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Wednesday, January 20, 2010


When Star Wars launched its phenomenon in 1977 it was completely unpredicted. This little fantasy/sci-fi picture defined a decade and has since continued to be one of the top money making franchises of all time. There was no hype. It was an explosion of bewildering success and greatness. So it’s of no surprise that studios and filmmakers have tried to recreate that scenario; but the idea that you can create such leviathans with sheer will is arrogance cooked on stupidity. The latest example is the decade’s ultimate hype-machine: Avatar.

The movie’s story? Let’s put it this way. While watching the movie my significant other leaned in to note how similar it was to Disney’s Pocahontas. My mouth hit the floor with what I can only assume was an astonishing thud—I’m sure I looked like a sorority girl on game night. She nailed it! Mind you this was said to me before either one of us saw THIS. Sure, she could have said Dances With Wolves and she would have been equally correct, but Avatar’s resemblance to the Disney film is so uncanny I had to stop and think: James Cameron had fifteen years to refine this script?

Whatever… Now you know the story of Avatar to an absolute tee. Is the absurd predictability of the story a problem? That depends on the audience. If you’re in to the irrelevant exercise of looking for originality you’ll probably hate Avatar. If you can stomach the fact that this story has been told at least four or five times per decade, post-1950s, then it can certainly be a rewarding experience. Otherwise enjoy the over-exposition of a cliché, trigger-happy badass and his military constantly bullying the savage protagonists and their “enlightened” ways. Are military folk always this thoughtless? Are native savages always right no matter what? Is blue alien sex really that hot? Yikes…

So, to that reward I mentioned. As you might have imagined, the special effects really are fantastic. Though I feel the comparisons to Jurassic Park are exaggerated, Avatar has a claim to creating photo-realistic characters and environments that will do well to aid future special effects features. The most intriguing thing about Avatar is its setting. Pandora, the planet, is truly beautiful and an incredible technical achievement that I can bank on being used again and again. Couple that with Cameron’s penchant for aggressive action sequences and you have a recipe for some exciting visuals.

However, it is a shame that these visuals are wasted on such derivative designs. As cool as the world is, putting two sets of front legs on every known animal on Earth and then painting it blue isn’t exactly what I call creative. But neither is the giant robots conjuring images from The Matrix Revolutions.

Okay, okay, I’m probably being a bit harsh. Avatar isn’t a terrible film at all, really. For its unoriginality it’s actually well told and boasts some impressive performances from most of the major players—Especially Sam Worthington! But the success of Cameron’s film relies on the hype he built for it. There was no explosion and, like the movie, there was nothing unexpected about it raping the box office. But if you strip off the fancy effects and incredible advertising you're left with just another character epic. Cameron use to be a master of great and original filmmaking, now he’s proving gimmicks are enough to make a “good movie.” It frightens me there’s a majority okay with this.

** out ****

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