This is going to be one of those posts where I say “okay, first of all” A LOT. (Yes, I know.) The phrase “oh AND another thing” will also be used liberally. There will, of course, be much swearing.
Okay, first all, how pissed am I that when I finally manage to see five best picture Oscar nominees before the award ceremony, the Academy doubles the nominees to ten?!
The answer you're looking for is pretty darn.
AVATAR AVATAR AVATAR.
Sorry, I keep hoping there is a hidden message in the word that might reveal itself if I stare at it long enough and from a variety of angles. You know, like "Paul is dead" or "the real movie starts after the credits to this silliness roll."
Okay, first of all, if you want to see Avatar and don't want to read movie spoilers or have it ruined for you, do not read any further. Though, I will say you shouldn't see Avatar.
I expected this movie to fail. Blue people, epic jungle space movie that cost a bajillion dollars to make -- exactly big enough to fail, I say!
I was wrong.
It is a massive success.
However, my decision not to see it was unchanged. I didn't get sucked in by District 9, I would not be bamboozled by Avatar.
But then really good reviews started pouring in. My friends were telling me that I had to see it! HAD TO! And NOT just on my couch when the DVD comes out.
"IT'S AMAZING, DAWN," Fisch squealed breathlessly. Yeah, that's right buddy, I said you squealed! Like a little girl.
Fine. Okay, let's do this.
I had an unexpected day off from work, so I headed to Manhattan's biggest IMAX theater and got the glasses and the seat right in the middle of the theater's center row.
Wow me, James Cameron, WOW ME.
And he did. The visuals were incredible. The whole floating barracks thing with the floating people and doctors...coolness.
And then, it all began to fall apart.
First off, the hero, Sully, is in a wheelchair. That he rolls with his hands.
It's 2054, they have robot soldiers, colonies on planets in other galaxies, but they can't hook this kid up with a motorized wheelchair?
Sully has been chosen to step into his brother's shoes (not literally, of course, ha ha because he's all paralyzed and in a wheelchair, see? Not my bad joke. The movie's. Eyeroll.) because they are twins and the expensive government Avatar will meld to him because he has the same DNA as his brother!
Sigourney Weaver is in charge of the unit. She has her own Avatar. Now, the whole point of these Avatars is that the Americans - oh, whoops, I mean the Sky People - can slip into the indigenous world and blend right in. Except, Sigourney Weaver's Avatar wears a tank top and hot pants! Say what?
Anyway, Sully is all anxious to try out his Avatar because he controls the thing with his mind, so it can run and jump and make the love that his broken real life body cannot.
As soon as he's strapped in, he runs all amok with the thing and ends up being chased by a jungle dinosaur, falling off a cliff and losing contact with his team.
Actually, the scene where the dinosaur chases him to the waterfall and he jumps in, actually made me laugh out loud because I totally thought he'd hit jagged rocks and sever the Avatar's spinal cord and be paralyzed in the Avatar world too.
That did not happen.
However, once you get that thought it your head, it never leaves. Every time Sully gets in a jam during the next 140 minutes of movie, you will immediately wonder if this is the scene where he winds up in an Avatar wheelchair?
Ok, back to the plot.
There he is, lost and all alone, separated from his unit, completely unprepared for the jungle planet and he's scared.
He gets attacked by a pack of wild dogs and basically begs them to tear him apart quickly.
He's saved by the love interest in the movie...I will call her Pocahontas. She kills a few of the dogs and sends the rest scattering.
Sully is all "yahoo! You saved me! You kick ass. Oh, wait do you speak English?"
"Shut up! You ignorant fool!"
Yep. She speaks English! Of all the luck!
She calls him names and says his stupidity forced her to kill those poor dogs. She spits at him and storms off.
But Sully's no fool, he recognizes his love interest in the movie when she swoops in to his rescue, so he follows her.
She tries to ditch him and he correctly asks the question we're all thinking:
If you're going to be all snooty, why didn't you just let the dogs eat me.
"Because. You have strong heart."
Fuck the what?
Well, she tries to ditch him some more, but then some butterflies land on him and she's all "oh, it's a sign from Yahweh!" I'm personally thinking Axe body spray, but what do I know?
So, Pocahontas does what she always does despite hundreds of years of experience which unequivocally counsel: let the dogs eat him. She brings him back to her village. Of course, she has a proud father and a wise mother and a protective older brother. Aw, don't they always? She tells the wise mother about the Yahweh sign and so they agree to let Sully stay with them in the village. His avatar bunkers down with them and his real life self wakes up back in the lab.
Everyone is relieved that he's alive and the expensive Avatar is safe. Bonus that he seems to have gotten an in with the tribe!
This last bit is of particular interest to angry head military guy, we'll call him Lt. Colonel Nathan R. Jessup. So Jessup wants to kill the injuns and he's all "Look Sully, you tell me everything about them and help me kill them injuns and I'll get you your legs back. Your *real* legs," he adds with sinister emphasis to remind Sully that the Avatar he's been running around and jumping in waterfalls with is just imaginary.
"Deal!" Sully says shaking Jessup's hand.
