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Saturday, February 27, 2010


So I finally did it. I've now seen James Cameron's Avatar. The reason it's taken me so long to go see it isn't because I dislike Cameron's work or anything like that. I just wasn't all that interested really. But a friend of mine thought that we should see it and in the spirit of camaraderie I agreed. Then we procrastinated for a few weeks before finally watching the thing last day.

I went in with only a basic knowledge of the plot and questions to why this thing is pretty much the highest grossing movie of all time. I went out thinking that it was good but my questions were unanswered.

The story isn't anything new. You've got your average mr. Joe Everyman ending up in a larger than life situation on a planet where he doesn't really fit in and is looked down upon by the majority of every other character. As the movie goes on he earns the respect of everybody before he rises up to face an insurmountable challenge after having to choose between the his old team (the humans) and his new team (the Na'vi or aliens to those that haven't seen the movie yet) and basically becomes the greatest hero ever, in the movie that is. There's even a training montage, thankfully without stupid/cheesy 80s music, and of course a big inspirational speech, which was disappoitingly bland.

Now, while the story and characters, I'll get to those later, are pretty much as generic as you can get in these kinds of movie it's all so well-presented that sooner or later you won't really care about the genericness. You'll just be enjoying the movie, probably.

Let's start with the visuals. I saw it in 3D and the thing I thought that accentuated the most was that I now noticed tiny details like small bugs fluttering around the characters more easily now. Besides that the 3D didn't really add anything for me. At the movie's half-way point the effect had sort blended in and I had gotten so used to it that the only reminding me that it was in 3D was the somewhat to small 3D-glasseses I had to wear. In short, the 3D did very little to enhance the experience for me and unless the non-3D version is a bunch of stick-figures I don't think that it was worth the extra 40 kronor I had to pay for it.

Borderline pointless 3D aside, the movie looks great. I can see why Cameron wanted to wait until he had the technology to realise the vision he had for this movie. Pandora, that's the name of the planet, looks beautiful, the inhabitants look realistic enough and, most importantly to me, the various creature designs are all look awesome. There is some serious imagination at work here along with a meticulous sense of detail, which is the only thing the 3D-effect is good for. Overall, the visuals did impress me.

Back to the story. Like I said, it's generic and you've probably seen it or some version of it somewhere else. But Cameron seems to have been aware of this and did his best to make it as presentable as possible. It worked. The story is coherent with no obvious plot-holes or anything like that. The characters that matter have their own arcs that are told skillfully. And most importantly I ended up caring about what was going on on-screen. So yeah, well-presented indeed.

Speaking of presentation, it should be noted that more concern went into creating this whole new world than anything else. That's fine since, again, the world is beautifully realised. But the introduction to this new world does make the first half or so of the movie feel very slow and a bit boring.

As I mentioned, the characters are also pretty much stock. The hero is a normal person, except that he's cripled and military soldier, that ends up in a fantastic situation because of the death of his brother. He starts out with the usual human values but learns to love and appreciate nature and stuff like that through prolonged exposure to the Na'vi's way of life. The thing that does sell it though is Sam Worthington's acting. He makes this generic role work and like I said, I started to care about him. Since much of the story was told through Worthington's character's videologs that was a good thing. As a side note this makes me very excited for his lead role in the upcoming Clash of the Titans movie.

The supporting characters are also generic but well acted enough. But nobody sticks out. So let's move on to the villains. The very, very obvious villains. So obvious that I feel compelled to make an obvious reference to twirly mustaches and top-hats.

As the Na'vi represents basically every indigenous people ever and the planet of Pandora in turn represents all the nature that humans have destroyed it's only natural that the villains are evil corporations and uber-macho military. Beyond that they get no reedeming feature really. They are here to be the object of the audience's scorn and disgust. The movie doesn't try hide any of this though, so eventually you just go with it and hate the bad guys as you're supposed to do.

Now that I've mentioned it I might as well talk about it a little. Yes, the movie does have a message about how we're destroying nature and chasing out indigenous people from their homes due to our greed. It's a very obvious message, even more obvious than the villains, and it is sort of shoved into our faces. But here's the thing. It's actually an important issue. Avatar makes attempt to hide the issues it wants to address and wears its real-world concern proudly on its shoulder. In my book that gets a few bonus points. Also it does all this without getting preachy. Which can be attributed to, surprise surprise, a good presentation.

Lastly, the movie has a very good Big Damn Hero moment that I did not see coming. I love Big Damn Hero moments and I especially love them when I'm surprised by them. So that earns another big plus from me.

All in all. It's a good but generic movie. If you're into scifi/fantasy adventure movies then I suggest that you go see it, unless you've already done that which wouldn't surprise.

Until next time, peace out.

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