Here’s a question to consider when wondering if you’ll enjoy James Cameron’s Avatar: do you love special effects? I mean really love them? Can they entertain you for three full hours? If so, Avatar was made for you. See it right now. Expect numerous eyegasms.
But if not – if you, like me, prefer mental stimulation over fireworks, words to pictures, originality to excitement , dialogue to action – I suspect you will be mighty disappointed with Avatar. I sure was.
I’ll be brief, because overly negative reviews are generally pretty painful to read. But a few problems need to be mentioned. They are:
The characters. So goddamn broad. You’ve got your soon-to-be enlightened protagonist, your trusty sidekicks, your love interest, your heroes, your villains. The characters are either all-knowing do-gooders or evil buffoons; there is no in between. No shades of gray. While movie is in 3-D, the characters are sadly one-dimensional.
The dialogue. I don’t even know where to start with this one, so I’ll simply point out that there are probably a dozen lines that are laughably bad. (“This land is our land!” “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” “We will fight terror with terror!” There are more. Many, many more.) Awful, wooden, clichéd tripe. Fans of smart dialogue will likely be horrified by Avatar.
(Related: the name of the valuable mineral the humans are fighting the natives over: “unobtainium.” Seriously. Commence eye-rolling.)
The story. It’s as basic and formulaic as movies get. As anyone who has taken an “Intro to Film” class will tell you, there are 12 steps to a standard action movie plot. Avatar follows every single one, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. You know exactly what happens in the movie before even seeing it. And I don’t just mean the ending; I mean, you can probably successfully guess every single minute of the movie’s plot. Expect no surprises. None.
To put it another, crueler way: claiming that the script could have been written by a freshman film student is an affront to film schools. And freshmen.
Considering the undeniably cool visual experience, I would have been cool with even an average storyline, but Avatar was an absolute mess. In that regard, it’s very similar to Cameron’s Titanic; once you get past the awe-inspiring visuals, you find a cringe-inducing story that’s been told countless times. (I have a hunch that, like Titanic, many people currently praising the film will change their mind after a second viewing.)
On the other hand, I fully realize that not everyone possesses my seething hatred of clichéd dialogue and formulaic plots (i.e. are as big of movie snobs). Fans of special effects, technology and action flicks will very likely enjoy Avatar.
But it’s no masterpiece. Not even close.