Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Avatar's Mad Marines and Boring Blue People

I wish this was a better movie -- Grr!

So I've been meaning to write up a post about what I thought of James Cameron's supposed magnum opus, Avatar. To be blunt, I thought it kinda sucked. I don't think it's even really a bad film. It didn't totally suck or was the worst fucking thing I've ever seen, it was just a much lesser product than what I was expecting, so it just kinda sucked. Sure, the effects were mind-blowing and worth the price of admission alone, but the story was tired, predictable, and worst of all, boring. Also, because it's Cameron, my expectations were much higher than they would be for any old Joe Schmo director. After all, this is the dude who wrote and directed Aliens, Titanic, The Abyss and Terminator 1 & 2, so the guy certainly knows how to create and shoot compelling characters and engaging narratives.

Anyway, my wife and I drove for an hour or so to one of those real, no-shit Imaxs. Not those pussy little expanded conventional theaters where they take out the first few rows of seats and shove the screen forward and charge you an extra $5 for it, we went to a real deal Imax. (Note: the last and only other time we have done this for a film was for last summer's Transformers flick, and that movie did totally suck and may well have been the worst fucking thing I've ever seen (not really, but it is high up there on my shit list).

I'm not trying to change any minds here, just stating my opinion. Avatar has been out for 3 weeks and is already the 2nd highest grossing picture of all time (I wonder what Cameron's going to say at the Oscars this time, "I'm king of the universe," perhaps?). Chance's are, if you're reading a post on a blog called Monsters, Mutants and Aliens, you've already seen the movie and have your opinions about it one way or the other, which is fine.

However, I really expected more from Cameron. I've been playing an older Xbox 360 game for the past few weeks (Mass Effect), and I have to say, it's story is everything I wanted Cameron's Avatar to be. Compelling, unpredictable characters, a gripping narrative and an amazing sci-fi setting. But that's not what we, or at least, I, got.

Instead, we're given static, boring, predictable characters who are either good or bad. We never get a real look at the personalities of the Navi people. Every scene and shot they're in focuses on making them either A: heroic, or B: sympathetic. Sure, they have a few disagreements, but we're never afforded an actual glimpse into the dynamics of their society. Every alien we meet belongs to the upper class and act as guardians of the planet. There is no betrayal, no complexity. Hell, I don't even remember seeing any little blue children.

On the other end, we have the human marines, and Cameron's presentation of them is shameful. He portrayed them like trigger-happy killing machines and, in reality, these people fight and die for us everyday, so that is just fucking inexcusable to me. Also, after Sam Worthington turns into a blue hippy thing with a USB tail, I found it jarring that we're suddenly supposed to be all happy when we're seeing the Marines die. Sure, Colonel Quaritch (the bad guy) was a single-sided cartoon villain with no determinable motivation to do anything other than blow shit up and be an asshole, so it's fine to watch him expire, but everyone else was just following orders.

To prevent such feelings, Cameron made sure to show us the Marines' callousness towards the Navi people, but they were just regurgitating the only information they had been given about the alien species. It actually reminded me of a documentary I watched recently, History Channel's World War 2 in HD (fucking awesome doc, by the way, and easily the best WWII doc I've ever seen). Anyway, it uses actual footage from the period, and there was one part when the marines were making their assault on one of the Japanese controlled Pacific islands, and the Jap citizens started killing themselves and their families when it became clear that the US was going to take the island. It was nuts -- mothers grabbing their babies and jumping off cliffs, fathers slitting their children's throats and then their own -- very, very sad shit. Anyway, they did all this because they had been told that the Americans were bloodthirsty savages and were going to rape, loot and murder every last one of them. They killed their children out of love -- they truly believed that it would be better for their kids that way. They were acting on the only information they had been given about us, just as the marines in Avatar were acting on the only information that had been given to them about the Navi. So I thought the final battle was cool and all, but impossible to get into. My sympathies were torn, and an amicable, non-confrontational solution would have been ideal but, of course, would have also been pretty lame in an action film.

The world was lush and beautiful, but ultimately empty. It was like Sesame Street, full of compelling characters and environments, but ultimately telling a story that anyone over the age of 6 is going to be able to predict.

I hope that Cameron will give us both amazing effects and a compelling narrative in his next, already-announced sequel. It's an awesome world, I'd just like to see it inhabited by complex characters instead of boring cartoon castoffs.

1 comment:

  1. Avatar was an awesome movie. James Cameron is a perfectionist that delivers a great movie experience. He must write simple characters for the average moviegoer. Most people are incapable of analyzing movies.

    The moviegoer wants to watch a good movie without having to think too much about allegorical themes.

    I noticed you own Ohorro.com. I am currently selling two horror domains that generate good type-in traffic. If you're interested the domains are listed on Cax. I haven't heard back from Horror.com and Best Horror Movies yet.

    First com, first serve. Good review of Avatar. Thanks.