In the course of my day to day life, my wife Rachael and I often come across things that make us say, “Hey, we should see that movie!” We’re both on summer break now, so we recently decided that this is the time to catch up on all the “We should see that movie!” movies that we’ve been accumulating.
Fortunately, we have an excellent video store in town that carries pretty much every movie or TV show you could possibly want to see, and they have a pretty nifty deal where you can get five movies for a week for $5.
Being both thrifty and homebody-ish, Rach and I call that cheap date night.
Of course, we’re not terribly organized when we go to the video store, so our trips usually go like this:
We have one or two movies that we want to see. But then we need to find something else to pick up so we can get the awesome rental deal. This week we went looking to rent The Bridge on the River Kwai, and ended up picking up some other random movies based on directors towards whom we are generally well disposed.
We also picked up Avatar.
I had low expectations because my friends who had already seen it all said that it was pretty, but the story was cliche, and the sci-fi elements were kind of nonsensical. Why are the aliens humanoid at all? What’s up with the feline features when nothing else on the planet is apparently mammalian?
Rachael, in her wisdom, helped me readjust my frame of reference for the movie:
“Just think of it as a better version of Ferngully, but in space and without the smog monster.”
And then the movie got so much better!
The story was still cheesy, but in comparison to a bad kids’ movie, it was great!
To be fair though, I do think that James Cameron came up with some interesting ideas. Having Pandora basically be a giant cloud computer really did strike me as nifty. Kind of a materialist take on spirituality, but generally nifty. Paradoxically, it also seemed to be going for some kind of Intelligent Design motif with the fact that none of the alien species made any evolutionary sense, though they all had the same USB ports installed for ease of compatibility. That’s a design feature I always appreciate.
The symbolism of the wheelchair-bound Marine struck me as a little overwrought (why not go for something more subtle, like a guy who’s struggling with depression, but in the Avatar body his brain chemistry’s not messed up so he actually feels normal again) but it made its point well enough. I cheered for him getting to be awesome in a giant, blue, smurfy-kitty body, and I liked the dichotomy they set up in the second act where he neglects his human body, letting his muscles atrophy and his hair grow out, in favor of spending more time in the Avatar.
Generally I enjoyed the action too. Rachael always tells me that when big action scenes start in movies, she tunes out until interesting things start happening again. I, on the other hand, enjoy dumb action pretty well, and Avatar‘s certainly wasn’t boring. I still can’t figure out why the helicopter pilot was wearing war paint at the end though. It’s not like anyone else could see that she had it on. Also, for the Mr. Exposition character who explained everything about the aliens to the audience surrogate Marine, why was he carrying an assault rifle? Belonging to a developed, mechanized society does not automatically make you an expert with its weaponry, even in comparison to the natives who are using bows and arrows.
I digress though. Avatar was a beautiful, dumb action movie. About what I expected, in retrospect. If you’ve seen it, what’d you think?