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March 3, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]



Avatar’s visuals are undeniably exquisite. The ground-breaking special effects make the flora and fauna tangible and real, and the 3D augments this in the depth it adds to what’s on screen. However, if the story being told within the world doesn’t feel real, then the world itself has some incredible hurdles to overcome, and Avatar consistently fails to jump those hurdles.

The most egregious flaw is that the film’s blatant environmental message is undermined when it is revealed that, without the Unobtainium only Pandora can provide, the human race will die. Consequently, humanity’s ‘villain’ status feels false, exacerbated by director James Cameron’s failure to definitively establish why humanity’s survival is less important than the Na’Vi’s staying at Hometree (so named because it’s a tree, AND IT IS THEIR HOME). Hometree is just there. It could’ve worked if Cameron didn’t dedicate his time to making the humans cartoonish villains instead of establishing a distinctive and irreparable threat to Na’Vi life posed by the human need for Unobtainium. But he doesn’t, and in not doing so he mangles a complex ethical dilemma.

Cameron’s characters are also inconsistently drawn and laboured with badly handled arcs. The protagonist and supposed audience identification figure is pretty much a bastard—Jake Sully goes back on his word with alarming regularity, withholds key information from both parties, betrays both the Na’Vi and humanity several times over and leads hundreds of Na’Vi to their deaths in a predictable war with the humans only brought about because he can’t be bothered to do his job. Jake’s love-interest, Ney’tiri, succumbs to his contagious idiocy and becomes a bundle of barely controlled hormones. Meanwhile, the ‘evil’ Colonel Quaritch comes across as positively reasonable until the plot turns him into a raving lunatic. It doesn’t help that the acting is mediocre—Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are bland in the leads, and while Stephen Lang and Giovanni Ribisi struggle valiantly against the ties that bind them, they never succeed in breaking them.

Avatar may well be a game-changer when it comes to visual effects. I’ve seen few things as beautiful in a cinema as the Hallelujah Mountains or the helicopter geckos. However, it’s clear that Cameron didn’t spend anywhere near as much time working on the script, and so we’re left with a superficial, ham-fisted, badly told space opera with minimal thrills and unpleasant characters.


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  1. Tom M says:

    And to think I used to like you, Goodall. You’ve changed, man. In my estimation at least.

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