Digital Polyphony

film, games, memories & random thoughts


Avatar is why We Go to the Movies

Posted on December 22, 2009 at 7:21 PM

I’ll keep this simple. Avatar is a reminder of what it’s like to have fun at the movies. Now, that can be said for a lot of films, especially heavy special effects driven action flicks, but those are what they are. You enjoy them, then move on. Avatar is in a league all its own and not only do you find yourself immensely entertained, you become captivated by it all – something rare in film going today.

This is why you go to movies. Have you forgotten? Hell, I've been looking to no avail for years (although Star Trek, earlier this year, came damn close) With all the bullshit action movies that Hollywood throws out these days, do you remember what is was like to sit and find pure entertainment? Avatar is everything you want and more. The artistry, the imagination, the epic feel and sense of wonder. Movies like Avatar don’t come around too often, and when they do I think some people just don’t know how to react to it. This isn’t some rudimentary junk with special effects, ala GI Joe and Transformers 2.  To be transported to this time and place, and truly feel the world and be a part of it, to actually give a damn about giant blue aliens and an entire planet, shows that the person behind the camera is at least doing something right.

That person has been doing something right since the mid 80s, and Hollywood still hasn’t quite caught up to him. He comes back, 12 years later, and bitch-slaps every wannabe action/sci fi director out there.

But as is the case with Avatar, hype builds. It’s the return of James Cameron afterall, so I can’t blame people for being excited. I suppose that’s the difference between myself compared to the a majority of moviegoers (especially internet people who complain a lot). I look forward to something, but I never fall into the hype.

So, in lue of this fantastic film, let’s take a look at the begruding critics’ most often criticisms. Let me give a quick note that Avatar is not a perfect film, it’s just a damn good one and I think that due to it not being a perfect film, people tend to overact and find any flaw that they can (only now attached with a 10 kiloton “I hate thee” bomb attached).

“This is the story he’s been working on for 12 years?”


No, this is the product and experience he’s been working on and you can’t tell me you have seen something like it before because I know you haven’t (because I haven’t). For better or worse, Cameron’s stories have never been particularly good, his dialogue cheesy and a lot of the characters pretty straightforward. But he always gives us a good piece of entertainment and at least tells his story well. It may not have the depth you want, hamfisted at times, but it’s still enjoyable and a complete “beginning to end” story that is told. What is done is all there can be done and Cameron does all he can here. The truth is, if you know Cameron at all, you should know what to expect. He’s always been very broad and simple, forces some issues at times, but he also always delivers on an entertaining experience.


“I can name a half dozen other movies with the same plot.”


If you boil everything down to one singular sentence, everything will be similar. Many cite Dances with Wolves has similarities, as well as the animated film Ferngully and its environmental themes (although that's out of pop culture awareness, there were films before Ferngully with the same ideas). Dances with Wolves can be traced back to the story of John Smith and Pocahontas, or the countless Greek myths a majority of basic plots are based of not to mention numerous other "stranger coming to new culture to help" films before and since. Hell, King Kong has similar themes. The fact is, this story has not been told. The story of Pandora. What's more, is Cameron went on record and noted Dances With Wolves and the numerous science fiction stories he loved as a child as inspiration. It's not as though he's passing the thing off as some original piece of storytelling.

It’s about the journey, not the destination. There will always be something derivative from something else, and I’ve always found it peculiar how those people that complain of such things are fans of Star of the most derivative pieces of cinema in history. Does that mean it’s bad as well? Of course not. To use “it’s derivative” as a nitpicky scapegoat is amateurish and juvenile.


“Who cares about 3D?”


If you ask this, you haven’t seen it in 3D, have you? It’s part of the film, just as the audiotrack and subtitles. 90% of the 3D movies out there use it as a gimmick, to draw attention to itself and make you duck in your seat with shit flying at you. Avatar is far more subtle if not beautiful, truly making  you feel a part of the world not just a spectator, and I couldn’t imagine the film without it. I fear some hold 3D against it because they feel they shouldn't have to see it in 3D. Those people are missing the point completely.


“It’s too long.”


A little, perhaps. But it’s always moving forward at least. It’s a big picture, length kind of comes with the territory (i.e. the Lord of the Rings films).


"Their hair/networking interface thing is stupid."


Yeah, that is pretty dumb. Cameron has never been one for subtlety, but this "communication" and "network" could have been as easily shown as hands holding (as we do see in one scene with the Na'vi all clasping together. As they are the allegorical "planet" it didn't need to be spelled out with computer symbolism.)

Yet, if you're using this as a basis for disliking the film, you're trying too hard (and failing, I might add).

I'm sure there'll be more criticisms as the weeks roll by, Avatar dominates the world and more backlash comes forth (hell, that backlash was there before the movie even came out). So expect sequels to this blog, but I thought it best to address some common complaints on it. Avatar isn't a perfect film, but if you weren't entertained and captivated by it, then I pity you.

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