You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy!
Critics of Avatar!
It’s like going to the Louver and spitting on a Van Goh for having too many brush strokes. It’s like criticizing Ernest Hemingway for spending too much time writing about an old man fishing in a boat. It’s like bitching that your Ferrari doesn’t get 42 mpg.
Shut up all ready!
I almost never go to the theaters anymore. The experience always seems to be an exercise in maximum effort for minimum results. The lines are too long and the prices are too high. There’s the crying baby behind me and the cell phone ringing in front of me. There’s the gaggle of teenage girls whispering about who is dating who over here, and the skate punks constantly checking their iphones stinking of pot over there. I am not a huge fan of the 25 minutes of previews and the constant reminder that candy is for sale in the lobby. I can’t drink beer and I can’t take off my shoes. And mid-way through the show my ass and my brain are both numb. How many times can a person check their watch to see when its all going to end?
I know I sound like an old gravel voiced Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino: “Get off my lawn”
Maybe I am revealing my age here, but going to theater just isn’t like it use to be, compared to watching it at home on a nice plasma with a decent sound system. I can push stop, rewind, get an adult beverage or empty my bladder while singing the Star Spangled Banner if I want to. That’s why home viewing is so preferable to me.
I’ve been to hundreds of movies in my life. I am no neophyte when it comes to the experience. Unlike many of you, I have written a dozen screen plays, (all presently gathering dust in a box) I have worked in film production, (countless music videos, TV commercials and the 1980’s classic: HANDS ACROSS AMERICA) And as many of you recently read, I have now acted in a full length motion picture and shouted out the immortal line WHAT ABOUT DALLAS?
I know a thing or two about movies, and to me, not many recent films have compelled me to go to the theater. How many times can you spend 12 dollars to see a movie that has all the fulfillment of Cannonball Run III. I mean I enjoyed Pirates of the whatever ocean they were in, but for the most part, I could have waited a waited a few months to watch it on DVD.
Now a days, I want to be bowled over by my theater experience. I want it to feel like it felt when I witnessed STAR WARS in 1978. How bout Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1980 or even 2001 A Space Odyssey back in the late 60’s. My dad dragged me to this film when I was like 5 years old and to this day it has had a profound effect on me. Old men eating soup in all white rooms still give me the creeps.
These movies wrapped you up like a blanket and then shoved an electric cattle prod up your butt. You were on pins and needles and enveloped by a story that swept you away.
There are films that are must see theater experiences, and there are films that just waste 2 hours of your life, forcing you to sit in the dark with strangers who mostly annoy you. I can do that at home. Movies now-a-days are ubiquitous wallpaper that over-hype, under-deliver and steal my time and my money.
That is why my decision to go see Avatar was so memorable to me.
Despite the hype, I felt that buzz in my gut, like I did when Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out. I knew that movie had to be experienced, not just seen. I was right then, and I’m right now.
While I do have Captain Morgan’s rum in my movie room, I don’t have 3-D glasses, so going to see Avatar in the theater was necessary evil.
I sat in the Thoroughbred Theater expecting to be mesmerized by the 3-D technology, and I was. As soon as the first commercial came on for Coke, I knew I was in for a treat. The Polar Bears lept off the screen and I found myself reaching to wipe snow flakes off my nose. It was phenomenal and it was just a Coke Commercial. Then the movie began, and I was blown away.
The colors and layers of jungle spectrum were so rich, so visual, I felt like I was inside the story. I had to check and make sure I was still seated and not running along a tree branch on some imaginary planet. It was spectacularly entertaining. It was like a visual roller coaster without all the wind in your hair.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Pandora. After a while, I forgot I was wearing glasses. I forgot I was at a movie. I found myself taken with the story.
Yes, the story!
And this is the theme of this rant. Avatar has grossed Billions of dollars world wide. it has been celebrated as the 2nd coming of Visual Effects. It is probably the most talked about movie since Gone With the Wind. And for that reason I think it was snubbed at the Oscars.
