AVATAR: Not the Last Airbender

Ashley Walton —  December 19, 2009 — 17 Comments


James Francis Cameron is kind of a g
eek god. My peers love to remember him for his works The Terminator, Rambo, and Aliens. But I like to remind people that he also made Titanic, one of his most critically-acclaimed films but also one of his most boring— a beautiful display of his inability to edit. I say Titanic is only one of his worst films, because Avatar, while visually appealing, was a three-hour film (that felt like it lasted days) with a predictable plot and the most terrible screenwriting I’ve heard in a while. If the cliché one-liners every three seconds aren’t enough to make you cringe, being beaten over the head with five simultaneous political messages might do the trick.

As I said, the visual effects were the redeeming factor.
The world created by Cameron was vibrant, with some delicious textures. And the line between the live-action shooting and the computer generated images was seamless. A lot of the time you forgot you were watching CG characters. At the same time, it was disappointing that this alien world that held so much creative potential was inhabited mostly by creatures similar to that of creatures on Earth (the aliens had their own versions of wild dogs and horses with some alien-esque modifications). These aliens, who had so many possibilities for a unique existence, were a blatant carbon copy of Native Americans. Their religion, speech, clothing, hunting methods, and social structure were unoriginal. Clearly, Cameron was hoping to create his own LOTR-type universe with another world and another language, but he failed to channel the imaginative genius of Tolkein.

My two cents is to skip Avatar in the theaters (unless you’re a visual effects geek or a masochist) and watch it in the comfort of your own home instead. Upon renting it, you can pause it at the mid-point of 1.5 hours, stretch your limbs, and come back to it later if you choose. I could have easily gone another ten years without seeing this movie.

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Ashley Walton

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Tarantino fanatic. Grammar snob. Tetris Master.

17 responses to AVATAR: Not the Last Airbender

  1. 

    We are going to see it tonight. You would think it would be good will all the money they spent on it! over $300 million dollars!!! Sandra

  2. 

    Well, I think all that money went into the visual effects (which were good), not into a screenwriter. And I don't think they even had an editor.Let me know what you think of it. I have some friends who liked it a lot. 🙂

  3. 

    i gotta disagree with you there.i keep hearing people complain about the writing, script, story, etc. i find this to be unjustified. the plot is simple, but it isn't simplistic. in a few words, the story is Pocahontas with aliens, dragons, and helicopters. the dialogue is likewise simple, lending it accessibility. i feel that critics either comdemn speech in film as being too cliché or too convoluted, with the tiniest knife's edge separating the two. my standard is whether it is understandable without being distracting or not. in my book, avatar makes the cut. i found it interesting to see the several traits of human tribal peoples amalgamised into the Na'Vi. naturally there was the Native Americans as evidenced by their social structure, but i also noticed a few tenets of Haitian voodoo in their beliefs, including the role of the family. their ceremonial circles seemed to be borrowed from balinese ritual dances. they were often accompanied with african drums. so if you were to call the alien race a carbon copy of anything, i think it only reasonable to say that they are a copy of the human race sans technology. otherwise, how could the audience possibly relate or sympathise with them?the bigger issues i have with the film are mostly in its production design. first of all, papyrus? REALLY? make up an alien race and their subtitled speech is papyrus? might as well have made it comic sans. also, am i the only person a little tired of seeing man-driven mech warriors? come on, cameron, i know you liked them in alien, but it would have been nice to see a new toy or two. and what was with the space shuttle carrying all those explosive? as far as acting goes, the biggest problem i can think of is how that general fellow was too much of a badass. ignoring the bodily function of breathing? running around while on fire? MECH SUIT KNIFE FIGHT? he was a little too apocalypse-now-napalm-in-the-morning for me.and since you didn't bring it up, i make the assumption that you didn't see it in 3D. caught it at the IMAX. amazing yet non-invasive. the best 3D production that i have ever seen.aaand i'm going again on monday.+josh

  4. 

    I love that you started this blog for this. It makes me happy. Also I'm glad you liked the special effects, or I would have to be quite offended, as that is what has taken a significant portion of my brothers life for the past few years. I hear he got his name in the non-scrolly part of the credits even!But what I love most is that you, coincidentally, started this blog the same week I started my own, both of a geeky nature.One suggestion though… you might wanna think about adding the descriptor "hot" before "geek girl." 😉

  5. 

