I knew what I would like and what I wouldn't like about James Cameron's Avatar before I saw it. Everything about what Cameron said about this being a movie that came to him half a lifetime ago is true. The problem is we've heard that story a thousand times.
Everybody is an archtype, which makes this a movie for the ages and a retelling and a retelling. The only way to love this movie is to fall in love with the voice. Instead it is merely entertaining. It's hard to explain why archtypical storytelling worked so well in Spiderman and failed so awfully in Avatar. Maybe it's because (and I'm going to say what a thousand other critics will say) this story is so damned much like Pocahontas that you'd think somebody would sue. It doesn't make me hate the movie, it just makes it clear that Cameron is larger than life and nobody can tell him to grow up and make a film for sophisticates.
Just the other night I watched The Abyss and the whole stereotypical shebang fell on my head like a ton of daisy cutter explosives dropped out of a cargo plane. Cameron clearly has no time for any military intelligence, only warriors. So this time he made them a paramilitary bunch of mercs - he said it right out front. They're all in it for the ducats. And, as he did with The Abyss and Aliens, he has a narrow shouldered corporate puke calling the shots. At least this one's not passive-aggressive. In fact nobody in Avatar has any time of second thought. The whole damned thing is too epic, almost three hours. No wonder nobody had anything nuanced to say. Even the scientists were blinkered.
All that said, hey I'm an old man. I've heard all the jokes before. What I've never seen and what I never expected to see is this much compute power so effortlessly and seamlessly woven together into a live action film. Several years ago, people thought that computer animation would change the entertainment industry as virtual actors would replace real ones. But here's the news, the story may be a rehash but Cameron's technology is a revolution. I'll say it plainly:
James Cameron has destroyed the uncanny valley.
It is as if it never existed. It has taken one generation of filmmaking, but that old tagline from the Superman movie: "You'll believe a man can fly", has been taken to the virtual limit. And he did it without orcs.