Avatar Review: Damn Pretty, Shame About The Dances With Pocahontas Story Line

If you’ve completely missed the hype around James Cameron’s Avatar so far, give yourself a prize…well, if you can afford one because you’re probably living in the cave.

As Avatar sails past a staggering $1 billion at the box office, I relented and sat down at my local cinema to see what the fuss is all about.

This is one movie that is best seen on the big screen in 3D vs a pirated copy. The hype about the visuals is well deserved, with the CGI seamlessly blending into a believable yet alien landscape of flying natives on dragon like creatures. It is visually stunning, although as some sites have reported, the massive overdose of 3D can make you a little queasy; at one stage I nearly felt sick, although the box of Maltesers I’d eaten at that stage probably wasn’t helpful.

Where Avatar falls down and doesn’t deserve 100% praise is the Dances with Pocahontas story line, or as others have suggested, yet another white man colonial guilt film. Some spoilers ahead.

The premise of the movie is simple: white men with trinkets try to win over natives, natives (who are in “touch” with nature) resist, white man comes hunting. The Dances with Pocahontas part comes when the star of the movie changes side, appreciating the natives and helping them fight the nasty white men who have come to destroy their lives.

I don’t use the term white man lightly either: there may have been some African American or Asian bit players in the movie, but the main characters are all white (and within white I include Latinos.)

From about 15 minutes into the movie you work out what’s coming next because it’s not only predictable, it’s a tired old story line that we’ve seen time and time again in movies. The obvious difference is the 3D alien world, but replace the Navi with Indians and bingo, you have a dozen movies that have already been made. Io9 has a good write up on the story line here.

Overall

I’m happy to recommend the movie only on the basis that the visuals are something quite amazing, but don’t go and see Avatar if you’re expecting something original or interesting when it comes to story telling. They say this is the beginning of Cameron’s own Star Wars like trilogy, and although elements of Star Wars were borrowed, Star Wars was truly a monumental movie that in the whole bought something new to the screen in both visuals and story telling. Avatar is just CGI porn in 3D, but it can be appreciated on those grounds alone.

3/5 stars.

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