As some of you may know, this blog actually existed in an entirely different format around October/November of last year. I was reviewing films on a year-by-year basis (my goal was to finish watching all of the important films of a given year and then rank said films). I gave up on that. However, back in February, I actually restarted the blog with its current and more flexible format. Anyways, I’ve been doing this since February and up til now, I had never actually reviewed a film that I had for the original blog before. Well, I wish it was a different film that ended that streak, but as it is, I just finished re-watching the highest grossing film of all time, 2009’s Avatar, a visually breath-taking film with an entirely recycled and unoriginal plot.

Avatar is a science-fiction epic that chronicles the battle for control of the planet Pandora. It is the year 2154, and humanity has reached space and begun to mine on the planet Pandora because of its rich sources of a valuable mineral, unobtanium (I couldn’t make a dumber name up). However, Pandora has a native population of sentient beings named Na’vi that have a sacred relationship with nature and do not wish that humanity disturb their planet. Paraplegic former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) arrives on Pandora to pilot an “avatar” which his an artificially created Na’vi which is synced with his consciousness. Jake’s mission is to gain intelligence on the Na’vi stronghold so the corporation can destroy them, but as Jake spends more and more time among the Na’vi, he must decide whether his loyalties lie with the evil company or with the peaceful natives.

I’ll start with my praise for the film. It’s easily the best looking film ever made. This movie is a technical achievement that should be praised to kingdom come. When I saw it in theaters for the first time, my jaw was on the floor the entire film. I’ve never seen such beautiful sights created by computers, and I hope that this film is an inspiration to future film-makers who may be concerned that their visions are too grand to make the screen. The actual universe and mythology of the film is also interesting, and I wish that all of the sights and characters and concepts of the film could have been placed in a movie with a more original story.

Now for the film’s myriad issues. The movie’s plot is basically what would happen if you took Pocahontas, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, and Dances with Wolves and put them in a blender set to “space” mode. There really isn’t an original bone to the film’s main story. The only originality comes in universe building. Also, the film is nearly three hours long, and as entertaining and as fun as it can be, that’s just way too long for me to be sitting and vegetating to something that’s not making me think very much. James Cameron is no Peter Jackson when it comes to crafting engaging epics. Biggest problem is the fact that the movie is full of non-stop and seemingly never ending exposition. Characters constantly engage in “as you know” speeches that just sound unnatural and insult the audience’s ability to piece things together on their own.

I appreciate the film’s attempt at a pro-environment, anti-rampant capitalism story, but it wasn’t really handled all that well. In 2009 alone, District 9 handled the “humans are bastards” theme so infinitely better than Avatar. I’ve always had such a huge problem where films that have the “noble savage” archetype feel the need to beat it over your head that they can only be saved by guilt-ridden white men. Whether or not that theme is true is besides the point. It’s a product of a very specific type of survivor guilt, and it’s intellectually condescending to native populations. I nearly forgot about the film’s ending which is predicated on a massive and literal deus ex machina. They’re literally saved from destruction by god. I thought this was science fiction.

I bitch and moan a lot about how over-rated this film is. It’s a travesty that it was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars and WON Best Picture at the Golden Globes. However, this is a fun movie. I loved pretty much every second of it the first two times I watched it. Each subsequent viewing has robbed the film of much of its magic since it loses the initial awe of the beautiful visuals and I’m stuck with the realization that the story is paper-thin. This is a great popcorn film. If you are one of the weird few who still haven’t seen it, you should give it a go. Just don’t think it’s one of the best films ever made which I still don’t understand how the film has gained this repuation.

Final Score: B