I see you, Neytiri - Thoughts on Avatar

There are certainly thousands of reviews for a movie that, as of this weekend, has grossed more than 2.5 billion dollars worldwide.

I stayed away from those reviews as much as possible so my experience with the movie might be untainted.

This is the final week for the 3D version of Avatar to play in our town, as with many, because room must be made for the next 3D extravaganza, Alice in Wonderland. With the epic running 2 ½ hours a weekday jaunt was out of the question, so last night was do or don’t. So we did.

Before reading further, this is a spoiler further on. So if you haven’t seen it, you might want to stop after The Politics section below.

The Effects:

The 3D experience continues to fascinate me. How do they do that? What trick are they playing on my retina to make me believe that there is a deadly creature literally flying right out of the screen, hovering above the poor folks in front of me? And each time I see a film with this new 3D I’m astounded all over again. This is not your Red and Blue glasses 3D of Friday the 13th III, with arrows and machetes blurring towards unsuspecting victims number one and two. This is something completely different. Still, with such a long film, the effect begins to dull over time. Either my eyes got used to it and the dazzle factor dulled or the movie had more effects in its first half. Either way, if you are going to see it, try to see this version. In many scenes it’s nothing short of breathtaking.

The world is spectacular and seamless. I’m a fantasy/science fiction lover, so maybe the world won’t have the same intensity for all. But I doubt it. The creatures are fantastic, if not a touch few in number for a movie that took seven years to create. The aliens are beautiful, rich in history and texture, sexual and wild without going over the top. The flora and landscape are brilliant and I love how Cameron shows the evolutionary differences for a world that grew up with less gravity than our own.

The Violence:

This is largely a military conflict film. The whole thing is saturated with it, even on the side of the peace-loving aliens. While it doesn’t get gory, lots of death and destruction is involved, especially in the second half. I understand that this was necessary to tell the planned story (unless you want it to be a Disney flick) but it turned off both my wife and my daughter, especially my daughter. On the other hand my son and I totally dug these sequences. So does that make it a guy movie? Yeah, mostly. It is. They showcase the romance of the story in the media, I think, to boost female theater goers. And there is romance to be sure, but mountains more explosions, shootouts, pissing contests and general chest thumping.

The Politics:

James Cameron is a tree-hugging, bleeding-heart liberal, and I mean that in the kindest possible way. He is very clear in this story how he feels about corporate greed, deforestation, the treatment of natives for profit and the general virus of humanity spreading across the planet. It’s a political film. Some have a problem with this. I do not, because I believe very strongly that nearly all films are political in one direction or the other. Without slanting, without bias, stories become bland and meaningless. Would you like white toast or focaccia with your Fettuccine Alfredo? Even though the focaccia is a little too crunchy for me, I want to taste what I’m eating thank you very much. So if the politics are going to turn you off, don’t go see it. You can spend thirty bucks some other way and have a much better time.

The Performances:

I thought the acting and dialogue were terrific with one exception. I take that back, even in this role the acting was great. But the character was terrible and the dialogue was so ridiculous my wife and I began to laugh at it towards the end. Colonel Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lange) is every stereotypical army jar head the dramatic industry has ever created, all rolled into one charicature of crap.

“Come to papa,” he says as he tries to kill our hero. He earlier warns, “This low gravity'll make you soft. When you get soft... Pandora'll sh&t you out dead with zero warning.” “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Really. He actually said that. “Nothing’s over while I’m still breathin’.” And on and on and on. By the time we got home we were calling him Major Chip Hazard from Small Soldiers. Lange is an accomplished actor both on stage and screen and he deserves heavy credit for his work. But not for this one, except maybe credit for being in phenomenal shape for a 58 year old, or a 40 year old for that matter.

The Story:

I don’t know about you, but when I’m watching a movie I like to figure stuff out as I go. It must be difficult as a writer to set this up considering the differing levels of intelligence in the moviegoer population. I’m certainly guilty of stereo-typing and predictability in my work. But I know surprise can be accomplished and really should be for half a billion bucks.

