Avatar was a bad movie.

It was a great technical demo. It could work as a theme park ride. I’d love to play it’s MMO.

But it was not a great movie.

A movie can’t be great without a great story. A great story- not just a good story- is about moral choices. Avatar did not have this. Avatar had people who are all good and all bad. That is fine for a Saturday morning cartoon, but if you want to be a good movie, I expect more.

It’s a shame, because there is tons of room in the storyline for shades of gray. These things are not all good or all bad. In a more realistic parallel, there are some things the Navi could learn from humans- modern medicine, more opportunities to travel outside of their immediate surroundings, a greater understanding of the world, more options for people who did not fit into traditional life, etc. Not every Navi would be completely happy and joyful all the time until the day the humans came. And the humans probably would not be that evil. They would have their own motivations, and probably be as much a part of their circumstances as anything else. Perhaps they have families to feed and no other real options. I don’t know. But they’d likely have some motivations beyond corporate profit. Jake’s interspecies relationship would no doubt would not be an entirely smooth road, nor would his acceptance into the group be so easy. Hell, he’d have plenty of his own personal struggles and doubts in the process- becoming a part of another culture is an extremely hard thing to do on a personal level.

Anyway, lots of fertile ground here, but nothing planted in it. Just a simple story of bad people and good people. What’s wrong with that? If the message is too simple, nobody gets it. Nobody connects it to real life, because real life isn’t simple. Whatever “don’t attack nice people” and “hug trees” message in there is going to roll right off the audience, because it’s not about these issues at all. Just about good guys and bad guys. It might as well be GI Joe fighting Cobra.

Okay, maybe you don’t need some huge moral message. But without even that, that leaves this movie with nothing besides some visual effects. Just GI Joe fighting Cobra on a really big screen.

Plus, the whole “magic purely good tree huggers who are so in touch with nature they actually physically connect to it” thing was so over done it was obnoxious. This sort of characterization, I believe, is actually harmful to the indigenous societies the Navi are supposed to parallel. Isn’t it time we dropped the whole "noble savage’ thing?

Anyway Cameron created a sensation, but he has not changed film. This film will not even hold up on the small screen, much less over time. Yes, he has proved that spending a lot of money and creating a lot of hype can lead to big box office receipts. But we knew that anyway, didn’t we? Would you really want to go out and see three more movies just like Avatar?

I haven’t seen it, but was impressed at how enthusiastic my wife was about it. In contrast, my college senior, gamer, fantasy-reading daughter said it bored her, and she just wanted it to end after 2 hours. She said many of her friends were also talking it down. I asked her if she thought they really disliked it, or were - at least in part - adopting the position of not buying into something that was extremely popular and successful.

Good point. Cameron had a message in the film, but it is drowned out by good vs. bad and the amazing technical aspects. If he was trying to advance a message, I don’t think he succeeded due to the extreme characatures of both sides.

I haven’t seen it, so I’m hesitant to comment on its’ merits or lack thereof, but…from what I’ve heard about it, it seems to have an anti-technological, pro-primitivism, “big high tech culture BAD, small back to nature folk GOOD” moral to it. I just think it’s ironic that a movie that is being lauded as an amazing breakthrough in movie making technology also apparently has an anti-high tech message to it.

I think a movie can be great without a great story. And I think a movie can be great even when it’s got Black and White characterizations. But for either of these things to happen, it needs quality writing, excellent acting, and a sophisticated and novel approach. And sadly, Avatar has bad writing, rudimentary acting, and a veneer that’s technologically sophisticated but also a pandering story-telling impulse that has the maturity of an adolescent. Personally, I didn’t think it was a bad movie–just a boring one, a tired retread in fancy new clothing. And I’ll admit that sometimes, the fancy new clothing can be enough to sustain my interest. But too much of the film, even the non-CGI parts, looked and felt like a cartoon to me. And not in a good way. I’m exceptionally pleased that the Academy didn’t do what they easily could’ve last night.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Titanic also featured cartoon heroes and villains.

I agree. I hated Avatar. My SO just didn’t like it, but I positively hated it. I hated it for many reasons, chief among them that Jake Sully was just so dumb. Was I supposed to be on his side?

