Sunday, January 3, 2010


Recently, the film world, critics and general viewers alike, has been aflame, raving with positive words for James Cameron's new epic "Avatar". There are some things I would like to point out as to why it does not deserve the 8 out of 10 it has been receiving.

Let me start by saying, I was entertained by the film. It was enjoyable to watch, but that was all it was, nothing deeper. Having said that, let me begin with the praise for the film. It was, undoubtedly, a masterpiece of film technology which was an absolute pleasure to behold. The world was intricate and intense - reminding viewers of older generations of the children's classic "Fern Gully" in some respects. The animals were creative and the native people were beautiful to behold, despite the fact it felt like they were merely alien mash-ups of pre-existing native peoples, but more on this later. The battle scenes were epic and kept you wanting to see more, and the sweeping shots made the 3D a very interesting experience, one which takes the first ten minutes of viewing to get used to. But don't get me wrong, 3D is the ONLY way to see this film on the big screen. I would also like to extend congratulations to relative unknowns Sam Worthington (Terminator Salvation) and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek) for their prowess at portraying their roles of Jake Sully and Neytiri respectively.

Now, the problems. As I mentioned earlier, the alien race of the Na'vi are merely a combination of blue skin and earthling natives. More specifically, they are seemingly racist stereotypes of Africans and Native Americans mixed with the fictional race of Night Elves from the online game World of Warcraft. I would also like to point out that aliens in films are always one of two things: either a) they vastly outdo Earthlings on the level of technology or b) are completely primitive. The fact that the Na'vi are the latter does not do much for the case of them not being racist stereotypes of existing native peoples.
Secondly, the story. Sure, it can be said that it is "an oldy but a goody", but that does not stop this film from being "Pocahantas" with Aliens. I suppose if it had been told in a way that wasn't completely the same as all the others, it would be great, but unfortunately, it's not. Also, when a film has to have a Deus Ex Machina as large as the one at "Avatar"s end, it does not show much for the screenplay.
Thirdly, the dialogue. Wow. I can't even express how bland, predictable and outdated the dialogue was, especially Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) seemingly taken from one of Cameron's other films, "Aliens". When there is actually dialogue like this in a film:
Sully: It's over!
Quaritch: It's not over as long as I'm still breathing!
Sully: I was hoping you'd say that.
it's obvious there is a serious case of 80's going on.
Lastly, I'd like to say that, despite enjoyable and accurate acting by the whole cast - Sigourney Weaver still being a pleasure to have on screen with her delightfully disagreeable Dr. Grace Augustine - the characters were frighteningly two dimensional and predictable.

In my humble opinion, this film deserves a 7/10 at MOST, and maybe even a 6/10 because story and characters are so important as far as a film goes - a film should not have to blind you with graphics to distract from its predictability and lack of depth. Mahalo.


  1. "I would also like to point out that aliens in films are always one of two things: either a) they vastly outdo Earthlings on the level of technology or b) are completely primitive."

    While your point is correct, I don't believe it to be a fair criticism: ongoing scientific debate (unfortunately, I have no good links on the topic) has come to more or less that conclusion.
    The sketch of the argument is as follows: take the human race as it is now, with today's level of technology. If we met an alien race tomorrow morning, it would be because they're capable of interstellar flight. Obviously, they have more sophisticated technology than we do; the question is how much more so? The argument asserts that the measure of this sophistication is distance: more advanced technology should allow longer distances to be traveled. Thus races close to our level of technology who have come to visit us should be physically closer by -- which means we should already have seen the electromagnetic mess they'd be throwing into the sky. That we haven't seen such emissions implies that there are no nearby civilisations capable of emitting them (if I had a decent link, I could tell you how far away the aliens aren't). Any alien intelligence must then be visiting from bloody far away -- and is thus far more advanced than we are.
    The same argument applies in reverse: if we made our first halting attempts at interstellar spaceflight, we'd be stuck nearby, and thus anyone we find would be close by. If we don't already know they exist, they don't use EM waves, and thus are primitive compared to us.

    (As a note on relevance, it's worth noting that many of the technologies shown in Avatar could, optimistically, be available to us within a century; in the big picture, the humans in Avatar are at about the same level of sophistication as we are today.)

  2. But how far away is Pandora? You can't just make the assumption that we could conceivably make it 'there' when 'there' doesn't even exist! The technologies may exist, but does that mean that the Pandorans have to be at a level of backwards tribalists? No. They, as you said, would probably be at similar levels to us. It's so boring to see the same thing over and over; tribal aliens and super-advanced aliens. Let's see some middle ground! Like we meet halfway, both exploring the galaxy. I don't know, just because modern science tells us that MIGHT be the conceivable case, doesn't mean FILM has to follow it. And it rarely does - you know that.