Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar: The Last Rainforest

I enjoy sci-fi more than most, but I am surely in the minority in that I was not sweatily anticipating Avatar.  I didn't find the design of the blue cat-monkey people all that appealing in the teaser clip, and the robot gorilla suits were downright stupid.  I also was perplexed by the idea of this fellow running around in an avatar fighting the big bad company when his body was in a tube on the big bad company's own base.  Oops, I just accidentally tripped over the cord to your avatar-tube-projecting thingy.  Guess the battle's over.

So, with hopes low, the fam and I went to see it on prompting from my mother in law.  The same mother in law who once bought me a Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush.  She has some serious cred.

Let me sum up the plot in bullet point form:
  • Man goes to paradise to exploit resources
  • Man falls in with natives, specifically female native
  • Man's allegiance is turned away from exploitation to preservation
  • Man and natives fight exploiters against long odds
The first time I saw this it was called "Fern Gully."  Avatar was incalculably more expensive to make I'm guessing.  Well, calculable to some but not me.  I can't think in numbers that big.   Also, Crysta from Fern Gully was arguably hotter for being more human looking.  Okay... pause for a second.  Did you have an agree/disagree opinion about that "hotter" statement?  Yeah, get help.

Anyway, I guess Cameron wanted to throw a new post-911 twist to the Fern Gully traditional tale by making the natives bigger instead of smaller.  Wow!

Any fans of Hayao Miyazaki will vividly imagine Cameron scribbling notes during every Miyazaki film muttering, "Using that and that .... ooo!  and that!  And that and that..." etc.

Okay, but now to the serious discussion.... Na'vi vs. Ewoks.  Both were kind of in the same boat, except the Ewoks never seemed to give a rip about the Empire until a fruity gold robot showed up on their wooden doorstep.  So let's contrast, shall we?

  • tiny, furry things that could be used to sell fabric softener
  • could rig elaborate traps involving logs 7000 times their weight
  • killed stormtroopers by chucking rocks at them
  • fought an evil intergalactic Empire run by a dude who can shoot lightning out of his hands. 
  • suffered one apparent casualty during the entire battle
  • huge humanoids who can jump off cliffs and survive by bouncing from leaf to leaf
  • ride dragons, and occasionally are led by a messianic figure riding a huge freaking dragon.
  • shoot arrows dipped in neuro-toxin (not that the toxin matters much, since the huge Na'vi arrows are more like spears and tend to impale people when they are hit.  Oh, no.  You are now pinned to a tree through the chest and the poison on this "arrow" will kill you in less than a minute.)
  • fought against a mining company run by a manager who is concerned about quarterly statements
  • suffered a bazillion causalities against the mercenaries working for the mining company
  • live above a huge deposit of a mineral with a really stupid name.
Okay, I don't know about you but I'd have to say Ewoks win here.   Granted, if I had to pick the cooler looking of the two I'd go with Na'vi but in terms of pure against-all-odds combat I've got to give it to the Ewoks.  Except for that song at the end of the movie.  Seriously, that made me wish the Empire had won.

Okay, so the final review result:  The movie was good.  The time zipped by and I never had the urge to look at my watch.  I cringed at the profanity, but I have a pretty low threshold for that now that I have young kids.  The violence and sexual content was pretty much Lord of the Rings level.  The 3D effects were immersive without using the "oooo! look at my 3D!" tricks.  If anyone here is on the fence about seeing it, I'd say go ahead if you can stomach all the mother nature worship malarkey.  It's funny... even the testimonial of other nerdy sci-fi types doesn't hold much water with me now.  They all loved Transformers, and that was the worst dog pile of a movie I have seen in ages.

Tragic character note:  there was one character in the movie that my wife and I agree was the most tragic of all.  There are these dragon type thingies that the Na'vi bond with, and apparently they bond for life (cough*Pern*cough.)  Well  when jakesully goes to bond with uber-dragon turok-dinosaur-hunter-thingy what happened to his original dragon?  You never see it again.  Yup, old and busted gets dumped for the new hotness.  Poor little dragon.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good?

    "Better than spawn" perhaps, but good?

    This is a James Freaking Cameron movie, from a script written in 1995 but couldn't film it at the time as he had to "wait until the technology necessary to create his project was advanced enough". Where have I heard that before? Oh right, from George Lucas about SW:TPM.

    (You mentioned Transformers -- yes Transformers was silly movie, but it's a film about Rock'm Sock'm Robots, one's expectations shouldn't have been too high.)

    My primary beef with Avatar is the message that in the end, violence is the answer.

    What is going to happen in Avatar 2? Did Cameron check into what happened _after_ the Battle of Little Big Horn?

    Another big beef is the lack of emotional connection with any of the characters. I sort of felt sad that the big tough marine guy got killed, he at least made me laugh. When gorillas of the mist lady died I felt nothing.

    Go watch District 9. That movie cost 10 times less but is much much better.

    Why? Could be that Cameron has lost his chops, though it's more likely that great acting beats great CGI up and down the street. Could be simply too many resources.

    That, and who's going to tell James Freaking Cameron "No"?

  3. In response to your various comments....

    Popcorn movie = good. The Mummy was good. Memento was great. Independence Day was good. The Usual Suspects was great. Transformers was painful for me to watch, even when I tried to turn down the brain to popcorn level.

    James F. Cameron: I can't figure out if you are saying that the movies should be good or bad because he's involved. I've enjoyed his stuff in the past, but George Lucas and Joss Whedon have shown me that track record means nothing.

    Avatar 2: Casino Pandora

    Yeah, I felt bad when marine guy died too.

    Yes, sometimes violence is the answer when it comes to movies. If you want to dispute taxation, watch ST:TPM.

    D9: I want to.

  4. For the record, I didn't really want a taxation dispute, I wanted to see the planet turn into a superweapon that the natives use to destroy Earth. Think Unicron from the Transformers movie.

    Anyhow, found a comparison of Avatar and Pocahontas that amused me.


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