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 surprisingly familiar-looking 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 mashups of Earth-based animals for their inspiration, rather than closing their eyes and imagining entirely different lifeforms (see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets for a good example of how to do it right). Making matters amusingly 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.

Meanwhile, the humanoids and their trappings are even more familiar. Give American Indians blue skin, tell us a story about their plight at the hands of the evil white men from afar, and sprinkle liberally with mumbo-jumbo about about how everyone and everything is connected—a point that is carefully explained to us in detailed scientific terms (remember midichlorians, anyone?). The Na'vi even have USB ports growing out of their hair! 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 the story. Then again, the story was pretty juvenile (Unobtanium? Give me a break!). Honestly, I'm convinced special effects were 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.

Speaking of bladder problems, the first of several sequels, entitled The Way of Water (how funny is that), is due for a December 2022 release. It's also said to be—get this—three hours long. And Cameron has made clear just what kind of egotistical loon he's become: he's already announced to the world—six months in advance of its release—that he does not want to hear complaints from anyone that it's "too f*cking long." He justifies this myopic view by citing how people "binge-watch TV shows for eight hours at a time," seemingly ignorant of the fact that binge-watchers can pause a video to go pee, whereas theater audiences lack that option. Sheesh, what an asshole. Then, consider the fact that it's been over a decade since the original film was released: how many faithful followers will still be interested in a too-much-too-late juggernaut? Cameron might need to offer a refresher course on how to be a good Avaturd.

UPDATE: My friend who took me to see the original in 3D gave me her personal take on Way of the Water, and given she's a hardcore Avaturd, I had to respect her opinion. Bottom line? "Meh." Of course, that runs against the skyrocketing ticket sales, so there are a lot of less-discerning fans out there boosting the film's profits most likely so they can see III and IV. Don't hold your breath for any reviews here; I'm saving my $ for stuff I'm sure to enjoy much more. My job is done here. Adios!

Also see the Lucas Effect.

DKS 12/17/17
Rev 2/12/23




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