I was 12 years old when James Cameron's Titanic was unleashed upon the world. I saw the film six times in the theater, never tiring of it. I understand fanaticism. But I like to think I loved Titanic for its story, the unbridled narcissism of the men who made her without enough life-boats, never imagining she would sink. I loved Titanic for Kate Winslet, her bravery, her real-girl body, her free-spirit. Also, I was 12.
Avatar, possibly the most expensive film ever made to date, by guess who?! James Cameron, is not as terrible as I thought it would be. There, I said it. I like big blockbusters. Putting on the 3D glasses and running to the theater to get good seats is an exhilarating experience. By the way, if you're at all interested in seeing this thing, do it now, in the theater with the glasses. It won't be the same on DVD. Mostly, I'm still in love with the idea that it's possible for a director to make an entire theater filled with people sit down, shut up, and pay attention.
The plot is essentially a re-telling of Pocohontas, except instead of Native Americans we've got natives from a planet called Pandora. The Americans are interested in Pandora because it's got this special mineral that we need for energy called "Unobtainium." Funny, James. Some nerdy scientists, including Sigourney Weaver, who should be bad-ass but really isn't (mainly because she has no idea how to hold a cigarette) have decided it would be easier to communicate with the natives if we could look like them, talk like them, essentially be them. Hence the Avatar program is born. A marine by the name of Jake Sully is harvested to take his dead brother's place as an Avatar on Pandora, because he has the same genetic makeup. Jake's paralyzed from the waist down, so entering an alien body where he can run and jump is worth it for him.
Long story short, Jake falls in love with one of the natives, Neytiri, who is a total babe, obviously. The love affair, on top of his newfound legs, pushes Jake to the other side, which really pisses off his military superiors. They get sick and tired of waiting around for the natives to move, so they decide to just blow the whole place up. You know, shock and awe and all that. Yeah, James, we get it.
Avatar has real nice things to say about the environment and how we've lost touch with Mother Earth. I totally agree. Do I think it'll make the dudes excited about its special effects go home and recycle? No. Why? Because, like Cameron, I think they're more concerned with "progress," i.e. the technology to make billion dollar movies like this so we can all forget that we've shat all over the planet and now there's nowhere for our children to live. Sorry, that was bitter and probably unnecessary, but that's how I feel. I like movies with people in them. Think Woody Allen. Yeah, I like all that real and neurotic shit.
That said, I do think it's possible for this technology (which is incredible, I admit, yes I was impressed by the way the creatures faces even read the actor's emotions) combined with good film-making (and that means good writing, James) to really make a fucking incredible, life-changing, world-changing motion picture. Avatar isn't it, but it's a step in the right direction.