12 September, 2010

Movie Review: Avatar

Title: Avatar
Director: James Cameron. (Like you didn't know this already . . .)
Producer: James Cameron/Jon Landau
Distributer: 20th Century Fox
Rating: 3.4 out of 5.

Did Avatar remind anyone else of Pocahontas? Because when I first saw the summary I went "Hmmm. That sounds like Pocahontas!" And indeed, the farther I got into the movie the more I thought it was the same.

For example; take the main character's name. Jake Sully: John Smith. Is that just coincidental alliteration or what? Neytiri's a lot like Pocahontas herself, and the fact that Jake Sully is the go-between of the humans and the Na'vi is the same as with the settlers and the Native American Indians. He learns their ways, he gets cozy with the next tribe leader, he tries to fight off the encroaching intruders, he gets captured, the future clan chief hates his guts, etc. etc.

It seems to me that Avatar is a lot like a militarized, blued-and-dramatized version of Pocahontas.

That said, there are several dissimilarities. For one thing, the resources the humans are looking for are proven to actually be there, as opposed to the gold that the British just assumed to be there. For another thing, John Smith doesn't have the inconvenience of having someone else control where his consciousness is. The ending is also different, and in a good way.

But aside from a different ending, plot was rather obvious. I mean, of COURSE he's going to switch over the Na'vi's side--what else would Jake do? Pick up a machine gun and start shooting at Neytiri? And the whole thing with the Toruk, or Great Shadow, was pretty obvious as well. "Only five people have ever ridden the Toruk." "In the time of Great Sorrow." "I had a dream about flying--I felt free."

And another rather used point was that the entire ecosystem is linked together like a human brain and can think. True, I hadn't heard the "uploading and downloading memories" before, but I've seen the whole general idea several times; I see it in a lot of science fiction books (Le Guin, Asimov, etc.) about new planets that have been discovered, and now it's cropping up in the movies. (Who coined the idea? Do you know?)

There was an awful lot of violence going around. People getting burned, people getting smashed, people getting stuck with arrows, and I just thought, "Can we please get on with it?" because while I enjoyed watching the Na'vi triumph over us evil humans and regain Pandora, I thought that the violence went overboard.

I also have a few bones to pick with the way the violence occurred. Like when the helicopters went down--exploding, and certainly on fire. If you've got flaming projectiles hitting those flammable trees, shouldn't that burn down the whole darn forest? And when the Colonel Quaritch sent the gas into Hometree, it seemed to me that he could have used . . stronger stuff. I just thought that if you can make other animals keel over almost instantly, that there were more efficient ways of getting rid of the Na'vi. I don't meant to be sadistic or anything--I'm just saying I thought that it was incongruously easy for the targeted people to get away.

OTHER than all that, I have to congratulate the people who took care of the visual stuff. I loved Pandora! The plants, the animals, the scenery, the vistas. (Although could someone explain to me how mountains can float?) The music was nice, too. Not my favorite, (although I did like it better than LOTR's), but it was fine for the movie. The Na'vi themselves were cool. I didn't really get how their braids got feelers on the ends of them but the link between them and their animals was an interesting concept.

Jake Sully: well, actually, I liked him. He was interesting to watch. His dilemmas were fairly common and rather easy to guess, but I think he's more appealing than, say, his counterpart John Smith. Neytiri was okay . . . but I didn't really see anything that screamed spectacular. She hunts, but there's nothing about being a really good hunter. She rides, but there's nothing about riding that's too hard for the Na'vi. She flies, but so do many others. She may be the heir to the spiritual leader position in the tribe, but really, what's all that great about her?

Trudy Chacon was pretty much your stereotyped tough-girl kind of person. Tsu-tey was, again, sort of the stereotyped hostile-patriotic-foolhardily-brave warrior. The Colonel had the typical gungo-ho, military personality, and while I certainly detested him, there wasn't anything that said "individual!" Norm was normal. I did like Grace, though. Even despite the fact that she is (AGAIN) the stereotyped version of a scientist.

The romance part of it was predictable. He's a guy. She's a girl. What else is going to happen? (Could someone please explain to me where this idea that Neytiri's pregnant came from? Is this just a fan-thing, or did I miss something in the actual movie?) I expected someone to die in the end--either Jake or Neytiri, but more like Neytiri. But--get this--they didn't! Thank you, Cameron, for not killing either of them.

