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First of, all I can think of when I see that name is a goofy cartoonish face given to me for my Yahoo Chat 5 years ago, the one I never use and always wish I hadn't created when it turns up from time to time on various Yahoo question/answer forums. Now that that's out of the way... no, wait. I'm on to something here.
That's just it. Cameron needs to hire some script writers. The film is riddled with banal/unimaginative mines everywhere! like, Unobtanium??? That's the name for the metal that is worth destroying the biggest tree in the universe??? It's the same problem I had with Titanic: crappy script. Let's say I want to write a musical... and I do. I am writing one now. But let's say that when the time comes to direct it, I decide to choreograph the thing myself. I may do an okay job according to the handbook of "How to stupidly Choreograph High school Christmas Showtime Choir Concerts" but according to Broadway standards, D+ at best.
I honestly think if Cameron were born 100 years earlier, he would have been the greatest silent film maker of all time. He is a visual virtuoso of the highest order. It was just. so. visually. stunning. HOWEVER, at times, I felt like I was looking at a giant Thomas Kinkade gallery while tripping on acid. (No, mom, I've never really tried acid. Though that fire-hot chili dad makes is pretty hallucination-inducing sometimes.)
So yes, visually, the film is almost what everyone is saying about it. I wasn't overwhelmed like I was as a young lad watching Han Solo navigate through that asteroid field and into the belly of the space worm, but I was definitely impressed, enthralled at times, even.
I won't own it because you really have to see it in the big IMAX to get the full effect. There are plenty of reviews out there for this film and everyone knows what they are doing when they go see it. They are seeing the real King Kong chained up. They are seeing the three legged man dance ballet. They are watching a film spectacle that is so spectacular in its achievements that you forget what achievements are there, like forgetting that the Navi are digitally rendered. What has been accomplished in that 3-D arena is truly magnificent. However, it is so real, that I wondered how much money might have been saved if they would have had elaborate costumes and digitally rendered the tail and so forth.
As a visual spectacle, the film is worth seeing. As a moving story... I've seen Pixar shorts that are 3 academy awards ahead of this one in originality. It is a HORRIBLE Dances with Wolves rip. Throw in a little Gorillas in the Mist, equip with the woman who played in that movie and you've got a tasty little 90's save-the-natives clichéd film stew.
The worst problem I had with the film is Cameron's anti-American propaganda. It was garish and downright stupid. Even the liberal New Yorkers snickered at Cameron's BLATANT whack at W's regime and our presence in the Middle East. No sly wink. No little reference that would make you "aha!" later... It was whack over the head with a cinematic stick. "AMERICA SUCKS AND I'M USING MY 300 ZILLION DOLLARS TO EXPRESS IT WITH MY BIGTIME TITANIC MOVIE POWERS. I'M THE KING OF THE EFFING WORLD." That nearly ruined the film for me, honestly.
But I quickly forgot about it and was absorbed once again into the VISUAL world.
Go see it. But prepared to feel like you just had mom's dressing that wasn't quite as good as every other year but still good but still wasn't as good as every other year... but still good. "Humph. There's always next year. Hey! Wanna go to Sherlock Holmes???"
Avatar, Grade: B