Plus the girl was a bit creepy, in her movements - it definitely went into uncanny valley territory for me. And the plot was simple and formulaic - much too simple.

Someone else said it best anyway. Cameron spent millions of dollars and used large corporations and capitalism to rail against the evils of money and corporations and capitalism. :smiley:

I read the Avatar thread pretty much through, by the way, and considered all the points, and I still hate the movie, so please don’t try to convince me otherwise (as invariably seems to happen). I didn’t hate it just because it was popular - I never do that.

I went in with low expectations, and ended up enjoying it. Thought the plot and acting were (just about) good enough to hold the thing together. I’m glad I saw it in the cinema, and glad I saw it in 3D. I have no wish to see it again though.

Avatar hardly stands out in this respect. I think there is a place for these simplistic stories, I don’t automatically hate them, but I’m very glad there are more involving things out there.

Not in my case. I live under a rock (well, actually in small-town China) and somehow managed to miss all the hype. All I knew about it was that my friends wanted to see it and that tickets were super expensive. When I came back and read the reviews, I was honestly surprised that anybody liked it.

I admit, I haven’t seen it, but threads like this are endlessly fascinating to me. I guess I kept hearin g people laud it and claim it was really awesome, but I never heard any of them have one thing to say about the story, the charcters, the themes, or anything at all except the graphics. That’s, well, nice. But a couple years from now the graphics will be commonplace if anyone cares to borrow them.

Plus, I hated Titanic, so I wasn’t eager to see another movie which is basically its second coming.

It’s worth noting that Lord of the Rings was entirely Good versus Evil.

I wouldn’t say that they were better or worse than Avatar in terms of quality, but they had more characters to follow about, doing more things all at the same time, so it could mix it up a bit.

I stand by what I posted in the other thread. At best, Avatar is an okay movie; kind of like an Ice Pirates for the 21st century, only not as funny.

Very nice special effects, sure, but it only took a few minutes to realize what I was watching was the New Age WarmFuzzy the Indians Were Good and the Whites Were Bad version of Pocahontas / Dances with Wolves / Europeans Invade the New World tripe.

“Not a great movie” /= “a bad movie.” I agree the movie itself wasn’t great, the visuals and the landscape were. It wasn’t bad.

Maybe that’s true of drama - I do think this applies to both Avatar and Titanic - but it’s not true of comedy.

Despite all of Avatar’s flaws, I have to admit I’m not very interested in this stuff. It also has shades of the ‘what have the Romans done for us’ conversation in Life of Brian. :wink:

I think everybody got the message, and it probably did resonate with some people. But you’re right that it’s too simplistic to resonate with a lot of others.

You’d think so, but people still romanticize crap like this.

People probably said that about Star Wars, too. Once 3-D television is up and running it will probably hold up pretty well.

You’re taking the movie’s success as a foregone conclusion, but it wasn’t. Before the movie came out, there were plenty of people who thought it might be a bomb because of its protracted development and high budget. We had a thread here asking if Avatar was going to be the next Titanic or the next Waterworld. Fox shared a lot of the costs of making the movie with other studios (giving away a bunch of the profits in return) to make sure they didn’t get stuck with a lot of debt if it failed.

‘Just like Avatar’ in terms of being visually lush but totally simplistic? Maybe not. I didn’t bother with any of the Lord of the Rings imitators.

I loved it.

To me, it was the Captain Carrot Ironfoundersson of movies: big, honest, likable and simple. And as we know, simple is not the same as stupid.

Cameron has entered Michael Bay territory, where he’s good enough at making big booms and putting together huge set-pieces that nobody’s told him that he’s not so great at storytelling.

I’ll give you that he’s a lot better at it than Bay, by far, but it’s a similar vein.

It isn’t really the story of Terminator 1 or 2 that people liked, it was the concept. Robots, time travel, shooting people in the face. Cameron is good at story ideas, but not at fleshing them out. The problem is, everything he touches makes a jillion dollars, so there’s nothing discouraging him from continuing.

