So, after much hype, James Cameron’s first feature film in a little over a decade was finally released on December 17th. A screening which this writer duly attended, to view the so-called “future of cinema” in all its 3-D glory. So, is it any good?
Well, let’s start off by saying, Cameron knows how to hype himself and his film up and as a revered director it was fairly obvious that the wait for this film would ensure its success. It looks unbelievable. Honestly. I have never seen anything like it in my life and it will surely change the way that visually significant movies are made from now on. However, in many ways the film is very much a victim of its own hype. The storyline is fairly rudimentary (think or Dances With Wolves or The Last Samurai, but set in space, with aliens).
This is nothing we haven’t seen before in terms of narrative and acting. A mix and match cast perform fairly well, with Zoe Saldana a highlight. I was disappointed in how under-used Sigourney Weaver was though.
The writing is shaky in places and gets too sentimental and cheesy in the emotional climaxes of the film. And it seems unfortunately, that 12 years out has left Cameron rusty in his film pacing, at a bum-numbing 2hrs 45 minutes I thought the film was too long. I fear Cameron will fall into the Peter Jackson post-Lord Of The Rings trap (i.e. will never make a film under 2 1/2 hours for the rest of his career). So yes, very self-indulgent in places, however, Cameron can still direct a battle, don’t forget this is the guy who made The Terminator and Aliens. The fights/battles are as breath-taking as the scenery, though one has to wonder whether all this visual feasting is a way of distracting viewers from the average plot.
The best way that I can sum up Avatar is that it is the cinematic equivalent of dating a porn-star. Sure, it looks amazing and will do for sometime. Everyone who sees it will say how amazing it looks, but when you strip away the superficial, external beauty, the film doesn’t really have that much to offer you in terms of intellectual food for thought.
A friend of mine once described Avatar as being James Cameron’s equivalent of The Phantom Menace. Whilst I see his point, I disagree. I think it’s more his Chinese Democracy. It’s good, but for James Cameron it’s nowhere near good enough.