Finally the release date for Avatar arrived. The street lamp-hung signs at July’s Comic-Con now fulfilled their advertising destiny. The autumn-released teaser trailers and strategically placed glimpses were no longer needed as the real deal had landed. Rumors had swirled for months as to how much the film cost. Some said it was the first $300,000,000 film ever made, the most expensive to date. I’m not certain if it is the most expensive film, but according to The-Numbers.com, the film had a production budget of a whopping $237,000,000. Effects are dandy, but as we all learned from The Phantom Menace, if the story is anemic, the movie-going public will release an onslaught of negative sentiment.
The premise of the movie focuses around Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). Having lost the use of his legs, Jake volunteers to take the place of his twin brother in a government-funded program involving the Na’vi. These azul-pigmented, golden-eyed humanoids are the indigenous tribal species of the planet Pandora. Mining corporations are seeking to sap Pandora of a highly sought after mineral that is located in abundance beneath a Na’vi settelment. Settling into an induced sleep, Sully’s mind is cybernetically transferred to that of his avatar; a Na’vi-looking creation that contains human DNA.
Joined by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), her avatar leads that of Sully’s and Norm Spellman’s (Joel Moore) into the dense jungles of Pandora to mix with the locals in a series of cautious yet education-seeking jaunts. Once Sully meets up with a Na’vi name Neytiri (voiced by Star Trek‘s Zoe Saldana), let the undeniable parallel to Dances With Wolves begin. You’ve got the military white man who meets a tribal female. He tries understanding the ways of their culture, (here comes a spoiler alert of basic details), becomes a member by proxy and eventually aids them in their conflict against an organized military.
Visually, there is not a film out there that can even come close to touching the brilliance of Avatar. You tell me one movie that can hold a candle to the incredibly realistic and astounding life that Avatar breathes into Pandora and its inhabitants. The flora and fauna is beautifully lush and amazingly imaginative. Audience members truly begin to develop an affinity for the film’s creatures who move with a determination and prowess found in their earth-real brethren. In time, other movies will equal and surpass what Avatar has brought to us in 2009. For now, feel free to let your eyes soak up the magnitude of computer generated imagery at its finest.
Nevertheless, I was still unmoved, for the most part, by the 3D effects of this film. After 162 minutes of wearing those damn glasses, I became a customer of Excedrin. It was one of those headaches that sat right below the brow and I was one step away from gouging my eyes out with a melon-baller, but I thought the better of it. After all, how would I be able to see the monitor the next day when I wrote this wonderful review? Indeed, I am anti-3D. It had its impressive moments in the film, but these did little to enhance my experience. I find watching three-dimensional films an annoyance. I will say that the effects were not done in a silly manner to make it look like arrows were flying right at you or you were the one saddled up on a winged beast in flight. Kudos to those production folk responsible for not cheapening the film in such a manner. Perhaps I should revisit the film in traditional 2D, but for now, I’ve had enough Avatar for a while.
So beside not being a connoisseur of a 1950′s-born fad, what was my beef with this film? The story had strength in concept, the acting was great, the movie looked exquisite; what else do you need? Rewind to the beginning of the last paragraph and you will notice that this film was 18 minutes shy of 3 hours. Three hours. Three long hours. Three loooooong hours. Three hours for Braveheart? Grand! Three hours for Saving Private Ryan? An absolute masterpiece! Three hours for Avatar? Unnecessary. The strong-in-concept story was collapsing under its own weight. One could easily chop 20 minutes off of this film while retaining all the punch and pop that fizzled as the story lumbered forward. I experienced one too many scenes that had no effect in contributing to the love story, the rising conflict or character development. These all added up to equal a mind-numbing experience. I wish someone would have cybernetically transferred my mind to an avatar of my own so I could run up to the projection room and speed the film along.
Overall, Avatar gets a ‘C’ from me. The biological-global connection of Pandora’s species to Pandora itself was brilliantly thought up and executed. In regard to the mounting conflict, a knot of tension resided in my stomach as both sides prepared for a fight. There was the undeniable premonition that it was not going to be pretty and what ensued near the end of the film played out with a riveting intensity that had my head twitching in all directions to make certain I didn’t miss a beat. The film’s Achilles heel was ultimately its overplayed, overextended delivery. It’s like having a conversation with someone who has diarrhea of the mouth. They don’t know when to stop and get to the point. Such is the case with Avatar‘s progressively lengthy storytelling.