Dec 202009

I have no desire to see the movie Avatar.

I realize that, in some ways, I have just committed some kind of sin that shall get me ostracized from geek subculture, but the statement is true. I’m just not interested. I fully admit that the film looks to be a special effects bonanza. James Cameron has never failed to deliver in that particular regard, and some of the films from his body of work are all-time, and often quoted, favorites of mine (especially Terminator and Aliens). Cameron also directed another film that I saw in the theater called Titanic. In fact, I saw it in the theater three times. That little blockbuster of a film broke all kinds of records and got a whole bunch of Academy Award nominations.

I can’t watch it today.

I mean, I could…but I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do with my time. Things like, I dunno…cleaning my ears. Checking my cat for worms. I think you get my point.

The reason I feel that way about the film is because I feel like Titanic was, ultimately, a rip-off. Cameron made sweet, sweet love to our eyeballs for a few hours and did so in a mind blowing fashion but the next morning he was gone and he left a note on the bathroom window saying that we might want to call our doctor and get checked for STD’s. Titanic had the potential to be a movie that would stand the test of time, and the fact that he created a bogus story to tell on top of the tragedy that was the Titanic is, in some ways, a bit insulting to those who died that day if you really think about it. It’s pretty much a statement that, of all of their stories, none of them were good enough to get people to come to the theater and watch a movie. Not really a valid statement when he had Kathy Bates playing “the unsinkable” Molly Brown.

Now I know a lot of you might look at the fact that I saw Titanic in the theaters three times and say “Well, you obviously enjoyed yourself when you went to see it.” You’d be 100% correct. I did. I cannot argue that fact, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I thought it was an awesome film at the time.

I’m older now, though, and I have those rose-colored glasses on. I’m also, financially, in a place where I have to be a little more choosy about where I spend my money (largely due to the fact that back then I wasn’t and I did stupid shit like going to see the same movie in the theaters three times). Avatar looks amazing, but everything I’ve read about it so far excuses the plot. Everything. There isn’t a single person I know, or article I’ve read, that has managed to avoid excusing the plot in the terms of the special effects.

I find this utterly unacceptable in a film that is reported to be the most expensive film ever made.

Really.  The movie reportedly costs $500 million dollars to make. He could easily have dropped a few million on some writers who were worth a damn and gotten a decent story out of it as well.

Why, you may ask, didn’t he do that?

Because he wrote the fucking thing.

If you look at the two movies I mentioned as being favorites of mine?  Cameron was a writer on them, yes. But Terminator was loosely based on a short story by Harlan Ellison and had a team of writers. Aliens had a bigger one.

Titanic? Solo writing credit for Mr. Cameron.

Avatar? Solo writing credit.

You see where I’m going with this.

It’s the same bullshit George Lucas pulled with the Star Wars films. Lucas is a visionary and had an amazing story he could tell. He also had a host of writers who had written some phenomenal stories set in the Star Wars universe that he could easily have hired to work on his movies (Timothy Zahn, author of the stellar Heir to the Empire series, comes to mind). Instead he chose to write the movies himself and, well, we’ve all seen how well that came out.

I’m tired of the excuse that special effects movies are, ipso facto, allowed to be devoid of the basics of good storytelling and character development. In fact, I reject that argument outright. Why? Pixar. Those folks manage to turn out computer generated films that are 100% special effects and yet they take the time to focus in on the plot. Blade Runner is another one that comes to mind. Hell, the thing that made The Dark Knight such a mind-blowing movie was the performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker, and that wasn’t necessarily a cheap movie to make, either.

I am not opposed to popcorn films. I still say Starship Troopers is a great flick and that was about as devoid of real plot and character development as you can get. I have a very hard time, however, swallowing the bitter pill that is the fact that the biggest budget film ever is one in which those who review it make statements like I can’t say I was moved, and it doesn’t match “Terminator 2” for excitement, but for size, spectacle and sensory overload, “Avatar” delivers on the hype. For better or for worse, it’s a must-see. (, Review: ‘Avatar’ delivers on the hype).

As an actor and a member of an artistic community here in the Tampa Bay area that is desperately struggling through this recession I cannot bring myself to drop the $20 it would cost to see this film when that money (if it was there) could get me in to see a night of live theater instead. Or, for that matter, could get me in to see the latest Cohen brothers film. I’m not saying that I will never see Avatar, nor am I saying that there is no way I’m going to enjoy it when I finally do, but for the time being I think this one is going to have to be on my “wait for the DVD” list.

