Monday, December 28, 2009
AVATAR afterthoughts: SPOILER ALERT! Read only AFTER seeing the movie (if you plan to)
SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
I overall enjoyed AVATAR despite the fact that it was a pastiche of various tropes and it seemed to crib from a few sources: primarily, the DANCES WITH WOLVES/LAST SAMURAI/POCAHONTAS template (in which the outsider joins a tribe, is detested at first, and then must prove himself), a general LORD OF THE RINGS-type fantasy world, and the original STAR WARS (as a schematic structure).
I thought director James Cameron did a great job of creating that world and it was pretty thorough and convincing. But in the last section of the film, it really becomes subliminal "Star Wars" -you've got the Han Solo-type renegade (Michelle Rodriguez) coming to the aid of the male and female hero...
....the wise elder (Sigourney Weaver) dying a la Obi-Wan and rousing the hero to action...the big do-or-die mission at the end that must be pulled off....
...and the big baddie getting into the vehicle to finish the job himself (as Vader did in the original). He was even breathing heavily into that oxygen mask at the end, making Vader sounds. I thought that was a funny tribute.
So did the derivative aspects of AVATAR stop me from enjoying it? No!
The long running time almost did though. It gets a little soft in the middle between all hell breaks loose and the action kicks in.
At the same time, perhaps it's necessary to lull us viewers into this incredible world -- which again, is very convincing -- before laying the smackdown, and Cameron wanted to do it at his own pace, not Hollywood pace. Cameron also does a good job of articulating his geopolitical and pan environmental views. AVATAR is very much a metaphor for the state of the world, and perhaps that's part of why people are relating to this film.
And relating they are. I find it astounding that Cameron seems on the road to pulling this hat trick twice; as with TITANIC, which had a very unusual, slow-burn box office trend before becoming the highest-grossing movie ever made (at $1 Billion), AVATAR has already grossed $600 worldwide (in 10 days!) and only dropped 3 percent in its box office from the first weekend to the second, even swiping away the weekend crown from close second-runner SHERLOCK HOLMES. That suggests that AVATAR is being borne on great word of mouth, as usually there's a huge drop-off by week two after the hardcore fans have rushed to see a new film.
I didn't like the character designs from the clips I saw on AVATAR before I saw it, but once I saw the movie, I became immersed in it and kind of bought into it. So overall, it was enjoyable, if not exactly a classic.