The Hurt Locker? I saw it, prior to its nomination. My thought as the credits rolled up the screen; Good film. Nothing special. Good film. A good value for my Block-buster dollar.
Did I go to bed thinking Academy Award winner? Not on your life.
But when I left the theater after seeing Avatar, I knew that I had witnessed the future of not just movies, but entertainment. Never again will movies be the same. This is the next generation of film making. From this moment on, the audience is going to expect to be transported into the movie, as if they are on a whirling dervish of a ride inside Space Mountain.
I have heard over and over again that the visual effects were great, but the story was lacking.
Co-workers have complained about the story line. Friends have questioned the hype. On-line gargoyles who have no life and rarely wear underpants in their dark dungeons of existence ragged Avatar’s story as being thin.
Go stand in the unemployment line LOSERS!
Everyone has a right to their opinion, so here is mine: I felt the story was very compelling. Was it brand new? No! What story is?
After the bible, the Iliad and Odessy, and perhaps Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, unique stories are pretty much all gone. Everything has been told and retold. Sadly, the story telling world is a vomitorium of bland, regurgitated drek.
The Hurt Locker is basically the same story we have all seen before where a soldier’s journey through the rigors and insanity of war conflict with the human condition. The Blind Side is a new generation Rudy where a young down and out man overcomes societal boundaries thanks to the love and help of a family from the other side of the tracks. Nothing really new here.
The plot line of Avatar is not unique either. It is a true heroes tale. It has a definable character arc with conflicts to overcome and goals to attain. There is an obvious good versus evil confrontation. The character’s drive and motivation are clearly explained as is his unyielding quest to overcome all obstacles before him. Avatar’s story telling is wonderfully woven into the fabric of the cutting edge technology. I felt emotionally connected to the lead characters rooting for them every step of the way.
Was Avatar a new story? Hardly. It’s about a hero overcoming impossible odds. The hero tale is reasonably predictable. Whether it is Luke SkyWalker or Cool Hand Luke, the hero travels a somewhat formulaic journey that is remarkably similar.
Was Avatar a new story? Even the concept has been called into question. Some fans of obscure science fiction novellas from 1957 think that Avatar is remarkably like the story: Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson. In this book, humans also use the bodies of an alien species via a mental connection as physical avatars, and proceed to use said avatars to exploit the resources of the alien’s home world.
That’s OK. What’s old is new again. The hero story is what it is. I mean how many different versions can we watch of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable? Excalibur and Sword in the Stone and Merlin and Lance-a-lot and Sir Gwain and the the Green Knight. It is a basic story that will always be told through the eyes and cinematic lens of the author and filmaker. The story is timeless and classic.
People in these tough economic times don’t go to movies 2 and 3 and 4 times because a story sucks. People went to Avatar 3 and 4 times because Avatar didn’t suck.
That’s why it grossed more money than any movie ever made. And that is why the political machine that is Hollywood shut it out except for 3 technical Oscars.
As one writer put it: “There is little doubt in our mind that if the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences was filled with 10 ft. tall blue people with tails, that “Avatar” would have won the best motion picture Oscar on Sunday night.”
Movie ticket seller Fandango.com ran an online poll and “Avatar” was deemed the biggest snub of the night by 57 percent of those responding.
If you are like my dad, and you haven’t seen Avatar yet, I suggest you go while you can still see it in theater. My dad says he is going to AVATAR IMAX 3-D. (Check your pacemaker at the door dad. That is going to be one bad-ass ride!)
If you haven’t seen Avatar at the theater, go! Let the visuals wash over you and see if the story doesn’t also engage you. Perhaps not on a level of War and Peace, but certainly on the level of any other story including The Blind Side and the Hurt Locker, where the main character will travel a path filled with obstacles and conflicts and over come them before realizing a dream and completing the heroes arc.
So the next time you rip Avatar because of the story, stop, and ask yourself, what was so bad with the story? It just happened to be over shadowed by the greatest innovation in cinematic history. That’s what happened.
It shouldn’t be criticized, it should be immortalized.
You can thank me later James Cameron.