P.S. If your first thought about reading that statement was “but you won’t enjoy the movie if you don’t see it on the big screen” you’ve just validated everything I wrote above.

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  4 Responses to “Why I won’t be seeing Avatar.”

  1. It seems to me like the heavier something is on the CGI/Special effects, the more it’s like watching cut scenes from a video game, stilted dialog, goofy plot and all.

  2. wow..nice condemnation of a movie with out seeing based on reported costs..
    unless your an investor in the move, why does how much it cost matter?
    simple, it doesn’t.
    good story, good acting matter.
    good sets matter.

    and it cost around 300 mil, with another 100 advertising campaign…
    and most of that money went into developing new tech, not just buying more dells for rendering.
    the tech has changed how movies will be made(like star wars, matrix and LOTR did technically)
    you need to do some reading up on the tech developed.(serious geek reading, not the crap on movie sites or wired) I listened to an 1hr long interview with Cameron on the Tech. if did not have a date, i would have sat in the car and listened to the rest (i luv sat radio)

    the story is good, and acting is good. the effects are used effectively, to move the story along.
    yes, it is very very very pretty, creating an impossible alaien world so detailed and full of life you leave the theater wanting to live there and be one of the aliens just so you could life in a place so full of life.

    Is the story 100% original? no… there are bits and pieces from a wide range of stories/movies.
    so what?
    Sci fi, it is an incestuous genre.
    Some Sci fi movies are remakes of Great westerns, which been remakes of Samurai movies……
    Stories get recycled. how many bits of a Shakespeare play get included in other stories?
    Matrix had some William Gibson in it. did it make it a derivative? no.

    Avatar does tell a slightly familiar story in a unique way, and does it well.
    there are subtleties in the story (corporate security, unaffordable health care, over polluted worlds, corporate drones/middle managers, etc….) that are that subtleties.

    and the 3d is not a gimmick (other than the first 5 minutes). it enhances the movie greatly.
    and yes, go see it in 3d.

    just do not get a large drink.. it is 160 minutes long…

    Remember walking out of the Matrix and saying “Now they can make Spiderman!”

    Now they can make “the Chronicles of Amber”

    • You’re the first person I’ve seen who actually said the story was good, Brooks. It seems like everyone else I’ve seen who even mentioned it totally passed off the need for there to actually BE a good story in it.

      And, really…I didn’t even touch on the themes of the story and how much of a bold contradiction they are to being responsible for the most expensive movie ever made.

      Like I said in my post – If my financial situation was a bit different right now and I had more “disposable” income I’d probably have seen it already. As it stands when I have the occasion to go out now I have to be very choosy about where I spend my money. I’m sure that if I saw Avatar in the theater I would enjoy it for all the reasons that those who have seen it did, but because of my feelings towards the movie as it stands I’m not going out of my way to do so.

  3. I enjoyed the heck out of it. Aside from Maria saying she’d already seen Ferngully so many times, it was a great movie in many ways.

    I like the detail he went into in making the movie. Much of it you don’t see in the film. The language was actually developed in it’s entirety by a linguist. Grammar, sentence structure, etc. He saw the Klingon example and went ahead and did it up front. Every plant you see in the film was written up by a botanist as to how it works and interacts with the world.

    The story is a similar theme to many movies, whether Dances with Wolves in Space, Pocahantas or Ferngully (at least it wasn’t Die Hard in Space. That’s already been so overdone). Most stories are based on certain themes. This is largely because they work. This can be seen as a rehash of a basic white guilt type of film where the one white guy who was sent to infiltrate the native population comes to like the natives and their way of life and fights against his own kind to try to stop the destruction or enslavement of the natives. They don’t always end the same way, and the setting is generally different.

    Geronimo, Pocahontas and Dance with Wolves were all the same theme, and nearly the same setting. It doesn’t mean they are not a good story. How many times have Yojimbo or Seven Samurai been redone?

    I’m not excusing the story, I like the story. Even Avatar’s thematic similarities to other films, which is no new thing by any means. I’ll be there for the sequels because I liked this one and like what has been done here. Just like I liked Titanic and have seen it a few times besides the 3 I also saw it in the theater.

    Besides, we are talking about art. Art is subjective and really serves no purpose but to make us feel a certain way for a while. A painting on your wall does nothing. If you like it, it reminds you of something that makes you happy, then it is good to you. Brooks may look at it and think it is a crappy waste of wall space. You’re both right. Same with songs, movies, theater-acting, games, and books. “Good art” is whatever tickles your pickle.

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