So when a story line is so drastically simple and predictable that the entire synopsis pops into my head in the first twenty minutes of watching, I feel a little cheated. Surprise me just a bit. Come on. You can do it. No, apparently not in the case of Avatar.

You know the love story the first twenty seconds they share the screen. You know the prophecy our hero will fulfill about three minutes after that. You know what the greedy corporate guy is going to do and how he will fail. You know the tough army chick is going to show up in the end to help the good guys, but get blown out of the sky anyway. You know that Chip Hazard will be all but indestructible until the love interest saves her man with a couple of arrows to the colonel’s chest. You know that Mother Nature will intervene on the side of the natives in spectacular fashion. You definitely know that, in the end, our hero will be able to join his avatar body forever and leave his crippled, tiny human body behind. And you know that ultimately the humans (who are about half the size of the aliens by the way) will be ushered unceremoniously off the planet after their complete and total defeat.


So it’s a roller-coaster ride… that you’ve already been on a hundred times… but they upgraded it for the cost of an entire amusement park. It’s faster and shinier, and although you can predict all the rolls and turns you still wouldn’t mind taking another run.

My son wants to buy the movie the second it comes out and kept asking me, “What if we could be like the Na’vi?”

It did its job. It made a small nation’s worth of money and created an eight-year old boy fan base who will beg to purchase every action figure, every Lego set and every video game they see.

Hmmmm, does that sound like corporate greed? Kinda. I wonder how that settles with good ol’ Mr. Cameron?

Just asking.


  1. We did not care to see the movie and have not gone to see it. But I am more interested now that I read your post. Great huge amount of info and I like this much info on a review.

  2. Yeah, I don't normally write blog posts this long. I don't think most care to read a blog for that long. But I do appreciate your appreciation! Thanks TB.

  3. I refuse to see this movie. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine movie, and I have no doubts that its visuals are astounding. It just pisses me off how 90% of the people I talk to about this have no legit reasons for me to see this, and are like OMG THIS MOVIE IS AMAZING!!11!!!!! THE EFFECTS WERE GREAAAAAAT!!!1!!
    And then they're like GO SEE IT! And I'm like no, good effects don't make good movies, and I prefer movies with plots, that aren't recommended by someone who's favorite movie in the last year was GI Joe. So if your gonna pay my 11 dollars, buy me popcorn, an icee, and advil for the headache 3D always gives me, I just might go. Maybe. That's if it *doesn't* win an academy award for anything other than visuals.
    HAH rant over...

  4. Yes, that's extremely annoying and what most of the folks I talked to did as well. I guess that's why I went nuts and did a more in depth review of the thing.


  5. I cannot say I love this film, though it was indeed a colourful and wondrous adventure.

    I am more of an epic fantasy fan. Give me blood, swords and magic any day :)

    And yes, this is indeed a rather long review.

    Great movies are somewhat like points of interest in the calendar of my life. We anticipated movies through their trailers and promos. We got to hate / love them after watching and hey! there's another interesting movie coming soon to the cinemas near us. :)

  6. Anonymous1/3/10 21:22

    Great review! I think you got it just right. One small addition; I felt the story was very safe. It's as if James Cameron was rolling the dice on the technology and wanted a plot that would carry the visuals without getting in the way.

    As well-worn as the plot was, I think it was competently handled and managed to get me emotionally involved (more like a casual date though, not a full-fledged relationship).

    One last thought. At least there was some character development and a reason to attach to the characters. Too many movies don't even bother to develop their characters at all.


  7. Great job on the review!

    I thought Avatar was a gorgeous movie to watch (minus the violence) but the story was so simple it practically screamed Pocahontas and John Smith.

    The 3-D was very cool but I guess I'm a wimp-- I was so green watching the film I had to take the glasses off and put my head between my knees a few time. Oy.

    But am I glad I saw it? Absolutely! The effects will change the future of movies.... And Mr. Cameron is patting himself on the back for being King of the World-- again.



This is where you come in...