    Thanks, Scott! That's awesome that your brother got into the credits. The effects were exceptional. And I'll definitely check out your blog.

  6. 

    My comment is going to be lame, but I have no desire to see Avatar and I love Titanic. Haha. PS- I am now following Geek Girl!

  7. 

    haha your desires are pure. Good call. Thanks for reading. 🙂

  8. 

    no surprise here, but my comment is the same as jonni's hahaha. i do not want to see avatar at all (it seems like a thinly veiled allegory of u.s. interests in the middle east and venezuela) i truly adore Titanic and think it is Cameron's best film…and i too am now following you…

  9. 

    The scenary, was almost breathtaking, and you're right, the way they transitioned from CGI to real was seemless. I do have to admit, that it felt like an insanely long movie, and the plotline was a wee bit perdictable. But, the visual effects were stunning, and that made up for it in the end. My one HUGE complaint about it though, was Sigourney Weaver. I hate her. I liked her in what I have seen of Aliens. But this? She was really bad here. Plus, she showed WAAAAY too much skin, and lets face it, she has not aged well.

  10. 

    Jack, thanks for following. 🙂 Have you seen Aliens? You might like it better than Titanic, or maybe just as much.Richie, like a faithful geek, I like Sigourney Weaver, but I didn't really like her character in this film. And I didn't like that scene where she was inexplicably stripped and wrapped in some sort of twine.

  11. 

    It seems the majority of audiences are reacting to this film they way they did to Jurassic Park or even, to a lesser degree, Transformers and Independence Day when those films first came along. Audiences are able to forgive a lot in the name of novel visuals. They can generously overlook bad dialogue and a trite plot… for a while. But these films do not stand up to the test of time. This big budget Fern Gully re-make will eventually become a curious special-effects footnote, much like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, in the annals of film lore, but it won't be cited as the best film to be released this month.I think I had a little more fun watching it than geek-girl, but it did make me cringe and squirm in all the wrong ways.

  12. 

    Eloquently and succinctly put. I also drew a lot of parallels to Fern Gully– the foreign human trying to fit in, the sacred tree, the earth lighting up under their footsteps, the overt environmentalism.

  13. 

    Yeah! You have a blog!

  14. 

    NO! That's the wrong advice. If there is one movie to see in the theaters it's Avatar and spend the extra money to see it at an IMAX in 3D. The amazing aspects of the movie will be lost outside of the theater. Skip renting it and skip watching it in your home if you're too above the simple plot but DON'T skip watching it in theaters. It shows a new level of filmmaking and was incredibly enjoyable for that reason.

  15. 

    I rescind my negative comments, after watching this movie I have realized it is AWESOME. I totally want to see it again. Way way way better than I thought it would be.

  16. 

    And to top all the bad in this movie off… it's populated by characters so shallow that 1 dimensional objects have more depth. It was a film of nothing but caricatures. There wasn't a real person in there. There was the hard ass military jerk who was nothing but a hard ass military jerk. Not depth, no remorse, no second thoughts, no wondering if there might be a better way. There was the "hell-bent on profits only" corporate hack who once again had no depth of character. The scientist, the Na'vi… every single character was as flat as a sheet of paper. No interest, no conflict. Nothing.On top of this, no one changed. Jack was always the nice guy who was willing to learn about others. Nothing changed there. Neytiri was always a bit of a softy and didn't change at all. The scientists, no change. Corporate hack, no change. Military, no change. NO ONE grew, or gained anything. Some might argue that Jake and Neytiri did, but really, they didn't because they ended up just like they always were, deep down. No one had to wrestle with any major deep internal conflict. Except for one. The pilot played by Michelle Rodriguez. She's the only one who questioned her life-long held beliefs and decided she could rise above who she was.And while we're on the subject of the military… I'd be incredibly insulted by the portrayal of the marines in this film. They are portrayed as a bunch of hillbillies in a gang, not a modern, advanced military. Watch the scene where they are getting briefed and going to go blow up the tree. Front row there are two guys in WIFE BEATERS! This is a psychological trick they are playing on you to stereotype the characters into that narrow little niche of "stupid, red-neck military."I really can't stand this movie. It is one of the poorest written and acted movies I have ever had the misfortune of having to sit through. It was a darn pretty movie, there was no substance to make it worth looking at.

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