What do you want to see in a movie? For me, I think my answers have been the same over the last 30 or so years. I want the director to take me on an adventure. I want the writer to weave a story that makes me forget my daily troubles. I want actors to make me forget that they’re acting and allow me to get into their characters.
James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator series) is the engine behind this movie. He has had this script sitting in a drawer for over 15 years. Cameron is one of the few directors in Hollywood that can really make their own movie. George Lucas (Star Wars series and the Raiders of the Lost Ark series), Steven Spielberg (ET, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Jaws), Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings series) and Cameron are about the only directors that can walk into any studio and say they’d like to make a movie and the studio would open up their pocketbooks.
One of the things that has happened over the last 20 years is that studios have made movies more visually beautiful. Sometimes they do it with great cinematography (Out of Africa) and other times they do it with special effects. In Avatar, they do it with both. I’m positive that you’ve read all the superlatives that other film critics have bestowed on this movie. Let me say that I believe all of those superlatives are well deserved. This is a beautiful movie. The people, the machines, and the landscape are incredibly detailed and original (some of the machines have been seen before).
In spite of all this, I was looking for a story. I was looking for story that I hadn’t heard seen over and over again. This story has been told in countless westerns dating back to the ’30s. A stranger comes to a strange land, wins the heart of a local girl and saves the strange land from outside invaders. That’s it. The dialogue and acting in this story was pretty good, so if you’re not paying attention and are blown away by the special effects, you might miss that the story is not original. There are no original plot twists. The story just takes place on an original planet. And for many people, that’s enough of a story to justify the ticket admission price. I was looking for more.
I really didn’t like Titanic. I thought it was terribly long. I thought the love story was unimaginative. Avatar reminded me of the movie Starship Troopers. Great special effects and not much else. Granted, Avatar had much better acting.
Warning: this is not really a kid movie. In spite of some of the advertising and the associated games have come out, there is some harsh Marine language. I never blushed but I felt badly that I took my six-year-old grandson.