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Movie Review: Avatar

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Okay, perhaps calling Avatar horrible is being harsh, but somebody has to expose this Academy Award-nominated charlatan and put it in its place next to Jaws III and the rest of the mediocre flicks that invested in 3D glasses with the screenplay money.

Some of it's old-fashioned Hollywood politics. I mean, not to question the ethics of movie critics, but it seems most of these big budget epics are treated kindly when it's review time, for whatever reason. These type of flicks live or die at the box office and in people's hearts.They're either legendary like Indiana Jones or they sink like Waterworld. Well, judging from the grapevine and, apparently, even the Academy, this shake 'n' baked Tron repro had everyone hypnotized upon its release like the Living Dead zombies stupefied by a few bottle rockets.

Regardless, let’s talk about Avatar, starring nobody you'll recognize or, at least, nobody you could name. Oh wait, excuse me, Sigourney Weaver appears in the film, although much of the time she's a ten-foot tall, blue caricature of herself. With all due respect, it seems like so long ago that she was kicking Alien's ass. Listen, was it fun to watch? Sure it was, but then again, I am mesmerized by the generated light display on Windows Media Player. I guess where this film stakes its claim is in the usage of a black light and the cool 3D glasses. Are they still cool?

Okay, fine, the effects were decent, so I overcame the desire for mental stimulation early on and switched to “look at the pretty lights” mode. From that perspective, I would agree with the Oscars for visual effects, since I guess it was as good as any in those categories, but when I see a nomination for Best Writing or Best Screenplay, as a true fan of the cinema, I am troubled. Nothing against James Cameron, the mastermind profiteer who created this laser light show; I mean, why try if you obviously don’t have to?

While flaunting the power of computers with award-winning visuals, Cameron, or perhaps one of the interns who wasn't on a coffee run, did provide us with a story. Let me spend a second on that, which will require more energy than it took to develop it. The best way to describe it is to think of every single stereotype and cliché ever used in this genre, from the near-death close calls to the wild aerial battles (just switch out space fighter jets with psychedelic pteradactyls) and the Pocahontas/John Smith-style love affair between our hero and – you guessed it – the daughter of the tribe's leader. Oh, yeah,and it all surprisingly takes place in the future, on another planet. Surprise!

Who's our hero, you ask? Well, think Harrison Ford mixed with Mel Gibson and remove the pizzazz. What's left is a paralyzed ex-marine  who, in an effort to regain use of his legs via a procedure that's available at that time yet out of a wounded vet's price range, agrees to take the form of an alien species in an attempt to negotiate a peace treaty between the natives of this distant place and greedy American profiteers whose mission is funded by the planet’s underground resources and backed by a U.S. militia.

Oh, by the way, I just told you the plot and, actually, I made it sound too clever. Aside from the blatant symbolism of the evil United States, invading a foreign land for oil… I mean "unobtainium" while neglecting, and even sabotaging, any peaceful negotiations, this script was as carefully nurtured as microwave popcorn. It's so cliché that I actually welcomed the anti-Bush implications, as obnoxiously unoriginal as it had gotten; at least it showed some sign of character. On second thought, no it didn't.

I'm not surprised that the snakes out in Hollywood would invest half a billion dollars to merchandise a ten cent flick, but I'm disappointed in the lack of integrity shown by the Academy and the lowered expectations of my fellow Americans. Do yourself a favor — keep the 3D specs handy until Avatar shows up on an HD cable channel… and you've lost the remote.

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