And so begineth "montage number 1." Pocahontas teaches Sully all their ways, Sully goes back and tells Jessup, Jessup plans Operation kill the injuns. The movie explains that America just wants the injuns to move a little ways inland, so they can dig up the oil from under the Injuns' tree of life. (Why is the oil ALWAYS under the most sacred thing EVAH? This whole movie doesn't even happen if the oil is underneath the Detriot Lions Stadium! They'd just tear that crap down and suck it out. (Um...for my Canadian readers, that's like the Maple Leafs rink.) Anyhoo, Sully gets in real tight with the natives, he passes all their tests, gets initiated into the tribe and ends up mating with Pocahontas. Even Sigourney Weaver gets brought into the fold, hot pants be damned!
But, oh no! Jessup's unhappy with Sully's progress in getting the injuns to move, so he decides to just send the robot soldiers down to the planet to bulldoze the tree of life and get the oil.
"No! You can't," Sully cries, his eyes filling with water, "it's the tree! Of life!" He then throws a rock at the bulldozers. But his girlfriend is pissed that he supplied the army with all the information in the first place and his avatar is shunned from the tribe!
Oh my gosh, I am totally making this movie sound exciting. It's not. However, my exclamation points and return key spaces have more range and convey more emotion than this entire cast put together. Even Weaver looks like she's phoning her performance in from the set of Aliens IV. Oh and another thing: remember, the whole time you're waiting for Sully's avatar legs to get crushed, forcing him to be fitted into an Avatar wheelchair. Okay.
So now Sully has gone rogue. Jessup's pissed. He goes straight to Sigourney Weaver's lab and unplugs all the dream pods where the real bodies are kept.
"This experiment is finished!"
Sully goes to the head guy, Giovanni Ribisi, for help. But Ribisi is all "the only thing we care about is the bottom line at the end of the quarter. I need that oil!"
Jessup has Weaver and Sully jailed as traitors.
Then Michelle Rodriquez and the black psychic from Drag Me to Hell break them out of prison and Sully and all the women and people of color with more than ten speaking lines, spearhead a counteroffensive against the Americans.
Jessup is all "Bring it on! We'll smoke 'em out. If you're not with us, your against us. Terrorists!"
So Sully tames the mightiest beast in the jungle to prove that he IS one of the Natives now and can connect with the space jungle and all its creatures. Pocahontas is impressed.
"Oh, Sully, you're not just a sky person dressed in an injun mask to have the sex with the native girls and fly our indian dragons! I love you forever."
Sully rounds up all the injuns on the planet. They come by thousands! He prays to the tree to send help and it does! The animals on the planet mobilize! The birds attack from above! The wild dogs and land dinosaurs attack by land. The warriors come...um...bows AND arrows blazing!
"Jessup doesn't know these skies. These are Injun skies!" Bows and arrows versus robot rocket ships AND THAT'S his rallying cry!
Oh, and Jessup shoots Sigourney Weaver! Yawn. I mean, Nooo, not Sigourney!
The problem with the movie is this: the only person that shows passion in any believable way, is Jessup.
He's a company man.
His company has told him to get this oil, he figures out how to get it and executes the plan. I understand Jessup. I can get behind Jessup.
The motives of every single other character make absolutely NO SENSE.
Pocahontas knows Sully is basically wearing a rubber "Injun suit," but takes him back to her village anyway. It's like Hector opens up the Trojan horse, sees the Greeks inside and goes, "okay, you boys sit tight, we'll wheel you in in a minute...can I get you anything? Lemonade? Crackers?"
The proud parents who have already kicked out Sigourney Weaver and her colonial school rewelcome her back? Why? What'd they think would happen this time around? Sully, who took the mission to honor his dead brother and get his real legs back suddenly goes "nuts to that! I want the hot Amazon Indian girl more." All the tribes then decide to follow the guy wearing the Injun mask into battle? DUDE.
I'm telling you right now, if Martin Luther King Jr. had been a do goody white kid in black face delivering exactly the same lines, that I have a dream speech would NOT have gone over well at all.
And, ANOTHER THING, Sully doesn't even try to get the Injuns to just give the Americans the oil. He got the tree to mobilize an animal army, but he couldn't just ask for the tree to spit up some unobtanium every few days to keep his bosses happy?
If Cameron wanted to relitigate the Iraq war he should have made the Hurt Locker.
In the context of these Natives, if they wanted to be left alone, free from the Sky people, they'd have killed Sully on the spot. Or let nature take its course with the visitors. If, however, they wanted to bring the Sky people into the fold, they'd have coughed up the unobtainium as a show of good faith. Instead, we get a movie where tree hugging hippies bring the American marines to their knees? And animals kill humans and blow up our planes? And I'm supposed to cheer? Hell to the no.
Plus, Avatar Sully never does get paralyzed.
Oh, but the silver lining?
When I went to get my 3D glasses, the usher made me throw away my still nearly full cup of vanilla latte. I did so. Then she checks my bag and makes me throw away my uneaten bagel. I protest. She's a prick. I comply. But in between expectantly waiting for Avatar Sully's legs to be crushed, I plot my revenge. First off, there's no way they're getting these glasses back. Secondly, on my way out I noticed "Up in the Air" starting in the theater next door! Ha!
Suck it, AMC theaters.
Who's got two thumbs, isn't blue and has gone rogue? This guy!
Unfortunately, the message of "Up in the Air" is that if you're single, childless and don't have a permanent job, you should kill yourself.
So, um, we'll call it a Pyrrhic victory.