Enjoying Scifi Blog

August 15, 2010

I finally saw Avatar

Filed under: Movies, Review — Stephen L. Thompson @ 1:22 am

I wasn’t that impressed.

When I first heard about Avatar, I thought, That might be interesting.  Like most things, I took a wait-and-see attitude.  But then, even before it came out, I started reading how it would “change the way movies are made.” Stuff like that … annoys me.  I actually like, surprise surprise, good movies.  I don’t really care if they’re groundbreaking in their production.  So if anything, hearing Avatar was this “game changer” movie made me less likely to see it.

Then the reviews started coming out.  It seemed they all went along the lines of, “The effects are fantastic.” “How’s the plot?” “The effects are fantastic.” I thought the whole Star Wars Prequels debacle would convince Hollywood that special effects don’t replace plot.  I know, I’m an idealist.

Then I guess it was over Christmas I was home watching a Mythbusters marathon.  What sucked was it seemed EVERY commercial break had something Avatar.  Either a trailer for Avatar, or some phone with some Avatar feature, or some Avatar promotion at a restaurant, or some schmuck asking, “Has one of your loved ones committed suicide in the hope they’d be reincarnated on Pandora?  Then call my law firm at blah blah blah.” And I swear, there was one commercial break where all the commercials were Avatar related.  I’m the type of person where the more something is hyped, the less likely I’ll be interested in it.  So after being bombarded with everything Avatar, I decided, screw it, I won’t shell out ten bucks to see it.  I know, I’d miss all the amazing effects by not seeing it in 3-D, but I was sick of hearing about it.

So anyway, the other day I saw it in the movie section of my local library, and I checked it out.  At least that $1.50 goes to a good cause.  I’ll admit, I went into it not expecting to like it.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  In that regard, at least.

Since the main point of the movie was the effects, let me start there.  I did watch it on my dinky little TV screen, but even then, some of the creatures looked … bad.  I’ve seen how they use layers of effects to bring CGI creatures to live, like there’s a skin layer, then a fur layer, then a lighting layer, then a wind effect layer and stuff like that.  There were a couple times where, to me, it looked like the had forgotten the last few layers, and the creatures looked more like their plastic toy versions than what you’d expect an actual animal to look like.  I only saw the grand vistas on my TV and felt neutral about them.  I’ll grant that they may have been fantastic on the big screen, I don’t know.  As to the smaller, foreground stuff, I did get the feeling a lot of it was there for the same reason a lot of crap was in the Star Wars Prequels – to show the world they had the technology to do it.  Not for any silly thing like, say, plot.

Speaking of the plot, I wasn’t all that impressed.  I think my biggest problem was it felt like 90% of the movie was left out and all we saw were the big action scenes and some montages.  I think if it had been a Lord of the Rings style project, of three films filmed together, it might have been truly awesome.  It would break down like this.  The first film would start with more background on Jake and his brother and what Earth was like.  Then he’d go to Pandora, start training in his avatar, maybe have a scene where the base is attacked by the Na’vi and he helps defend it, and ends with him being chased by the thing and being saved by Neytiri.  The second film would go into detail his learning about the Na’vi and the people, becoming friends with some of them, perhaps being pressured into going on a raid of the sky people camp, and end with the destruction of the Hometree.  The third movie would be Jake fully becoming a native and gathering the forces for the colossal battle.

If there was more movie, then there would be more opportunity for the minor characters to, I don’t know, develop.  I mean, when Jake goes to bond with an Ikran, there are (I assumed) young Omaticaya cheering his name.  Who are they?  And when Jake first arrived there’s a scene of a giant dump truck or something with Na’vi arrows sticking out of the tires.  And since the Omaticaya are the only people nearby, they must be, I don’t know, raiding the sky people camp.  Why don’t we ever see such a raid?

So basically, I would have greatly preferred a deeper movie with more of a plot and character development.  If that could have been done without cutting into the effects, it might have been a fantastic movie.  As is, I felt if fell flat.

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