Blue Is The New Black

The Oscar nominations are in, and amongst the 10–yup, 10–nominees for Best Picture is James Cameron’s flick for Fox, Avatar.  Unless you’ve actually been living on the planet Pandora, you’ve heard of this picture.  And so before my annual movie e-mail / blog post (a few pictures I’ve got to check out; no one expected A Serious Man to garner a nomination), let’s take Mr. Cameron’s indie, sensitive coming-of-age flick to the woodshed, shall we?

Interspecial love, you know you want it...

“Finally, the long-delayed Smurf movie we’ve been promised!,” I thought as I donned my plastic 3-D glasses and headed in for Avatar: The Experience, in IMAX.  Only no, the flick turned out to be about different blue people.  Huh.

Specifically, as we all know, it’s about the Na’vi, or, as most people call them, blue Native Americans.  The Na’vi (and seriously, you can learn their language here) are a peaceful species of evolved aliens so green-loving they make Al Gore look like George W. Bush, the self-described ‘world’s biggest polluter.’  The story also contains something along the lines of a disgraced Marine captain, Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, falling for one of the female Na’vi (who knew aliens would have breasts?!) and at the same time helping to stop the evil Western forces.  Or, as a friend of mine called it, Dances with Wolves.

Really, of course, Avatar is the chance to check out awesome, unobtrusive 3-D, and in the case it doesn’t disappoint.  The 3-D scenes of the human actors–amongst them Ellen Ripley–are truly amazing.

My body's not the only thing smokin'...

But the 3-D scenes of the Na’vi look like what the movie really is: A video game that, frustratingly, you can’t play, and with a preachy message to boot.  (I loved this flick when it was called Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.)

So, should you check out Avatar in IMAX 3-D?  Absolutely, it’s event-moviemaking.  And Mr. Cameron should be congratulated for marshalling something truly new into mainstream cinema, which is harder and harder to do.  For all it’s gee-whiz technology, however, the story’s ultimately just as mawkish as Titanic (and that, we all know, was a total flop).  And we’re a long way from Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, both of which are simply better movies.

Here’s my biggest gripe with the flick:  He should’a let someone else do the typing.  Dialogue has never been Mr. Cameron’s strong suit, and as incredible a ride Avatar is, I can’t think of one character I really rooted for, pulled for, or one piece of dialogue that really stood out just a few days after seeing the movie.  There’s an oft-told Hollywood folklore about how in 1977 a 22-year-old Cameron went and saw Star Wars, and he was furious; it was “… the film [I] should’a made.” And while George Lucas took a lot of flack for writing Star Wars, and in 32 years we’ve made huge advances in special effects, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia and Chewbacca and Han Solo have something the Na’vi and Jake Sully don’t:  character, and heart.  Think of Leia telling Han she loves him, and him saying, “I know“– well, nobody’s going to be quoting Avatar in 32 years.

Oh, 3-D, huh? Is that a thing?

But what do I know? Avatar‘s currently made so much money Fox is going to be lending some to the Federal Reserve.  Go see the flick.  Then please go rent the ex-Mrs. James Cameron‘s picture, The Hurt Locker.

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