Sunday, December 5, 2010

Is 'Avatar' Really THAT Amazing?

Risking the ire of geeks everywhere, the blog is going controversial today with guest blogger, Edward Stern and his take on the movie Avatar:

Is 'Avatar' Really THAT Amazing?

Seeing Avatar in theaters was truly a revelation. I had the pleasure of viewing James Cameron's 3-D epic on a gigantic iMax screen with incredible surround sound and 3-D glasses. What I saw blew me away. Vibrant colors, stunning landscapes, inventive creatures and truly breathtaking action sequences had me glowing as I walked out of the theater after nearly 3 hours. It seemed that everyone else who saw the movie agreed -- there were even reports of people having Avatar withdrawal, because reality was not as awe-inspiring as the digital creations of the film.

Then I saw Avatar on DVD, on a small screen, without 3-D. The visuals no longer had as much of an effect, and so I was able to focus on the story. What I found was much less captivating. The dialogue often bordered on amateurish, and the plot was fairly rote and uninspired. I felt I'd seen it before in countless variations; a timeless film should not evoke feelings of Fern Gully. Nor should it make me laugh at its lackadaisical writing, such as the greedy quest for "unobtainium."

The messages of the movie were loud and clear, and very black and white: respect the environment or be a caustic pig. If you don't care about the environment that's bad. Good messages for sure, just not presented with any real expertise. As such, it's questionable to even consider Avatar good science fiction. A world is invented, yes, but it is really not so different from others that have come before. Even in the extended DVD edition, the scenes of an overpopulated and depressing earth are clear rip-offs of Blade Runner's pessimistic look at future human existence.

Even the whole thing about avatars required a thorough suspension of disbelief. Why these cloned copies were needed to infiltrate the natives was kind of fuzzy, especially considering the natives recognized the avatars as ungodly creations. The whole cerebral connection aspect was another unexplained stretch of the imagination.

Avatar as a spectacle was a truly groundbreaking visual treat. Pandora is a world I would gladly go back to, with a big screen, 3-D glasses, and pretty much all plot and dialogue cut out. Myself, and audiences around the world, were blinded by unprecedented special effects. What we missed was, well, not that much: a contrived plot, cardboard dialogue, and head-scratching attempts at good science fiction.

Edward Stern is a guest blogger and writer.

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