It’s not that I hated the movie. It did look stunning, it was a beautiful world, and I’ll give it credit for being the first 3-D movie that didn’t completely beat me over the head with it’s “3-D-ness” if you know what I mean.
The problem is, although it looked amazing, it’s just kindof a sucky movie. It could be that I’m being extra harsh on it, because it hits so many personal pet peeves of mine. It preaches so hard about being anti-technology, anti-military, anti-capitalist… those things kindof bother me, because I love technology, I love the military, and I love capitalism. And it’s ironic to me that a man like Cameron, who uses insane levels of technology to make tons of money of visualizations of war, would be so against all those things.
I just don’t like the whole, “set up a straw man and beat the crap out of him for three hours” approach to characters, which is what Avatar did. It set up certain characters that you were supposed to hate, and made them souless, shells of human beings.
I do a lot of caricature art in my spare time. Caricatures are about taking an element of a person, and exaggerating it to the point of hilarity. So to say that Avatar’s characters are caricatures of human beings is particularly apt. The military general, the scientists, the corporate boss, the aliens… none of them exhibit any of the depth that a real person shows (and I don’t just mean the acting), they are all exaggerations of things, distorted to the point of hilarity. And I do mean hilarity. There were several lines of dialogue that left me wondering how comedy shows were going to parody the movie, since it’d be difficult to exaggerate the characters and the dialogue any further. Especially towards the end, the movie almost became a parody of itself.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, after all, most superhero stories, saturday morning cartoons, and other children’s adventure writing uses the same techniques, and I generally like that kindof stuff. I still watch and enjoy episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would expect this kind of exaggerated writing from an old episode of G.I. Joe. But to see it in a movie that I’m expected to take seriously as an adult… thats just kinda sad. Plus, G.I. Joe and the Turltes were about teaching me that I could accomplish things, and how to stop-drop-and roll, and that knowledge is half the battle… but Avatar wasn’t trying to teach any of that stuff, it was trying to teach me that technology, the military, and trying to provide a living for your family are all evil things, and we’d be much better off living in a forest somewhere with very little clothing and no toothbrushes or plumbing.
Ok, I’ll end the rant. Even with all that, it was visually a breathtaking movie, I’ll give it that. It looked amazing, and if somewhere out there there’s some filmmakers who can use those amazing visual techniques to tell a story that has as much depth and subtlety as the visuals… then we’ll really be moving the movie industry forward.