One of my clients took me to see Avatar yesterday in 3D as a Christmas gift. Here’s my review:
Visually: It was one of the most visually stunning movies of all time. You keep forgetting it is 70% CG. It was jaw-droppingly beautiful from start to finish. The 3D experience added depth and feel to it without being gimmicky. (you literally felt like swatting at the flies in the forest) Amazing detail and the action sequences are few but awesome and intense. From a sensory perspective, probably the best film I’ve ever seen. If this was all I was interested in, I’d give it an A+.
Story: Not original at all. Derivative of many works, especially Dances with Wolves, Fern Gully, and Pocahontas. Not to mention James Cameron’s own works like Aliens and the Abyss. It is in essence Dances with Wolves in Space. It was well paced for a long movie, but very predictable and overly preachy in it’s environmental message. In fact, the left leaning political statements really distracted me. I kept expecting Al Gore to step out and cheer the natives on as they fought the “Shock and Awe” campaign against the indigenous people. It would’ve been fine if they had just toned down the sermons. Dances with Wolves worked without it, and we still got the message. I don’t have to have Sigourney Weaver give a huge spill to the “capitalist” of the film about how the trees are are connected and how damage to even one of them can cause an eco-disaster. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should treat the Earth well but I also believe it was created for us, not the other way around. And if we didn’t have the politically charged pseudo-science of Global Warming all over the news, the threat of Cap-And-Trade, or Michael Moore making propaganda about how evil Capitalism is, I may not have noticed so much. But after watching this film, it is obvious where James Cameron stands politically. No surprises from Hollywood. But he probably will not complain about the “capital” he receives from the box-office sales.
Now, I have to use a term from my college days of film classes, Deus Ex Machina. This movie is FULL of it. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, It means you get your characters into such a bind they can only be saved by a “God in the Machine” or supernatural help. This is usually frowned upon in literature. There are two ways of injecting Deus Ex Machina into a story, you can surprise the audience with it or you can drop hints that an outside source is available for help. Avatar luckily chose the latter. If you surprise the audience, you usually get a negative reaction because it usually feels like a cop-out or a cheap way of solving a plot problem. However, if you choose to drop hints about the plot device, then you run the risk of being predictable, which is what happened in Avatar. It was very obvious in some scenes, they would mention an ancient story of a hero who did something and you immediately know our hero will end up doing the same thing. Or this magical ritual is used for ________ so you know our hero will need it later. Too much of this and you give away your entire plot. Which I hate to say was the case in this movie.
Objectionable content: From a Christian standpoint, there were a few objectionable issues with Avatar. There was some foul language, but it was not overbearing (no F-bombs). The GD term was used a couple of times, which seems to jump out at me. I would equate the level of language to that of other James Cameron films like The Abyss or Titanic. There was a brief sensual scene between two native characters, but it was very brief and not too detailed. The natives ran around partially nude, however their anatomies were alien and it was not very offensive or distracting. There was some violence, but nothing graphic, brutal, or grotesque. It was limited to almost bloodless bullet wounds, arrow piercings, and occasional explosions.
My overall rating: B