Avatar: A (Successful) Experiment in Mediocrity
There’s a good chance you’ve seen Avatar, probably it in 3-D. And according to exit polls, you probably liked it. I too saw this film, in 2-D, and apparently I am not seeing the same movie as the critics and fans. If all you look for in a film is special effects, then move along, you’ll find no sympathy here. But if you thought There Will be Blood, Pitch Black, and District 9 were good, then read on.
There are two things I’d like address right up front, and these are the areas Avatar excelled.
1. Special Effects.
No need to comment on either, they speak for themselves.
(A quick aside about Cameron’s films: Remember Titanic? A lot of people saw that too, big blockbuster, touted as a special effects masterpiece. How many of you thought it was good a month after you saw it? A year?)
I’m certainly not the first to compare avatar with previous “going native” stories. As far as Avatar’s plot is concerned it copies other stories very liberally. Let’s be clear about originality: Nothing will be completely new, but it is possible to create a story which gives a new perspective on some event or concept, or which completely bucks all expectations. Avatar doesn’t even try. A good Sci-Fi film should have a story that works independent of it’s setting and effects. If you can set the story in some mundane setting and it’s still interesting and the slightest bit unpredictable, then you will have the makings of a good film. I mentioned Pitch Black earlier. Conversely, There Will be Blood could have been set thousands of years in the future, and still be just as incredible. Avatar is bound to it’s setting in a completely inextricable way. It’s a safe film, without a single challenging thought or theme not already well-tread by dozens of films, cartoons, and books. I suppose we have to hand it to Mr. Cameron. He called it. Are we just simpletons who like pretty flashing lights? The box office sales and critical reviews answer with a resounding yes.