George Lucas is similar, in a way. Lucas can come up with a good story idea, but he can’t turn it into a compelling movie anymore when he’s given unlimited resources to build CGI worlds and do whatever he wants. Star Wars is a lot like Terminator, in that technical and financial limitations required their writer/directors to step things back and find creative solutions.

Cameron wanted Terminator to take place entirely in the future and feature the robot/human war. His whole concept was limited to that, a robot/human war. That would have been impossible to film at the time, so he was forced to think creatively and instead have it only contain one robot who comes through time to the present (boom! no need to build futuristic sets!) and he looks just like a human (boom! no need to construct complicated special effects for a main character to be a robot). Everything we like about Terminator (time travel, robots who look like people, the single unstoppable killing machine) are the *compromises *Cameron had to make from his original, loonytune idea.

Similarly, Lucas wanted Star Wars to be much more out-there. He wanted every character to be a non-human, and the side characters like C3PO to be hugely animated guys with big personalities who bounce around like apes. Financial and technical limitations forced him to change the story into a more human-driven one with subdued characters and a simplified-yet-timeless plot.

When Lucas and Cameron are later given unlimited control and resources to make the movie of their dreams, we get big, loud, flashy pieces of storytelling crap (the SW prequels and Avatar being my key examples).

What made these guys good storytellers is their solutions to the limitations placed upon them.

I’m not sure what the solution is to that problem. Arbitrarily enforcing limitations on huge megastar directors doesn’t seem likely, and somehow there are directors who are given the key to the castle and still manage to produce solid movies, like Spielberg and Scorsese. Perhaps we need to better identify the directors who are universally good from the directors who only can make a good thing out of a bad situation.

It’s a very pretty movie that kipes everything storywise from basically three other movies (Disney’s Pocahontas, Ferngully and Dances with Wolves).

It’s not bad. It’s just been done before on every level except technologically.

I can’t say that I hated it but I was bored by it and will probably never sit through it again. Like others have said, without anything resembling a gripping story or interesting characters he might as well just make a CGI hyper-universe Pokemon movie.
I’m thankful it didn’t win anything beyond best visual effects, cinematography, and art direction at the oscars since that’s all it really stood out for.
If they would have given in Best Picture and in 10 years every movie looked like Avatar or even prettier people would be asking “Why did this thing get Best Picture again?” and we’d have to do the backpeddling “Welllll, it was groundbreaking in 2009!”

Well we had this discussion in a fair amount of detail in the Avatar thread but let me repeat some of the points I made there. I am not sure I would call Avatar a great film though I am more inclined to do so the more I think about it. At the very least I think it’s a very good film and in ways that go beyond the special effects.

The main story is certainly very simple but that is not necessarily a bad thing. One part of Avatar can be thought of as a piece of Navi mythology: of the demons who came from the skies to destroy their Eden and were repelled with the help of a savior. Mythology doesn’t have to be subtle to be effective it just has to be powerful. That Avatar certainly is and the scenes following the destruction of Home Tree in particular rival any epic in cinema history. And it’s not just special effects, it’s also about art design, editing and music.

Beyond the main story there are several more subtle themes which are skillfully developed, for example the limits of science in understanding the Navi. The warrior Sully penetrates the Navi ethos more deeply than the scientists but Avatar avoids the cliche of the arrogant, closed-minded scientists. They are portrayed as humane and intelligent but ultimately unable to form a true bond with the Na'vi. 

Avatar also does a fantastic job of creating a rich fictional universe with its geology, ecology and sociology. You appreciate this more when you read the accompanying book but the attention to detail is quite clear in the film itself. The script is also very skillful in presenting all this information without burdening the film with exposition.

I won’t say it was a great movie, or maybe even a “good” movie, but for me it was a very effective piece of entertainment. I cared about the characters, I was fascinated by the way that it looked, I was never close to bored. I think a good deal of that may indeed be the way that the 3D was handled, I had not seen something so subtle and convincing before.

So I think I was experiencing the same phenomenon as people who first saw a train coming at them on an old movie screen and were affected by it as if it were real. As an American in 2010 I am a sophisticated consumer of visuals, but this was just far enough outside my expectations to fool my brain. I think the only way to really judge it for me will be to wait a while until such realistic 3D techniques are commonplace, and watch it again.