So. The summary. Plot: east to guess, although the ideas are cool. It seems like Cameron here took a whole lot of influences and plots, threw them together and called it Avatar.

Characters: stereotyped, but effective. I would have liked to see more diversity, but hey, they were all right stereotyped.

Setting: fantastic and amazing.  Kudos to the designers.

Action: overboard and maybe-just-a-lot of death. I would have liked to see something a little more intelligent than a fleet of helicopters . . . but that's the way it goes.

Romance: fine, but there's not much drama and/or interesting stuff thrown into it. The chemistry is pretty flat, and you know that Neytiri's going to love Jake again at the end of it all, even despite the fact she screams at him to "Get away!"

Is this movie worth spending 162 minutes of your life on? Sure. Go watch it. (If you haven't--this is rather unlikely--watched it yet.) It's worth the time.

-----The Golden Eagle


Brooke said...

I haven't watched Pocahontus or however you spell it, lol. But I actually loved the movie. I'm actually a big fan of action myself, and I like the whole connection with the trees thing.

It's a whole different planet with a completely different kind of place... mountains can float if they want to, lol.

And like I said, the things at the end of their hair are there for a reason.

Well, I don't completely agree with this review myself (though I do find the army guy annoying).

There IS one thing that really stood out to me though. In most movies, the person would have said something like "I can't stay here... earth is my home." Or "I belong a human, I can't be an Avatar." but in this movie he did what all the viewers wanted him to do-stay.

Anonymous said...

I love the movie Avatar it's one of my favorites of my list of movies! :D

John The Bookworm said...

I disagree on wasting 162 minutes of my life on this movie. x_x I watched it on the way back from a theater trip to NYC, and it was a snooze. As I've said on Twitter: explosions do NOT equal proper conflict, and a lot of this movie was explosions and CHWWAAAA boom kind of things. The similarities to Pocahontas are indeed many. It can also be compared to Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest and this one animated movie called Deldo or something...

There was a LOT of controversy as to how cliched and derivative the story was. IMO, they waited too long to make the movie. The visuals were SPECTACULAR, but the movie itself? Any originality it had was long gone, and thus my interest in it was much the same. :p

The Golden Eagle said...

Brooke: I'm glad he stayed. I suppose he did this time because there really didn't seem to be any family left for him on Earth; brother's dead, and there was no mention of parents or anything.

Brena: I'm glad you liked it!

John the Bookworm: CHWAAA boom things can get on my nerves too--I don't mind some action, but there was a lot of it in this movie.

I've never heard of Fern Gully . . . or Deldo for that matter. Maybe that's a good thing? LOL.

Very unoriginal, but it's true that the VFX was good. At least they didn't ruin that, too.

laughingwolf said...

i don't like anything that arrogant cameron does, so will not see this!

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen it yet, but from what you say, it sounds interesting!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Avatar was a beautiful movie to watch. But the plot was lacking. Special effects and 3D isn't enough in my book. I want my movies to have everything, not just pouring so much attention into a few areas and recycling the rest.

The Golden Eagle said...

Laughingwolf: I doubt I'll watch anything else Cameron directed/produced; Avatar was okay, but I'm not a fan or anything.

Shaynie: Well, maybe you'll like it!

Nicole Zoltack: Definitely. The plot wasn't too great . . .

Elana Johnson said...

I liked the movie well enough, and I totally agree with your analysis. My daughter recently got Pocahontas at the library, and I was like, "Avatar!" :)

The Golden Eagle said...

LOL. They're different, but yeah, there are a lot of similarities.

Novroz said...

I enjoy reading your post.

I watched this movie simply because my student told me that the visual effect is crazy. I've seen the trailer once and once is enough to figure out how the story goes. Because of that trailer, I didn't want to watch the movie at all...I hate movie that I can guess easily...however, my student's recommendation on the effect intrigued me, so I finally watched it.

My review on the movie was 'I love the visual effect, it was breathtaking, but I the story bored me to death' The story makes me ONLY want to watch this movie just once in my life.

The Golden Eagle said...

Yeah. I don't think I'll be watching it again soon either . . .