Sunday, February 14, 2010


So some time in December this movie called Avatar came out and I guess it was kinda a big deal. I almost didn't see it, but then my dad said he'd pay for my ticket and that seemed like a good idea to me so away I went. They gave us some 3D glasses, the movie started, we oohed and ahhed for about 2 hours, the movie ended, and then we went home. A week later I am writing this review, because its taken me about that long to figure out what I thought of the whole thing.
For those of you who don't like to read here's the short version of my review:it was pretty cliche, the effects were great, its not gonna revolutionize anything.

Anyone who's seen this movie and has also seen Dances with Wolves or Pocahontas will tell you that the plots are almost identical. For those of you who haven't seen either it goes something like this: White man represses the native savages, white man is forced to integrate with said savages, white man realizes that the savages lead a noble, perhaps even superior, way of life, white man becomes one of them and falls in love with/marries chief's daughter, white man must now fend off the other white oppressors with his new kin.

Its all pretty formulaic and its a storyline that I don't very much care for. I read it as a way for white people to cope with the guilt they feel over the oppression/displacement/destruction of indigenous populations which began when Columbus discovered the New World and continues to this day in various forms. In this Dances with Wolves formula the evils of colonialism are laid bare and the audience is able to disapprove of it, but the fact that the white man is still the hero insures that they never become too uncomfortable (ever notice how if whitey hadn't come along then the natives never would have been able to fend for themselves?).

So the plot isn't anything special, but what about the characters? The actors all do a fine job, but the people they play are all pretty archetypal: the battle-hardened warhawk (often with a southern accent), the grumpy intellectual with a rough exterior, but a soft interior (often at odds with the warhawk), and of course the John Smith who discovers the noble savage. But blaming an action movie for using stock characters is like condemning a fantasy game for having elves or dwarfs; its something that you expect and I don't hold it against the movie.

I've been talking a lot about plot and characters, but I've ignored the most important aspect of Avatar, and perhaps the main reason why so many people have paid good money to see it: the spectacle, and indeed Avatar delivers on this level. The superb special effects combines well with the 3D to temporarily take you out of the theatre and immerse you in the world of Pandora. There is plenty of exotic, brightly coloured flora and fauna to attract the eye, but which are reminiscent of animals from earth (dogs, rhinos, etc.) to keep the audience rooted in the familiar. The Na'ri themselves are also impressive and its hard to believe they aren't real when they're standing next to an actual human.

Avatar is all about the spectacle and it is definitely an "event movie", but is it revolutionary as some critics are saying? Perhaps some of the techniques Cameron used my affect how special effects are done, but I saw nothing particularly revolutionary about the film. As I said earlier the plot and characters are nothing new, and its not like I've never seen a movie with dazzling special effects before. Though Transformers is not my favourite movie, the robots do look spectacular and are just as good, if not better, than the mechas and other war machines that appear in this film. Lord of the Rings had awesome effects (especially Golum who, like the Na'ri, seemed very real) paired with a great story and dynamic characters on a grander scale.Or District 9 for example which came out in the same year, is also sci-fi, had amazing special effects, and was made on a budget a tenth of the size. And Avatar isn't the first movie to be made in 3D, though due to its success we can probably look forward to many more 3D films in the future. In the end I just don't think its done anything particularly revolutionary other than make a fuckton of money so I don't see how it can revolutionize film making. Of course I am a just a lowly blogger with 6 followers so what the hell do I know?

P.S. Sorry this review was late. I don't have a good excuse (I was playing Guild Wars).

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