Avatarocious

The light posting today was due to my taking time to go see the new movie "Avatar", the computer-generated sci-fi flick from James Cameron. Here's my review:

It sucks.

Fuller commentary -- AND SPOILERS! -- after the jump. So don't read on if you haven't seen it yet and are planning to because I will totally ruin it just like that good-looking jerk ruined your prom by dancing with your date, then taking her home while you had to hang out with Billy from band camp.

Not that there's anything wrong with band camp. Or Billy for that matter.

On the other hand, there is something wrong with "Avatar" and simply put, it's that somewhere along the line, James Cameron forgot he was supposed to be telling an entertaining story.

As my buddy Dave said, when you have an animated movie (whether animated by hand or computer), you have to make the script even better than it would be with live action, because you have an additional hurdle of believability to overcome. With actual human actors and settings, you've got the benefit of the audience buying in at a fundamental level as to what they're seeing. But with animation, you have to not only make what are fundamentally non-real images seem real, but to make what is happening to them seem real as well (at least within the confines of the world you've created).

Cameron forgot that step in "Avatar". The dialog is as bad as has been reported elsewhere, particularly with The Colonel bad guy character, who chews up more scenery than a hungry Doberman. He's so over the top and stereotypical, he completely ruined every scene he was in, from his intro beneath a hulking weight set to his absurd personal fire extinguishing later in the film.

I don't know why they bothered animating all the big blue cat people with computers when they were going to use cardboard stand-ins for the human actors. Maybe it was a budget thing.

I'll say this, the film looks beautiful. But even there, I didn't see anything that I'd have been shocked to find in a top-end video game. Less so, in some cases.

The worst thing about this movie was that I never felt immersed. I never lost the sense that I was watching a movie, that I was seeing computer animated figures, nice as they looked. That's because a stupid story is stupid no matter how many millions of dollars you throw at it to dress it up.

And this, my friends, was a stupid story.

SPOILER ALERT: Look, no matter how bad the defeat of the first outpost was, no company or nation or world is going to give up a substance fetching twenty million dollars a kilo on the open market. Not gonna happen. They'd be back in bigger, more ferocious, nastier vehicles. They'd firebomb the entire surface. They'd nuke it from orbit and scoop out the ore when the fires died down.

Speaking of which, why the hell did they need to load a shuttle full of explosives to bomb the tree? Lob a few missiles at it. If targeting systems are a problem due to Flux, drop some asteroids on it from orbit. Problem solved. No need to get your tilt-rotor flying assault choppers dirty.

I was barely holding on to some sense of "Just let it be stupid fun" until the end when the Colonel bad guy pulls a giant knife out of his mechanical fighting suit. W. T. F. Are you telling me they strap f***king KNIVES to these things? That's just silly. I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud. And that's not the reaction they were going for, I feel sure.

Look, if you want to spend a couple of hours looking at gorgeous scenery to the tune of six bucks a head, go for it. But you'd be better served watching the Sunrise HD channel on cable. It would make more sense and you wouldn't have to put up with a bad story and bad acting in the service of James Cameron's wet dream over his latest technological toy.

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