Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Avatar (2009) Review


I finally decided to do a review of the highest grossing film of all time. To set the record straight I do not like this film. I was incredibly excited for it, but when I discovered that it was only PG and was being marketed as a 'family friendly' movie, any hopes for the film having a strong plot disappeared. James Cameron already made a lot of amazing R films, so I was okay with him allowing his style to appeal to a broader audience. Sigourney Weaver was in it and that excited me as well, which made up for the lack of an R rating. The trailer finally appeared and I must have shit my pants with excitement, the special effects were superb. If Avatar was going to deliver on one thing it would be the special effects, which made up for any small errors the film may have. I went twice in Imax for the full experience, but then I saw the movie on a regular theater screen. I was disappointed. So here is a list of five things that Avatar did horribly wrong.

5. The characters are stock and unlikeable.
Every character in this film is an old movie cliche, whether it was the evil war general or the fighter pilot with a conscious, the characters in the film felt bland and stock. They acted in the most predictable ways and after they're introduced the audience already knows their point in the film. Even Sigourney Weaver is unlikeable, which isn't how I assume Cameron wanted us to think of her, but she still acts like a prick and appears as being pointless within the film. She doesn't do anything but bitch about the corporation and only sticks around as a main character so she can die as a way to make the audience get all emotional. Sam Worthington plays a total idiot and everything he does in the film pisses me off, mostly because no average person would act that way. The  worst character in the movie is Neytiri, as she is only their to play the love interest. She is uninteresting and uncharacterized, she begins the movie talking with an accent that disappears five minutes later, and worst of all she falls in love with Jake for no apparent reason other than provide a love interest. These characters were incredibly bad and it only gets worse form here.

4. The dialog is lame and poorly written.
James Cameron wrote some really bad-ass lines, but none of the can compare to "That is one big tree!" or "You are not in Kansas anymore!". Everything the bad guy Quaritch said was so cliche, and the stupidity only begins there. Jake talks like an idiot throughout the entire film and is always acting like a smart-ass. I cringe ever time a character in this film speaks, especially Jake and the Na'vi. The lines are incredibly cliche and at one point the fighter pilot says, "I didn't sign up for this shit." How many times have we heard that one before? The answer is lots and I noticed a lot of lines from other films that clearly didn't have any thought put into them. The dialog was bad and I didn't like it at all.

3. Subtle left-wing propaganda. 
The entire film bashes the United States government and makes a direct relation to cleaner energy and oil. I understand that this makes the film relevant, but it just preached 'green' views and made large corporations look evil. I don't think corporation are evil, as without them the entire world would live in poverty and I wouldn't have an iPod or Xbox, nor a job. I understand the Iraq war references and the line "We will fight terror with terror!" always makes me laugh uncontrollably because of the stupidity of the scene. The Na'vi did not terrorize the humans, however in real life terrorists did kill thousands of people when they bombed the World Trade Center. I don't appreciate these allusions to the Iraq war and respecting the environment because I'm constantly being bombarded by propaganda about the evils of the Bush administration and oil companies. This isn't that bad and I'm sure in ten years I'll actually enjoy this aspect, but for now I feel that its been overdone and brings down the film.

2. It copied the plot of other films.
Dances with WolvesStarship Troopers. Gully. Pocahantas. Avatar resembles all of these films with similar plots. Its an old cliche that a white man befriends the indigenous population and sides with them, but this movie blatantly ripped these off. The movie's evil military-esque corporation resembles the military of Starship Troopers with similar motivation to destroy the natives and the marines are being killed off by the planet's hostile wildlife in both films. I watched Fern Gully after hearing about its resemblance to Avatar, which was actually one of my favorite films when I was young. I was shocked to see the films not only featuring similar plots, but actual shots were stolen directly from the movie and placed into Avatar. A certain scene shows the main character of Fern Gully trying to stop a massive bulldozer headed towards some trees; a scene which Avatar perfectly recreates. I'm fine with a movie using a classic plot as the basis for their story, but Avatar clearly just took scenes from these other films to fill space in the plot.

1. It didn't look good on a regular screen.
When watching this on a regular theater screen without 3D and without Imax, I couldn't stand the visuals. The Na'vi look incredibly lifeless and grotesque, especially when many are displayed on the screen at once. It actually looked no better than a current generation video game. The lighting was the worse aspect of this, especially at scenes set during the night. It doesn't look good and I won't be buying this film on bluray, as it will look like shit. The visuals were what redeemed the movie for me, but without them it revealed how bad and lame this movie really is.

The good things about this movie were that the action was fun to watch and it was very rewarding to watch the soldiers get killed in a variety of horrible ways. The film could have had a strong ending if it had ended after the destruction of Home Tree, after which Jake says "I guess I just have to wake up." Sam Worthington, despite his horrible role in this film, is actually a good action star and I look forward to seeing him in The Clash of the Titans remake. In Imax the movie looks stunning. I enjoyed watching the movie the first time, despite its predictability.

The one thing that saddens me the most about this movie is that it will forever change the way movies are made. This means that directors and producers are going to focus more on the visual effects than getting good performances out of the actors, which takes all of the skill out of acting. Visual effects allow for the manipulation of anything in the scenes, so filmmakers will no longer have to focus on getting the lighting or camerawork perfect, as they can now just change it in post production. This is not filmmaking, this is animation; which is not the direction I want film to take. Avatar is going to change everything, and its going to be up to independent filmmakers to save the art form with low budget miniatures and organic effects (like the makers of Moon). It will all go downhill from here.

Rating: 3/10

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