Avatar: Predictable but pretty

David Wiens

I must admit that over my winter break I was so busy mountain hiking in the 72 degree Arizona air I very nearly forgot to see James Cameron’s “Avatar” before I came back to Kansas. Despite my best efforts, I had been unable to avoid hearing anything telling about it due to the sheer amount of press it had generated, so when I finally went to see it I was pretty sure I knew what I was getting into; a visual masterpiece with an uninspired storyline.


Thirty or forty minutes into the movie I was thoroughly unimpressed with the blatantly undeveloped characters and laughably obvious exposition content, and that’s not an exaggeration, I quite literally laughed aloud when I found out the mineral on Pandora was actually named ‘Unobtanium.’ Colonel Quaritch and Dr. Augustine were not even on the borderline of cookie-cutter archetypes, they were well within the border.
Still, as the movie progressed they appeared less and less and the movie finally finished stumbling over the backstory and took us out onto Pandora, home to a host of giant, six-legged alien species that wanted to kill the main characters (and who could blame them). It is at around this point when James Cameron all but abandons the environment and characters that dominated the first part of the movie (and again, who could blame him) to show us the awe-inspiring digital dreamscape he’s been working on for the better part of a decade. And by no coincidence, it is also around this point that the lackluster storyline stops seeming so lame and predictable.
Throughout the next hour or so the movie mirrors the actions of the main character and disconnects from everyone to wander in the cultural teachings of the Na’vi, which mostly include not wearing pants, apologizing to things as you stab them, riding on dragons, and sticking your “ponytail” in anything that fits during what, in retrospect, seems like it might have just been a very lengthy montage.
Finally, after longer than most of us would have cared for we reach the final conflict, now for any of you wondering; this is the part that is keeping this movie at number one in the box offices, and this is the part where everyone who hated everything else about this movie is shocked into silence. In the final hour of this movie James Cameron will give you the most predictable ending short of a Disney movie and it will still make you well up, although part of that might actually just be due to the resonance of the sound effects pulsing through your body.
So for all of the problems with “Avatar” I still cannot bring myself to say it was a bad movie. A bad screenplay? Definitely. Some of the most pathetic attempts to come up with characters short of a Michael Bay movie? Probably. The absolute worst name for a mineral I’ve ever heard? So far. An unbelievable display of wonder and majesty that everyone should see? Yes.