“A landmark technical achievement”, “A stunning visual experience”, “A wonder to behold”.
These have been used to describe BBC’s Planet Earth. Add floating rocks, shiny stuff, evil humans, naive indigenous population, a selfish planet, and you have the makings for Avatar. All that is left is to take a cliché plot, rev it over the top while keeping it at a Fifth Grade level of comprehension, stir it all up with some 3-D, bake for 10 years, and you end up with the highest grossing movie of all time.
You would have thought I would have learned my lesson with Titanic.
I saw this movie at home, and while my expectations were low, I was unprepared for the endurance needed to see it through to the end. No depth to the characters (perhaps why Cameron shot it in 3-D), excessively long shots of luminous grass, luminous shrubs, luminous trees, luminous animals… I’m guessing no one sleeps there at night.
Look, I get it, Cameron made a pretty place, where all the natives are slim, and fantastic sights await the viewer at every turn. I read people have become emotionally attached to the place. But remember… no iPhone, iPad, or any of the technological wonders we are used to. No Internet, no YouTube, no FaceBook, no Twitter. There’s a communication network of sorts, but you have to plug in to access it, and its usefulness is limited. Plus, there’s formidable fauna favoring you for lunch… I don’t get why so many people fell in love with the place.
Did I say cliché? I meant no plot, and without a plot it was hard to keep the interest level up for the ungodly 162 minutes duration. Usually I wait until I finish watching, but being bored, I started analyzing the film as I watched it.
Unobtanium… as an engineer, they lost me when calling upon a joke that is older than I am. The first thing I thought of is summarized nicely in this article: The High Price of Unobtainium. Namely, the transportation costs would exceed the sale price of the material. I based this just on the infrastructure I saw in the movie, but the article puts the math to it. So, right off the bat, the stated motivation for the “bad guys” goes out the window.
Bad guys… the whole base, to a man turns to homicidal frenzy with nary a dissenting voice save for the few scientists, and one pilot. OK, given my low opinion of humanity in general, this was not that big of a stretch. Really, I think real scientists would also have gone along with it, as their main preoccupation is getting funding.
Atari… they had it made until they dropped the ball. From number one gaming console to obscurity in less than a generation. Further… what? …oh… sorry, I meant
Na’vi… it might have liked these hominids had they not been so sanctimonious about everything. Yes, there is a certain lure to the whole “back-to-nature” bit, but what did these people do Except for the hunters, I would imagine it to be a tremendously boring existence. We saw very little of how they lived, save for them being as one with Pandora. And that stood out as an anomaly. They were there for convenience; they served no function other than to be missile fodder, and to spew mystical effluent Cameron apparently wrote in earnest.
Pandora… There is no question the star of the movie is Pandora, the selfish planet, and everything else is there as shallow trappings. Let’s buy into the idea this is a sentient planet (notice I don’t say Nature, as that would mean “it” would be in other planets as well). It stands idly by while the Na’vi Hometree (how clever!) is destroyed. It stands idly by while the Na’vi united forces attack the heavily armored convoy en route to the Tree of Souls, and are decimated.
This is where I started to yell at the screen. Helicopter-like machines were slowly advancing… the Na’vi attack force is high above them. I’m thinking, “Ah, they are going to drop rocks and stuff onto the ships, and lay waste to them.” But noooo! They drop themselves onto the ships, going against armor and machine guns. At that point I switched sides, and cheered for the attackers; I always side with the smarter of two choices.
When it becomes obvious defeat is near, many Na’vi have died, and many innocent flying dragons of Pern have perished, the planet takes notice; “Holy Sh*t!!” it says, “Looks like they will make it to my Luminous Tree.” Well, we can’t have that, can we? With extreme callousness, Pandora enlists the local fauna to give up their lives to save the tree. In almost human-like behavior the planet is willing to sacrifice all manner of other beings for its benefit. It’s an interpretation of “benevolent” I am not familiar with.
Predictably, a few extra dragons are all that are needed to turn the tide. The inevitable, anti-climatic, spiritless confrontation between good male/female and bad male takes place, and we see the surviving humans being marched off to their ships, presumably to leave the planet and go up to the big-ass-mother-ship orbiting the planet above. Apparently these surviving humans, having been beaten, having lost many of their friends and comrades, are now too distraught to lay waste to the planet from orbit. Lucky for the Na’vi I wasn’t there.
Then again, had I been there, I would have launched a cruise missile, or one hundred, at the Tree of Soul, and spared the lives of my men. Better yet, I would have dropped a half a ton of steel from orbit, and cleared the whole valley.
The movie closes with the human hero choosing to become a Na’vi, getting the girl… er… female, and everyone getting back to living their lives doing… doing… well, not building a civilization, that’s for sure. I predict some asteroid will one day smack the planet and wipe them all out.
My verdict: this movie leaves me blue.
My rating: one viewing is almost one too many.
I don’t think I can convince my wife to watch this ever again. Then again, I won’t be pressing the matter.