the world that he didn’t tighten up the screenplay as much as he could.  The Terminator films were b-pictures with A+ storytelling.  Everything from the past, present and future line up in those films.  He told a concise and involving story over two movies and did it perfectly. If you don’t know how hard that is to do just look at the mess the Terminator franchise finds itself in now.  Cameron also transformed the Alien franchise from its horror beginnings into a war picture and did it without skipping a beat.   Cameron has the background and know-how to turn even the weirdest film or idea into something accessible, except for Avatar this film is just weird.  We have blue things worshiping a big tree and flying dragons that things put their ponytails into to “control” them and just a lot of other weird things.   On top of the freakiness flying around the film there are very few characters you care about at all.  When the motion capture characters take over the film and there are just special effects on the screen I never felt like I was watching anything but really good computer work.  Unlike in The Lord of the Rings and Gollum, these characters never became real.  Even on the iPad screen I marveled at the technology but was not rooting for the Na’Vi to win or for anyone to fall in love.

Confession time: Blue cat Sigourney Weaver thing really freaked me out.

To wrap up what I have been rambling about Avatar should be applauded and watched for years to come for how it moved the industry on to newer technologies (some which are being overused just 1.5 years later).  James Cameron should have been up for best director because what he did as the overseer of the film is amazing, but it only really comes alive as an EVENT. As a movie the whole thing has a pedestrian feeling about it.  While I can marvel at films and be wowed by their action or effects my favorite films will always be the ones with great characters and crackling dialogue.  A screenplay was the last thing on Cameron’s mind in this film except for in the sense of creating a new world.  I saw the movie two days ago and yet I cannot remember anyone’s name, his or her relationships or anything beyond the rudimentary story.

Michelle Rodriguez, tough action chick= Cameron's easy casting choice.

People are always hardest on the people that they have the most trust/faith in.  The same could be said about things deemed “the best” or “a game changer.”  I think I am ultimately disappointed in Avatar because I still have faith in Cameron to make a movie that is just as much about story as spectacle and this movie fails in that regard. The movie made billions of dollars and was up for numerous Oscars but what made the people fall in love with the film?  Were they blinded by the technology and couldn’t see the faults?  All I know is if Babe Ruth would have hit a double when he called his famous home run it would have been considered a disappointment because he did not deliver what was promised.  Avatar is the same way I was guaranteed something so amazing, so new that I would weep at its feet.  Avatar is a decent film nothing more nothing less. James Cameron you hit that double really well but it was no homerun.  Sorry buddy better luck next time.


Posted by Ryan

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  1. Movies don’t need convoluted plotlines or confusing stories to be great. This movie had excellent character development, stunning visuals, a creative world and ideas, and a deep emotional connection to viewers. It made my heart race, it made me cheer at the end, and it made me cry because I knew I would never see the planet of Pandora in person, let alone a better movie than the one I had just watched.

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