A new bar with Avatar

Spoiler Alert:  This blog will reveal plot elements of the movie.  Then again, if you’ve seen Dances with Wolves, Pocahontas or Fern Gully, you’ve already seen some of the plot elements anyway.  So what?  If we banished movies based on borrowed plot elements, the theaters would be empty.

Seeing James Cameron win a Golden Globe for Avatar last night recalled memories of Titanic, True Lies and Terminator 2, some of my favorite blockbusters of all time.  Even though it’s been reported that Cameron is an obsessive, relentlessly detail-oriented director (and not the kind of boss most people like to work for) it’s hard to argue with the quality of his work.

What prompts me to write today is just that – the people who are complaining about Avatar.  Are you kidding me? I admit I’m a science fiction and comic book fan from way back, and it doesn’t take much for me to suspend my disbelief, but how can you not be impressed and enthralled by this movie? I know it’s fun to pick on #1, but come on.

Think back to the “mind-blowing” special effects of the first Star Wars movie just 3 decades ago, and compare to the immersive environment of Avatar today.  The planet Pandora is alive and as much of a character in the film as the actors.  And you know what… it’s hard to even call it a “film.”  It’s a masterpiece created with digital 3D tools, mixing human, alien, animal and plant life into a visual feast that’s difficult to forget.

Maybe your expectations were too high.  When I heard “new James Cameron movie” I went out to see it as soon as possible, so I could avoid the commentary like the one you are reading right now.  I went in with an open mind and came out with a “wow.”

I was bothered by a few things in the movie, especially the archetype of the overzealous career solider.  Even though it was a “private security force” on the planet, this was a thinly veiled slam at the US military.  Other than the one female pilot who went rogue, this army is portrayed as a one-dimensional soulless killing machine.  With our brave men and women (including several of my son’s friends from high school) fighting wars overseas right now, this smacks of a heavy-handed political statement.  Cameron has a right to express his political point of view, but it hit me the same wrong way as when I saw an airplane crash in Jurassic Park 3 not longer after terrorists crashed planes into the Twin Towers on September 11th, 2001.  It’s a timing thing.

As for the greedy corporate executive, this part always seems to be cast as a 40-something caucasian male who cares about nothing but the bottom line.  I am a 40-something caucasian male working for one of the most successful corporations in the world today.  Our company spends a lot of effort and money helping solve problems in the world and I just don’t see the greedy villains so often portayed in movies today.  But that’s just my experience. 

I also get a little miffed at TV commercials that always portray family fathers as bumbling buffoons, mainly because I am a bumbling buffoon and it just hits too close to home.

Don’t hate Avatar because it’s beautiful.  And don’t be bothered by the “unoriginal” storyline. There are plenty of other unique elements I won’t list here because I want you to experience the same surprise and delight that I did when you see it. Bottom line for me… Avatar is both beautiful and bothersome, but what’s wrong with being a little bothered?  It makes you think, doesn’t it?

Though I may regret it, your comments are welcome!

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One Comment on “A new bar with Avatar”

  1. Nils Says:

    Hey man, I just ran across your blog.

    First off, I used to be a big science fiction geek back in the day. So I guess I can see where your coming from. (I still re-read the foundation from time to time)

    But let’s face it, Avatar was BORING. I got to see the movie for free and still didn’t like it.

    I wasn’t expecting much either, I hadn’t seen a commercial, no one had said anything about it to me yet. (It had just came out) and I was in the mood for a movie.

    Special effects can only keep you captivated for a little bit! Star wars wasn’t popular just for it’s effects, it was popular because it was quirky and funny.

    Avatar has boring characters, a plot that made me finally want to root for the bad guys, and pretty effects.

    The action was alright, the plot tried to bang it’s idea into you with a sludge hammer, and the movie was way too long.

    Sorry to say man but this one was just horrible. I don’t understand why everyone likes it so much. I usually get comments like “It may not have the most interesting plot, but the effects are awesome!” Who cares?! Effects are always getting better in movies.

    I don’t get it, usually I love the number one stuff and laugh at all of the haters. I just can’t really see why everyone loves this movie so much.


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