When you first plug into "Avatar", it's hard not to feel the bliss as the camera soars through the lush electroluminescent black-light jungles of an alien planet all rendered before you on a three story tall screen in glorious IMAX 3D. Even the grim and gritty, super industrial, mega military machines have an appeal when the precision of the spinning gears can be heard swirling through the theater in super-high resolution surround sound. And these grandiose layers that "Avatar" is built upon, the best that big ticket studio dollars can buy, come with a cost of a predictable plot and story that most won't even notice or care about until long after the house lights come back on and audiences are safely on their way home.
With reportedly a well over 400 million dollar production budget at stake, it's a solid bet that there weren't likely to be any surprises from the "Avatar" story department. It's like a "Barton Fink" wrestling picture, give the people what they expect. Or at least what they're told to expect. Military mercenaries for hire bad, scientists for hire good. So of course all of the ex-army guys have no conscience except for Michelle Rodriquez who we know is one of the 'good guys' by the tighty-white form fitting tank top she wears in every scene. This is lazy and it just it sort gives the ex-army guys a bad rap. And as gleefully despicable as Giovanni Ribisi is as the corporate weasel in charge of the mining mission for the 'unobtanium', he can't possibly be paying the ex-military army for hire enough for everyone in it to completely lose their moral compasses. And it's these kind of 'easy way out' elements that keeps "Avatar" just being good, but not truly great.
Director James Cameron smartly played it safe by being sure to put his ace into the game and luring Sigourney Weaver back onto the screen for him again. "Aliens" fans have been waiting for over two decades for these two to work together on a film again and won't be disappointed with her smoking scientist character who we know is tragically flawed because despite being the smartest person on two planets she still smokes cigarettes. And to be sure the "Aliens" reinforcement is complete Cameron even threw in a souped-up version of a power-loader like machine for old-school Space Marine fans to gawk at and seek out plastic resin model kits to build.
And these new mech warrior machines are one of the many fun things to soak up while sitting through the "Avatar" ride. The future vision of the tech displayed is so darned cool at times, with the translucent wraparound touch screen monitors and digital clipboards that I can't wait until I can order some of this stuff online. And so despite that "Avatar" is vaguely reminiscent of 1985's "Emerald Forest" and plays like a supercharged version of this years' "Battle for Terra" about another race of rainbow colored doe-eyed aliens who come to realize that square jawed humans ruin everything, "Avatar" gets a pass for being what it is. Big and visually awesome in every way. Is there going to be a "Braveheart" like moment rallying the troops? Is there going to be a kiss at the end? Do I even need to ask? So check your expectations at the door, and go ahead and take an extra bite of that special brownie mix and tune into the mind meld ride that is "Avatar". So even knowing its predictable nature, I'm actually looking forward to plugging into the "Avatar" ride again, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.
© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 12/23/09
Movie Magazine International
Movie Magazine International