I hope you loved Avatar because there aren’t going to be many places to hide from it between now and March 7 when it wins multiple Oscars.
With pretty unanimous praise from the top critics (I wish I had some of whatever was in the Kool-Aid they drank when they watched this thing last week), general agreement from the internet masses and what’s shaping up as terrific international box office success, Avatar is going to be this year’s The Dark Knight where any resistance is shot down, stepped on and set on fire – only this time you can probably add copious awards to the mix. At least The Dark Knight was worthy of the affection.
Oh, also: be prepared to hear that ghastly Leona Lewis song everywhere you go for the next few months (was I the only one who audibly groaned every time they said “I see you” in the movie knowing the godawful sonic horror it was intentionally invoking?).
The question is: will there be anywhere to hide?
Except for this post, I’m going to try to avoid engaging in the backlash. I can already feel it welling up inside me with every new gushing response streaming from between blue-stained lips and nothing good can come from it. Avatar is a decent movie. That it’s getting praise far beyond its real cinematic measure doesn’t detract from what it is. I can’t make any promises, but I’m going to try to shut up about it.
Luckily, there are pockets of resistance forming besides LiC. I hesitate to pull a Jeff Wells and start trumpeting every critic I can find who happens to share my own narrow view of things, but Jim Emerson put up a funny and dead-on takedown of Avatar that everyone needs to read. He doesn’t even pause to mock the screenplay which even the most enthusiastic of critics have to admit was lacking in just about every way. Instead Jim gets right to the heart of the matter and the very thing that bugged me the most about it – the stunning lack of imagination behind it all:
“As much as I delight in the look of the Na’vi characters themselves, the biggest disappointment of Avatar for me is the visual design – a kitschy melange of 1970s Roger Dean album covers by day, and Thomas Kinkade “Painter of Light” Christmas-twinkle scenes by night. (The nighttime forest on the planet Plankton — er, Pandora — also seems to be based on the neon-glow alien life forms from The Abyss, which at least made some kind of National Geographic sense in the earlier film because they lived in a world of perpetual darkness deep in the ocean.)
In the past, Cameron has pushed the envelope of cinema technology and brought to life images we’d never encountered before: the water tentacle in The Abyss, the liquid metal T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the Titanic in Titanic… His imagination has failed him across the board here. The CGI canvas is larger, but there’s little you haven’t already seen in better movies. Hammerhead dinosaurs sporting peacock feathers? OK, that’s a new one — but the creatures look silly and random (not to mention that they make no evolutionary sense). Ten-foot-tall blue salamanders riding day-glo psychedelic-patterned winged serpents? Sadly, they just look like forgotten old black light posters from some ’60s head shop.”
Love the Kinkade jab.
Emerson also takes on the 3D which is bogus and does more to pull you out of the film than it does to draw you in. He has the same issue with objects in the foreground being out of focus that I’ve been ranting about in assorted comment threads. 3D is a toy. It’s a nifty gimmick; an excuse to encourage people to watch stuff in theaters instead of on TV while allowing the theaters to charge more for a ticket. If I liked Avatar enough to see it again, I’d watch it in 2D.