A reason to care
I’ll be honest from the start: My chief motive in writing about James Cameron’s billion-dollar baby Avatar is to get reimbursed for my $13.25 ticket.
Frankly, I’ve contributed too much hard-earned cash to the already swollen coffers of turd merchants like Lucas and Spielberg in the last decade. Shelling out to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in 2008, after having already been through the Star Wars prequel ringer, remains one of the most shameful acts of my moviegoing life.
The decade-in-the-making Avatar is at least competent twaddle. With its ridiculously cluttered backgrounds, groundbreaking special effects, personality void and flaccid non-narrative, Avatar gives you an idea of what The Phantom Menace might have looked like without all of the candy-ass shit.
No expense is spared in bringing the psychedelic jungle world of Pandora and its spiritual-warrior “humanoid” inhabitants the Na’vi to vivid, three-dimensional life. There are tremendous battle scenes, scores of trippy CGI creatures, fantastically detailed flying sequences and a “topical” love story to boot—Cameron puts everything on the screen except for a reason to care.
After the success of Titanic, Cameron had carte blanche, which isn’t a problem until you remember that he also writes his films. He’s one of only a handful of Hollywood scribes with the autonomy to produce anything they write, a group that has only ineptitude in common.
Cameron actually named the unobtainable substance that spurs the invasion of Pandora “Unobtainium,” but with his “vision” protected by a financial fortress, no one had the authority to offer constructive criticism, like, “Hey, that’s stupid.”
One of Billy Wilder’s tips for writers was “Grab ’em by the throat and never let ’em go,” but Cameron’s script for the needlessly long Avatar grabs you by the balls and says, “Cough.”