Reaching back into my Saved Posts that I never actually posted, I came across this one and thought I would share it. I only meant to post it…oh…I don’t know…in 2009? February 2010? Whatever. Here you go!
Welcome back, dear reader(s). I have returned from my journies both across the country and into foreign lands.
The holidays and my varied travels also meant that I did not see Avatar until last week. What did I think, you ask? I really really liked it. I’d tried to mainly only read articles about technical and technological aspects beforehand (and not reviews) so as to have as clear a head as possible. But I had also heard from friends and the general consensus seemed to be that it was beautiful, but that the story was exactly what you would expect. By this, I believe they all meant that it was predictable. They weren’t bowled over. They weren’t in love.
I have to say that I don’t agree. I found the story epic and wonderfully so. I am hesitant to use that word, “epic;” the implications that come to mind are…well, it seems to set up unfair expectations (as well as possibly sound a little pompous and too full of itself) so maybe actually it’s perfect. I think that Avatar‘s critics have been holding it up to an unbelievable standard, based on all of the hype of the new CG technology, the amount of time James Cameron spent preparing this movie, the fact that it’s James Cameron at all, etc… They want it to be so mind-blowing that pretty much nothing would be good enough. On that front, seeing the movie a month after everyone else has huge advantages.
As to epic, I think it was epic storytelling and that we don’t have enough good epic storytelling anymore. It’s what the new Star Wars movies were trying to do (and they failed miserably). And when you have such a sweeping story, when it still has a ways to go to complete the arc at two hours in, and when it deals with the possible downfall of an entire civilization, well then, my friends, that is when you are in the realm of the Epic.
And I loved the epic storytelling. I thought it was so well done. It went where I would have wanted it to, but I wasn’t predicting things hours before they happened and getting annoyed that I was right. I think it introduced things in good time so that we were ready for them. I thought it was great.
When you get into the realm of the Epic**, then I think you are tapping into ancient archetypes – these things keep coming up in our collective stories and are satisfying for a reason. Good vs. evil. Technology/machines vs. nature. Colonizers vs. Indigenous peoples. Finding your place in a new world. Learning to belong. Finding something worth fighting for. It may feel familiar but that’s because these are themes that will always come up for humans, and if someone can tell an engaging story about these ideas in a beautiful way, then I think that is worth something.
But like I said, I’m also of the opinion that we don’t get enough stories like that “nowadays” (harumph harumph, I’m shaking a cane at all the whipper-snappers…). I certainly don’t mean that every film has to be that way, but so many big blockbuster/expensive/massive studio movies are sequels, remakes, based on a toy from the 80s, or simply pandering to the lowest common denominator within the audience and don’t necessarily take the time to develop the story within the franchise. Or just plain leave it out. What? The audience might want a story with their popcorn? What tosh!
And an original story? Pish posh!
We need good storytelling and if it is a good story told well, then sign me up.*
Then again, I never saw Dances with Wolves. 🙂
*Extra points for pretty things to look at. Like things that look like flying jellyfish. That was my other main point about Avatar, back when I started this review. How much I loved the FLYING JELLYFISH SEEDPODS!
**Okay, I’ve used this phrase twice now, I think it’s time to coin it.