#8 of 2009: Avatar

"You look amazing, but doesn't this story seem familiar?"

"You look amazing, but doesn't this story sound familiar?"

While the highest grossing film of all time contains elements of grandeur, it isn’t as great as some of us are making it out to be.  Is Avatar technically groundbreaking?  Absolutely.  Is it mesmerizing aesthetically?  Unquestionably.  Is it a great story?  Not so much.  The more I think about Avatar I cannot get over its “conveniently borrowed” storyline.  Yet, with all its script/story issues, it still deserves the immense distinction it has earned.

My experience watching Avatar was one of intense elevation.  The film sucked me in with its visual creations and progressions.  Even as I watched it for a second time, I began to feel the same way someone who saw Star Wars did in 1977: this is going to change the face of movies forever.  It is clear that James Cameron’s imagination is unmatched and his vision for and execution of Avatar will inevitably go down in history.  Unfortunately though, his talents as a screenwriter are unimpressive.

A soldier is sent into hostile territory to learn about the enemy and then is forced to choose between his newfound empathy and his inherent self.  To make things more interesting, he falls in love with the chief’s daughter, which creates a riff within the tribe.  While you might think I’m describing Avatar, I’m actually describing Dances With Wolves.

This is where Avatar continues to bother me.  Cameron seems to be insulting the viewer by shorting us on his story and script.  He seems to be saying, “look how pretty my film is, and don’t worry about the story, it will all work out.”  And yet he is right, it is as gorgeous a film as I have ever seen.  But to me, stories come first and in Avatar the story seemed cheap and banal.  (I.E. “Unobtanium”, the sloppy cliché dialogue, the drawn out conclusion and final battle scene.)

I admit, I am biased regarding Cameron.  I’ve never understood audience’s infatuation with Titanic and in every interview I’ve ever seen/read he comes off as being too pompous and impressed with his work.

As a technical visionary he has every right.  He is master of his domain, “king of the world,” “toruk makto,” whatever…..  But when it comes to his work with the pen, he is better off leaving that to the other guys in the room.


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