I’ve read some reviews by people who said that Avatar, while visually amazing, was a less-than-great film for having a cliche plot. My message to those people is a kind and well-mannered ‘fuck you.’ Avatar was an amazing film – and precisely because it didn’t have any kind of unique or intelligent plot. It was all about the experience – the single most incredible cinematic experience I’ve ever had (in 3D IMAX no less!) Avatar didn’t need to be great in the way that your Slumdog Millionaire is great or your Quentin Tarantino film is great. Instead, it is great in the way that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is great, or, and more importantly as we escape film, the The Legend of Zelda is great or that one of my favorite JRPGs is great – it’s because of sheer immersion.
I don’t care what the plot of Avatar was, but if I did, I’d still have something extremely solid. Cameron is a fucking genius director, mastering pacing and packing in an airtight script that may be full of recycled lines, but all are lines that make sense where they are, and the movie is never ‘wrong’. You’ve seen it before, but you’ve never seen it done this well except by other films of it’s ilk. The story is straight from the environmentalist sci-fi new-age textbook, the likes of which anime director Shoji Kawamori loves to grab from. My little brother told me afterward ‘I feel like I did after I watched Arjuna!’ and I couldn’t agree more – and being as I love Arjuna, it’s not a complaint. I always like to see a spiritualist message, and while Avatar has it, it doesn’t rub it in your face or become annoying as it can in some works (Arjuna even included.) In many ways, it reminded me of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, though with less important characters.
Not that there weren’t great characters in Avatar. The main character avoided the usual stereotype of a douchebag Human hero by being distinctly lax and having as much fun as the viewer throughout. The Big Bad villain, a psychotic Marine captain, was awesome as he fought tooth and nail against the main character and just refused to die for as long as possible – Cameran has always been great at creating villains, and this is no exception. Sigorni Weaver is fun as the sarcastic scientist chief who is really in love with the Na’vi race and fights to protect them. Michelle Rodriguez was also in this film as a badass tomboy helicopter pilot, which was VERY welcome – I consider her to be one of the hottest actresses alive myself~ The Na’vi had a bit less personality, but they served their purpose to the plot well and the leading lady was a ton of fun – not to mention undeniably attractive. I’m serious.
But we’re going to stop there with the speak of characters and plot – this movie was all about experience. You may have noticed a lack of screen shots in this post, and that’s because they won’t do the film justice. I don’t even need to talk about the special effects – the entire movie was special effects, but fuck if you can tell that. You’ll get confused if you try to believe that what you are seeing isn’t real. It’s more obvious and easy to think of the blue people and the creature as CG, but when you look at that world, or even the machines, you’ll doubt your own brain if you say it isn’t real. This is the magic of Avatar – it feels completely tangible. At first, in the very beginning, you may think that you are watching a movie – but then as you go on through the two and a half hours of the film, you will gradually forget that there is a reality, much as this happens to the lead character. It continually becomes an experience and one you won’t soon forget.
The only thing I could immediately compare this movie to was my experience of playing The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Zelda isn’t particularly known for it’s story – I might not even remember Ocarina’s plot were it not so simple. However, I can tell you everything about the world from that game – I loved that world for being so enthralling and interesting and unique, and it’s that world that keeps people playing the game over and over or accomplishing all of the quests. It’s like World of Warcraft (which I didn’t jump to first because it’s a much bigger animal and has no real plot) or any good JRPG that tells you it’s story not through dialog and characters so much as through experience.
I experienced Avatar and never wanted it to end – I was IN that world. I watched this movie with a group of 9 and all of us were absorbed in it. No Name was telling me how he didn’t even know what to do after watching that movie. He said ‘I laughed, I smiled, I shook, I cried, I jumped, and I felt completely connected to the world.’ I felt the same – I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the film, and when Jake gave a speech to the Na’vi people calling them to war, I felt chills not just because of the delivery of the lines or the strength of the words said, but because I was ready to go off to war – I was there.
When the Na’vi go to war, they travel to all of the tribes and we see some stunning unexplored locales where the people come from. There are currently two sequels planned for Avatar – as much as I wish Cameron would do his Battle Angel Alita movie, I would love nothing more than to see the rest of the world of Avatar in as many films as it takes.