Why Avatar Will Fail

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(Spoiler Alert… as if that’s necessary)


Yes I know. Avatar has been quite successful. It has broken box office records (James Cameron making back his money and then some), more than 80 percent of Americans like the movie, and sadly, it will probably win more Academy Awards than it deserves. So let me explain what I mean by failure: the movie will not stand the test of time and it will not elicit any change. Furthermore, it was not that great of a movie. Within ten years it won’t be remember and in twenty it will end up as a question on Trivial Pursuit where the only one who knows the answer is your friend who seems to have the game memorized.

Within a few minutes after the movie began, I started thinking to myself, “I’ve seen this movie before. Several times before. And I didn’t care for it then.” This left me with little reason why I should care about this one. And Cameron never once gave me a reason why I should think differently about Avatar. This story was the same as Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, Titanic, and Star Wars Episode 1.

It’s really hard, and almost impossible, to make a good movie with a bad script. And that was perhaps James Cameron’s first mistake. The story itself, however overused it is, was okay, but the screenplay was not, for several reasons. First was the dialogue. How many cheesy lines can one put into a movie? Almost right off, I was cringing and shaking my head in disbelief when Colonel Miles Quaritch told the marines as they stepped off the ship onto Pandora, and I quote, “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Really? I’ve heard that line in movies such much that it makes me nauseas. From that point on the dialogue improved… barely.

Jake Sully’s voice over was bad. With the exception of the opening, which I’ve heard before in other movies and was just as lame in those, the voice over narration provide no new information for me, as it should have. It could have been removed and I would have missed nothing from the plot. When you have a narration like that, make sure it progresses the plot, not rehash what has already been shown, like the movie Chicago. Also, when Jake Sully gave his war speech to all the Na’vi near the end of the movie, just before the final battle, he could have benefited greatly from a professional speech writer. The war speech from Independence Day was better than Sully’s. I was expecting him to end the speech with words borrowed from Mel Gibson: “But they will never take our FREEDOM!” But he didn’t. At least that was one semi good surprise.

And what was up with Sigourney Weaver’s character introduction? The first words out her mouth were demands for a cigarette. And I think only once after that she had a cigarette. So what was the point? It was useless and unnecessary—just like Colonel Quaritch standing coolly and impressively and drinking coffee, like a bad ass, in the big ship as he attacked the Na’vi.

Now, less you start thinking I was only paying attention to the screenplay, there were a bevy of shots that even me, a non filmmaker, didn’t understand. There were half a dozen shots at least that were two inches off the ground, but why? Because James Cameron thought it looked cool? And lets not forget the aerial shots, which composed about half the movie. Not only did they make me a bit dizzy, I nearly forgot about the movie because I was trying to figure out why there was so much flying around. I got the impression Cameron was trying to be cool and innovative with his shots to the point that he really didn’t think about what he was doing. Oh. And lets not forget the duplicated shot scene where Giovani Ribisi’s character, Parker Selfridge (that character explanation isn’t noticeable), is practicing his putting (where have I seen that before?). I almost would have thought it was an editing mistake if it wasn’t for the Sigourney Weaver walking into the shot to mess it up the second time. And did I mention these two shot sequences were back to back in the movie?

Lets talk about the music. Part of the score was not bad, the other half had me turning in my seat feeling embarrassed for the characters who had to hear it. Wait a second, they didn’t have to. Lucky them. There was little, if any, motivation for the music in Avatar, especially the scenes with the Na’vi in the forest. I don’t think it is any big surprise that James Cameron based the Na’vi people off the Native Americans. So, as Jake Sully and his lover, Neytiri (surprise surprise), romp through the forest of Pandora, we hear Native American music played on Native American flutes. We know that Native Americans have and play their own instruments, but do we know the Na’vi people have their own instruments? Never once do we see them playing any instrument. The least Cameron could have done was show us a Na’vi person, preferably one of the main characters, playing an instrument. But oh well.

There are some other annoying points about this movie. There was nothing original about the world James Cameron created. He just re-created North America (this was probably done to appease his own ego, but whatever). Pandora came complete with wolves, monkeys, horses, dinosaurs… and X-wings. Didn’t that big bird at the end look like one? Perhaps it was his way thanking George Lucas for something. But this brings me to a bigger point. Technology and nature. That’s what this movie was really about. Man vs. machine; progress and technology vs. harmony with nature. It is a theme I have seen too many times and unless it is presented in a new and fresh way, I don’t want to bother with it anymore. However, I should say thank you to James Cameron. I’ve always wanted to know what a video blog is.

But this brings me to my biggest point, why I think it will fail. A good story, rather, a great story, is one that transcends time and deals with issues relating to humanity. Avatar is just a movie written (and directed) by a guy who had a beef with something. The second reason why it will fail is that it does not elicit any change. For those who have seen the movie, let me ask you this: when you left the theater, where you in any way inspired to change something in your life or in your world? James Bond movies elicit change better than Avater. And that’s saying a lot. In any case, the movie will not last and its popularity will fade.

In short, if there is one word to describe Avatar, it is “FORGETTABLE.”

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