December 17, 2009

Pocahontas in 3D aka Avatar

Story: American mercenaries are camped out on some planet where a extremely valuable mineral or something can be found. (20 million bucks per pound) Ok. Unfortunately, the indigenous live exactly where the highest concentration of this precious rock can be found. What to do? Infiltrate the enemy with Avatars (genetically modified Na'vis - did you know that Avatar actually comes from Hindu?), gain their trust and induce them to move out. Or something. So we get a former marine, Jake Sully, played by Australian actor Sam Worthington, paralyzed from the waste down, recruited for the Avatar program (taking over from his twin brother, who was killed.....somehow. Never explained. Or if it was, missed that) Enter the familiar face of Sigourney Weaver as the botanist scientist Dr. Grace Augustine, overseeing this project. Predictably, guy who is sent in, Jake, falls in love with one of the Na'vi. Cruel Colonel Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lang) shouts red alert! when he discovers the extent of Jake's emotional involvement with the lead Amazonian Na'vi.

Stage is set for a showdown in the forests of Pandora. So, in a nutshell Pocahontas in 3D.

The effects were absolutely amazing. Stupendous. Out of this world. Divine. No need to extol further with exuberant adjectives: undeniable the world Cameron created, generated and portrayed on Pandora with its inhabitants, the Na'vi, is nothing short of revolutionary. The visual gorge fest cascaded upon the viewer (with cool ray ban like 3D glasses) is extraordinarily fascinating. Details of plants, animals, feet, hands, eyes, muscle play, expression in perfection has it merits but is it enough to sustain an adult's interest over two and a half hours? How richly creative and meticulously detail-laden the world of Pandora and its inhabitants are portrayed, the characterization of both live action figures and the Frankenstein figures dug out of Cameron's imagination are steamrollered flat.

The one exception was Sam Worthington. Even though his epiphany was predictable, he was convincing and fresh. The rest of the cast was just bad. Or badly directed. The cruel colonel was so awful, it got to the point of being hysterically funny. Pretty much all the guys in camouflage, touting high-tech weaponry, were boring drones. The scientists, and one female pilot gone rogue (enter resurrection of Aliens character Jenette Goldstein as Pvt. Vasquez. This time we get Michelle Rodriquez as a marine pilot) do a runner and join the Na'vi in their fight against the mean exploitative Americans.

What happened to the woman known as Ripley? Who kicked the aliens asses? She seemed itchy, uncomfortable and wimpy throughout. Even smoking with any sort of conviction proved a challenge.

So, out of a budget of 400 million dollars, about 5 bucks went into character development. Copying the five pages of awful dialogue. Thats it.

All Cameron did was pull stock characters out of the closet: the wise shaman woman, the wise leader, the amazonian girl, skeptical warriors who are won over by the new guy, who proves himself true. The compassionate scientist, the unscrupulous corporate guy (Giovanni Ribisi) who appears to have second thoughts but ultimately, greed wins over. The maniacle colonel who fights to the death, carrying out the mission against all odds. A bunch of go-alongs who don't question the destruction. Zombie-like, they don't give a shit where they are, they are here to conquer.

Black and white. Big bad corporation wants to destroy nature. The indigenous are at one with nature. Hey, its true, but couldn't Cameron have given a bit more.......something?

I imagine kids and Michael Bay fans will really love this. (Although I question the merit of kids watching visuals as sophisticated as this movie has gone all rainman on. I mean, if you are fed this at ten years old, what will you do with simple treasure cartoons like Snoopy?)

Mr. Cameron, effects wise I can only say, you played God and created a new world. Story-wise: you stole from Disney.

Last shot shrieked of sequel. The closing song was "oops, there goes my popcorn. "

PS 3D impressive, but hopefully not the raison d'etre for future films.

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