2009, Lightstorm Entertainment et al
Although James Cameron's seriously overrated juggernaut has a veritable tsunami of fans, it also has a few stalwart detractors, including myself. A very good friend of mine, who invited me to join her seeing it in the theater in 3D, has confessed to being an "Avaturd," an obviously derogatory sobriquet for fanatical Avatar fans. She's seen it over a dozen times in the theater; her cousin, nearly thirty. Insert WTF meme of your choice here.
While I can fully appreciate its groundbreaking technical qualities, I remain skeptical as to its status as an all-time "great" film. Record-breaking profits aside (which exceed the GNP of some countries—how sick is that?), for me it's patently derivative and, beneath all of its retina-numbing special effects, too stupefying simplistic to be worthy of such accolades. It's almost as if there are subliminal messages implanted in the visuals that brainwash vulnerable audience members into becoming salivating, night-of-the-living-dead zombie fans, arms outstretched as they mindlessly shuffle back into the theaters from whence they'd just emerged the night before. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it.
After all of the pre-release hype, I expected much better. Cameron's idea of making "alien" creatures is to add extra legs to mash-ups of familiar earth animals on a planet with lower gravity. (Think about it: one would expect higher gravity to require extra legs. Ah, but I'm obviously over-thinking things.) Indeed, his design staff have openly confessed to using Earth-based life forms for their inspiration, rather than closing their eyes, perhaps taking some hallucinogenic drugs for assistance, and imagining something entirely different. To make matters worse, some of Pandora's terrain looks as if it was swiped wholesale from old Yes album covers. I could go on, but I'd need more bandwidth than I have.
However, my rating is also influenced by production value, which is astronomical by all accounts, as to be expected from a Cameron product. If I focused more on the forgettable performances and juvenile story (Unobtanium? Give me a break!), my rating would otherwise be a 2, or at best 3. As for seeing it in 3D, which is supposed to make it "immersive," and thus presumably more enjoyable, the growing eyestrain headache I suffered made it difficult for me to appreciate the imagery—as if the imagery were more important than story. Honestly, special effects seemed to be Avatar's raison d'être.
BTW, the bladder-bursting extended version available on disc offers more of the same turgid "prepare to be awed" special effects, and doesn't really add anything substantive to the original bladder-straining theatrical release. Thankfully, as if to vindicate my contrarian opinion, there are plenty of reviews by others who've seen right through Cameron's tricks, and laid bare his bloated, unoriginal moneymaking machine for what it really is. For further enlightenment—as well as amusement—simply search YouTube for Avatar reviews.
Two sequels are in production as I write this. Given how many delays they've suffered, I have to wonder if I'll live to see them. I'm not holding my breath.
GRUMPY OLD FART-O-METER® Rating:
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