Avatar: Or, Papyrus is ugly and should be barred.

20 Dec

This shot reminds me quite a lot of The Lion King. Not saying that's bad, just pointing it out.

With Avatar James Cameron may have finally accomplished his dream of becoming  a modern day Cecil B DeMille, less a director of actors than a master craftsman of enormous spectacle.  All Avatar really has going for it is spectacle, so it’s to Cameron’s credit that there’s quite a lot of it about.  Not 5 minutes goes by without a shot of sweeping plains, luminescent jungle or bizarre creatures jumping off things.

Avatar is an aggressively commercial film, and that’s fine. It would be futile to expect otherwise.  When you throw down half a billion you have to be damn sure you’re going to get it all back ,so the film is designed in a way that nothing sticks out too far, it’s broad (and therefore vague) enough to appeal to the largest possible audience.  It is big, colourful and dumb, and there are more than a few reviewers who’ve really attacked the movie for this. Armond White’s review is particularly good.

(And, for the record, I love Armond White because his reviews make people furious. If you’re feeling adventurous read some of his user comments, they’re like the racist 12 year olds on youtube but with bigger vocabularies).

http://www.nypress.com/article-20710-blue-in-the-face.html

So there you go- Avatar isn’t particularly clever and it will probably age faster than old milk in the sun. Despite this, it’s still worth seeing. Here’s some dot points explaining why.

  • A lot of time and effort has gone into building a cohesive ecosystem with a variety of plant and animal life. There are plenty of opportunities where you can ignore the stilted dialogue and pretend you’re watching a David Attenborough movie in some wonderful future where he lives forever and narrates documentaries about other planets.
  • Sigourney Weaver is awesome.
  • The Evil General is so over-the-top and ridiculous that it’s fun to just wait to see what he’ll do next.
  • Michelle Rodriguez plays the great-grandmother of the soldier who dies saving Ripley in Aliens.
  • Not really, but it’s more fun if you pretend that’s Canon.
  • The forest’s bioluminescence is very cool, and will probably look even cooler if you’re stoned.

The Short Version: Avatar is not particularly clever or original, and it will probably looked very dated very fast. However! (,however) It’s the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that really impressed me on a pure visual level. Bake some brownies, go to IMAX and have a good fucking time. And remember:

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