For months, the evidence mounted and mounted that James Cameron's long awaited Titanic follow-up was going to be the biggest let down since Phantom Menace. No one wanted to believe that more than we did.
So imagine our horror, when last night we attended a screening of Avatar — and it was pretty spectacular.
Simply put, although it had been foretold that the film is a stunning visual six-course banquet, we scoffed that a bunch of nice colors could serve as the basis for a film. We doubted the ability of a movie to hold us for nearly three hours with just a bunch of pretty alien nature photography. But it does.
Or it does well enough, with enough action/adventure plotting to keep the damn thing moving mostly. Again, much as we hate to admit it, it is so overwhelmingly cool looking, with a serviceable enough story, that the three hours more or less flew by.
Hollywood goes for epic in just about every tentpole it churns out, but somehow the ginormity of a Transformers 2 or a 2012 production, leave them feeling small — with a shrunken spirit and core that quashes their monstrous pretensions. Avatar, while certainly not without flaws, manages to create a sense of true epic scope in which the journey becomes greater than the sum of its effects.
It is going to become to film that everyone — nerds, families, grandparents — will have to see and it will rake in unbelievable amounts of loot; mountains of cash beyond the imagination.
So now it is time to point fingers — at ourselves. How in the heck did we get this so wrong? How did a movie manage to look so horrible and actually turn out to be great?
Well for starters, all the stuff that we ridiculed in the the trailers and publicity campaign — the laughable dialogue, the cartoonish good versus evil plotting, the clunky character names, the silly looking cougar noses — they are all in there, and they are all ridiculous. But what wasn't clear from the trailers is how small a part of the film those laughable/clunky bits would be.
We were basing much of our dread on memories of Titanic — which we still hold was the worst film ever made; thinking that the sins of Titanic, as they reappeared in the Avatar campaign, meant that the same tedious nightmare awaited us, like an iceberg drifting through the dark Atlantic towards our ship of entertainment.
But in Avatar, Cameron managed to reverse the disastrous Titanic equation, letting him play from his strong suit. Whereas Titanic was a drama with bits of action, Avatar is basically an action/adventure movie with bits of drama stuck in. Yes, there is ridiculous clunky dialogue, eye-rolling Dances With Wolves-like worship of the Earth-loving (or Pandora-loving) native wilderness people, a plot that attempts to be a parable of US foreign adventures written with the subtlety of a 12-year-old.
Yes, the irony of making a film celebrating the sanctity of every living organism which revels in exquisitely slaughtering vast number of characters is completely lost on the filmmaker.
All that is there in Avatar and we were right to mock those elements.
But those pieces, amazingly are small and fairly unobtrusive in plot that is mostly a rollicking, visually spectacular adventure (even if it sags a bit in the middle). They provide guffaw-ready moments but unlike Titanic, where the love story went on hour after hideous hour, here it basically is handled in one fairly brief scene.
Trust us, this gives us no joy to write, but this time the tea leaves were off and we must hereby humbly resign our seat on the board of Avatar-Bashing Incorporated.
To all our comrades in arms on the Avatar Sucks barricades. Our fight was brave. Our cause was noble. In some way, I'll figure out later, we can claim this was a moral victory. But the time has come to lay down our arms and return to our pastures and couches. It has been a honor to serve with you all and history will honor our valor and our sacrifice. But the war has ended. And we are losers.
And by the end, you even get used to the cougar noses.