Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Avatar...what more is there to say....

So it is there that I start my all too predictable backlash against Avatar. Unless you have been living under a rock, hate the cinema or are incredibly out of touch with the outside world (in which case why are you reading this?) you will have heard of, if not seen this film, apparently a marvel of modern cinema. The film that has wowed audiences across the world, raked in squillions of dollars for the studios and won tons of awards. It also, perplexingly, took seven (7!!!) years to write.

Now, I think before I really get started on this, a small disclaimer is in order - when it comes to films I am a complete luddite - that is I don't care a jot for all these technological advances. It was a step too far for me when they started to show films in colour. In all seriousness though I would say around 95% of the films I watch for pleasure don't use CGI and I really don't see the point of it. If you're watching a cartoon fair enough but I have never understood the point of mixing live action with computer generated graphics. Both make it equally hard for me to dispel my disbelief but with CGI there's always an element of ridiculousness because you know the actors are prancing around in front of a green screen.

Now in the large majority of films that employ CGI (although I take this as read because I haven't actually seen very many but I know this to be true), and Avatar is as much guilty of this as any in recent memory, the vast amounts spent on CGI has been an excuse not to bother with some fundamentals of film making:
  • Characterisation
  • Plot
  • Good scripts

The plot of Avatar is laughably simplistic, an alien planet is discovered which contains a valuable mineral ('unobtainium' wow!). The planet is already inhabited by several alien species, one humanoid and seemingly primitive and so rather than blow them away straight away efforts are made to communicate with them by using some incredibly advanced technology that involved implanting the mind of a human into the body of an alien. (the technology is obviously incredibly advanced but can be run from a shack in the jungle with no obvious power source). Predictably the human mole sent in to move the aliens along falls in love with their culture and when the inevitable battle starts he obviously helps the aliens.

Now you could be jealous and say that the (lack of any decent) plot was to allow the audience to focus on the, admittedly beautiful, visuals. But 3 hours of beautiful (computer generated) visuals does not a good film make. I'm a huge fan of David Attenborough's nature shows because although many of the scenes he shows are amazing, beautiful, and even shocking, you know that everything he shows exists and you're reminded that as inventive as fiction is nothing is quite as extraordinary as reality. Instead we're expected to be wowed for three hours by six legged slimy tigers and blue giants who can plug into nature.

Then there was the predictable battle, led by the evil army colonel (who seemed to be based on Guile from Streetfighter), where the typical modern battle convention of jump cuts every .3 of a second seem to predominate. Whether the audiences like this headache inducing style or whether it's to cover for the deficiencies of the technology I don't know but after the headache of the 3D it didn't seem to matter by then. Again it could be me but the whole 3D thing seems like a bit of a waste of time. In no way do you feel you are there, inside the movie, in about 5 or 6 scenes in the whole film it actually adds something to the video and by the end of 3 hours wearing the glasses your nose is aching.

So then, what's left to say, some people will like this film and to be perfectly honest I don't blame them in the slightest, but in terms of my own personal cinematic tastes you couldn't go much further to find a film to offend all of them.

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