Friday, December 18, 2009


I try to make every movie experience an educational one. What did the writer do well? What did the writer fail to do? Could anything have been done better?

Avatar reminded me tonight that you don't have to have a particularly original story to tell if you have a compelling way to tell it. Avatar doesn't present a story we haven't seen before (it most notably and obviously resembles Dances With Wolves). But by placing it in a setting we've never seen before, and weaving relevant topics into it, James Cameron has produced a very strong movie. It's clean, simple story-telling. Sure, one might be able to predict the outcome of the movie from the very beginning, but fifteen minutes into it, you don't care. It's too fun. It's too thrilling.

There is a part of me that wishes a more original story had been told -- or that somewhat fresher story elements had been brought into the mix. What if Quaritch had backed down, only to have Selfridge step up and become the main antagonist? And likewise, what if Jake Sulley proved himself so unfaithful to the tribe, that Norm Spellman had to step in to unite the tribes? Little moments like those might have helped a "tried and true" story feel a little newer, a little fresher.

Yet there are some nice touches. I liked it that it took some work for Jake to win back Neytiri's trust. She didn't just fall back into his arms after her father died (tragedy is often used to bring to warring parties back together). I liked it that it was Neytiri, not Jake, that finally took down Quaritch. I liked it that spirituality wasn't mocked, but embraced.

So, overall, I wish the story wasn't so Dances With Wolves, yet -- like most Cameron films -- the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And there's a reason we have "tried and true" stories. They work.

Simple. Clean. Strong.

Note to self.

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