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“Avatar”: post-review musings

Given that “Avatar” topped nearly every critic’s Best of 2009 list or got some kind of honorary mention, I wondered post-viewing why it didn’t make mine. The first answer is the obvious one: I didn’t see the film before I made the list. M. Carter @ the Movies just had to — just had to — wait, dontchaknow, until all the hype died down. So I waited … and waited … and waited until I determined this movie had produced a Jason Voorhees brand of hype that would not go belly-up for years. So I went, I saw, my eyeballs went ablaze with joy at what they were seeing. What I saw convinced me that “Avatar” had blazed a new trail (hence the review title) for CGI in particular and filmmaking in general.

And yet I made no plans to review my top 10 list.

So I went back to pick through my original choices. Were they more flawless than “Avatar”? Certainly not. “Inglourious Basterds” had its fair share of problems, including sorely underdeveloped characters, while “(500) Days of Summer” had that dreadful sellout of an ending. And “The Hangover”? I mean, it’s a movie about four dudes getting wasted in Las Vegas! “Citizen Kane” it surely, surely ain’t. How could “Avatar” not merit a spot in this list?

Perhaps Vanessa at The Movie Ness said it best her review: The visuals wowed me for sure, but overall “Avatar” didn’t win my heart. I didn’t fall in love with it the way I did with “Up in the Air” or “Up.” I’m a character girl, and too many of the ones in “Avatar” felt … well, recycled. The music seemed to suffer the same problem. And I’d imagine most people would say something like “who cares about the characters? LOOK at the FRIGGIN’ COLORS!” But Cameron went this far in the name of originality for the visuals; why not go a bit further and give us a story that’s just as inventive?

Minor quibbles, though. Even though “Avatar” didn’t make my list, I cannot disagree with one thing: With this film, James Cameron has changed the face of CGI as we know it. “Avatar” is a hell of an achievement and deserves to be recognized as such.

15 Responses

  1. Boo. Dislike.

    I feel like Avatar is suffering the same fate as movies this popular always do nowadays: over-analysis and nitpicking. Because it’s so big and being so well loved across the board, we all feel the need to look into every single detail of it. If people did that with Star Wars it would have never gotten a sequel.

    I believe if it wasn’t winning awards right now some of the bashing would have lessened, but because it is doing well there as well it’s arousing even more negativity. It baffles me.

    I’m very disappointed to read this.

    • I’m not sure I’d agree that pointing out a few flaws — and not even describing them that all that harshly — qualifies as “bashing.” I gave “Avatar” high marks because I felt it deserved one based on the scope and groundbreaking CGI work and cinematography. It will win all kinds of awards and deserve them; you’ll get no argument from me on that one. Cameron achieved something monumental, and he should be rewarded for it. But I did not connect with “Avatar” the way I did with so many other films I saw in 2009. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

    • Hmmm. Now I went back and read what I wrote and I don’t really think most of that was even intended for you. I had just gotten off reddit, and I can’t figure out why I ever go on there. It’s such a negative environment. I had just received some strange emails telling me to die (I’ve warned Castor about this-lol) and other wise, so I apologize for sounding so defensive. I love ya M. Carter and totally respect what you have to say.

  2. No, I never felt you were bashing. I meant the general feeling across the board. Because of the Globes and SAGS it’s really getting slammed across the internet. I was just disappointed to read you, who seemed to share the same enthusiasm possibly lose some when so many people have such an alternative perspective right now. It makes me think of how well received Titanic was upon release and now people talk about it like it was a giant piece of poop. I’m trying to figure out what makes these point of views change over time. 🙂 The whole reaction to Avatar really has me………confused………pardon me while I continue to think aloud.

    • Disagreements of opinion are good. That’s what I like about blogs — I have my opinion, I’m so convinced it’s the right one, and then people make me reconsider. The day I start thinking that’s a bad thing is the day someone needs to slap me.

      What did you think of “Titanic” upon its release? ‘Cuz I have to be honest: I thought it was showy and sentimental and overdone (loved Kate Winslet, though — she’s my lady).

      • Titanic Oscars and the films that should have won:
        Best Picture: L.A. Confidential

        Best Director
        The Sweet Hereafter

        Best Cinematography

        Best Costume Design

        Best Sound

        Best Film Editing

        Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing

        Best Effects, Visual Effects

        Best Music, Original Song
        All crap that year!

        Best Music, Original Dramatic Score

        Avatar is about the same.

  3. Thanks for the link 🙂 I can understand that you wanted to wait until the hype died down. I just couldn’t make it before cause it was ALWAYS sold out…crazy!

  4. Another one fashionably late to the party along with Ross McG and Katie form the Stories That Really Mattered.

    As I said on their reviews everyone expects you to love or hate this movie. Although I enjoyed it, I certainly didn’t love it. It is getting reviews making it out to be far better than it is, on the other hand it doesn’t deserve all the negative backlash.

    My big fear is that it will win the best picture Oscar that it just doesn’t deserve, all things considered there are far better films out there. This will further polarise the love and hate camps but I still refuse to join either!

    On a different point you have just reminded me that I haven’t read your reviews of Up In the Air and (500) Days of Summer. I avoided them knowing I was going to review them myself. I will look back and find them.

    • I’m with you, Fandango — I really enjoyed myself and thought the CGI was crazy-nuts-fantastic. And there were a few scenes where the characters had me misty. But overall I felt the storyline was a little done-to-death and the characters could have been better developed. I’ll admit, too, that I’m still a little bitter about “The Dark Knight” Oscar shutout, and that might have colored my reaction to “Avatar.” Plus, I just cannot say that “Avatar,” with all its gorgeousness, deserves a ranking higher than “Up in the Air” or “Precious.”

      Why, that would go against my indie-character-drama-fetish!

  5. is this film out yet?

  6. It’s reassuring to hear that I am not quite alone in my opinion of the film.

    It’s odd, but I think “the haters” get an absurd amount of backlash against them – or that our positions are certainly distorted by those you did enjoy the film more than we did. As you pointed out, it isn’t the worst film ever – that’s indifference rather than hatred or backlash, I think. I didn’t hate the film. I didn’t like it, but hate is a strong word.

    Ah well.

    • I think “I didn’t not like it” works pretty well. But that’s kind of a play on your comments relating to “Avatar” in the Oscar race.

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