AVATAR

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Overall Impression – Not the Second Coming, but it’ll do for now.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

Who’s your main character? – Jake Sulley.

What’s he trying to accomplish? Professional: Integrate into the Na’vi people to help them. Personal: Find his place in the world now  that he’s lost use of his legs.  Private: Unclear.  Possibly believe in something in the aftermath of his brother’s death (but I may be projecting.)

Who’s trying to stop him? – Both the Na’vi, who don’t trust him, and Colonel Miles Quaritch, who feels that Jake’s gone native.

What happens if he fails? – The Na’vi will be destroyed and their sentient planet will be laid waste.

THE FOUR ARCHETYPES

Orphan – Jake’s twin brother is dead and — thanks to sharing his genius brother’s genome code — Jake is an outcast both to the scientists on the planet (he has no training) as well as to the soldiers who are less than sympathetic to a paraplegic soldier on such a hostile planet.

Wanderer – After being nominally accepted by the indigenous people of the planet, the 10 foot tall Na’vi, Jake is trained DANCES WITH WOLVES style in how to be a member of their race.

Warrior – As Jake has fallen in love with the warrior princess Neytiri, Jake fights for his rightful place amongst the people, slowly being accepted as one of them.

Martyr – Jake gives up his association with being human in order to live and fight with the Na’vi against the destruction of their culture.

AND, IN THE END…

AVATAR redefines epic for the new, 3D awareness.  As always, James Cameron is filthy with creativity and light on meaningful dramaturgy.  His story rockets along like a neurotoxin-tipped arrow and is completely and totally serviced by the characters and dialog.  I know that sounds like damning with faint praise, but it really isn’t.  One doesn’t go to a Cameron movie expecting to hear Tarantino.  You go to see a visual impresario at work, and in the case of AVATAR you get your money’s worth.

AVATAR’s problem isn’t that it’s predictable; anyone who’s seen DANCES WITH WOLVES knows the AVATAR story.  The problem with the movie is that AVATAR wears its’ story on its’ sleeve as heavily as its’ politics.  It’s the evil corporate goon from ALIENS, teamed up with the evil company from TERMINATOR 2, employing the evil soldiers from THE ABYSS.  Cameron has an anti-establishment song to sing, only we’ve heard it before.

The  compelling aspect of AVATAR isn’t the story but the integration of 3D technology into the story.  For all it’s faults, what AVATAR does do is single-handedly usher in the era of adult 3D movies.  No cheap gimmicks here; just the dawning of a new era in immersive story-telling.  For that alone, AVATAR needs to be respected.

Ultimately, AVATAR is a standard story told in game-changing style.

– Jeffrey Alan Schechter

7 Responses to “AVATAR”

  1. David Goulet December 22, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    Not the second coming….you kill me. Haven’t seen this yet, have no real desire to. It’s Pocahontas in space. I suspect Cameron saw the movie Terra and thought “With my budgets I can make this a live action tentpole.” Because from what I’ve seen of the trailers it’s an awful lot like Terra’s plot.

    Still, it’s movies like this, that demand to be seen on the big screen, that will save the movie biz. And that’s good news.

  2. Greg December 26, 2009 at 3:31 am #

    Couldn’t agree with you more about this film. I really loved looking at it but the story, in my opinion, was something we have already seen before. There are so many ‘other’ stories to tell that could have used this wonderful new tech and this is what we get! Ugh. I want Ringworld, Rama, and other great classic sci-fi stories that couldn’t be filmed until now!

  3. Patrick Edgeworth January 14, 2010 at 3:44 am #

    You have seen this before. It was like telling the story of the American Indian and ending it at the battle of the Little Big Horn.

  4. JayV January 20, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Jeffrey,

    Jake’s professional goal is not to integrate into the Na’vi people in order “to help them” so much as “to broker a diplomatic settlement with them” or “to find out what it’ll take for them to move”. Isn’t it? As for the Personal and the Private, hmmm … One of them ought to mention “becoming a warrior – again”

    Is it me or are you blaming the movie for not having been able to answer those questions as well as you usually do? That seems to be the wrong way around because the story worked fine. It just wasn’t very interesting, and certainly not very original. (It was never going to be 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

    Isn’t it the motion-capture technology that’s groundbreaking – the way the faces of the computer-generated characters have expressiveness that approaches that of the physically present actors. Not to mention the detail rendering of the landscape.

  5. totallywrite January 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    I think it’s you. 😉

    I don’t think Avatar failed to answer the questions, I just agree with you that it’s way too familiar. What’s groundbreaking to me about the film is how the shots are so totally designed to take advantage of depth, truly embracing the 3D technology in an organic way (as compared to the old SCTV “Doctor Tongue’s 3D House of Pancakes” type of cheeseball goof on 3D.)

  6. Winter February 13, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    Yes agree with all, the reason you just have to see it though is the technology. Ive never seen a movie like that before. Forget the story, it was just like everyone says. The part that made it a billion dollar movie is technology you’ve never seen before. GO SEE IT.

  7. Neil Skywalker April 27, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    I would give this movie a 7. It’s too politically correct and too much on the Al Gore tour for my liking. The special effects were amazing of course. An nice entertaining movie but nothing more.

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