Monday, January 4, 2010

Further Avatar analysis

Andy summed up the movie nicely in his review. Though the effects may be revolutionary, the story certainly isn't. That's not to say it's a bad story or a bad movie, because it definitely isn't.... it's just a touch predictable. Not only is a predictable and pretty damn close to Dances with Wolves, but a lot of it seems borrowed from elsewhere.

How many people watched Stephen Lang in the finale's fight and thought, "hmmm that suit looks straight out of the Matrix Revolutions?" Because I did. When I thought on it some more, it also reminded me of the armor that Wikus wears for his big fight in District 9. But really, all of those are just rip offs of Metal Gear, right?

How many people watched the alien elephant charge and thought, "hmmm that alien elephant charge looks straight out of Return of the King?" Yep, me too. And the flying gunships resembled the gunships in the Incredibles. But forget props... what about plot? The whole resurrection gimmick also reeked of Neo and the Matrix. We already know about the similarities to Dances With Wolves and Pocahontas.

To me, it felt like Cameron had this idea for an incredibly awesome technological concept: Take the most advanced motion capture simulation we've ever seen, add some photorealistic CG scenery, and throw it in 3D that's used more for depth, layering, and atmosphere. In doing all this ambitious stuff technologically, he either forgot to focus on an innovative new plot, or he realized that people wouldn't be able to handle the new stuff if he didn't wrap it in an old story.

I get it, and it works. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking this is a Best Picture contender. Will it revolutionize movies like Star Wars did in 1977? Maybe, but Star Wars didn't win Best Picture either. Star Wars was just as epic from a sound/visual effects standpoint, but Lucas served it up with an old story straight out of classical mythology. I love Star Wars, and I really don't want it to sound like I hate Avatar with all the bashing I'm doing. I would give it a solid B+. I thought it crammed a lot of stuff into 2 hours and 45 minutes. It could have easily been extended into an epic trilogy like LOTR. We didn't spend enough time with the Navi to really care when their whole world (tree) came crashing down. But it still had the best motion capture I've ever seen. It had visual effects that make Return of the King seem dated, and one kick-ass villain in Stephen Lang (don't you just love when he leads the attack with a mug of coffee in his hand? What an asshole.)


Now consider what Avatar's accomplished in 18 days. Remember the epic hype even back during pre-production. Cameron was promising a new age of film. Other directors were visiting the set and saying it would blow our minds. The reviews were surprisingly stellar across the board. And then it went on to bust through $1 billion in just 18 days (it took Dark Knight it's entire theatrical run to do that). Word of mouth is getting people to theaters much like it did for Titanic. Girls who aren't into sweeping sci-fi epics are coming out saying "I'm surprised that is was sooooo good." This is going to br one to remember, folks, because it's probably going to go down as the #2 movie of all time in terms of money. Isn't it safe to say that James Cameron has pushed aside Spielberg and any other contender as the top director in the world?

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