2009 / James Cameron > From a historical perspective, the positives for Avatar far outweigh the negatives. Cameron’s technology is incredible: Often during action sequences, I was wondering if the make-up would come off in the heat, only to realize that, no, this wasn’t make-up, that this was a new generation of CGI that would change the way we create and experience movies for the the next decade. Throw in the vibrant, imaginary setting of Pandora and you have a world ripe for the picking. But then comes the story, the characters and the barrage of cliches. One could argue that a tried and true story can be made better with refinement, but I’ll argue that even in that, this film fails. The writing is tragically bad at times (“I see you!”), and the supporting players are ridiculous caricatures. If in doubt, seek no further than the element of interest in the film: Unobtainium. If that doesn’t give away to the fact that someone, somewhere down the line forgot to do some quality checking on the script, I’m not sure what will.
The trick with Avatar, though, is this: I’m grateful for it. Some consider The Abyss to be the test vehicle for Terminator 2, and that to be a test vehicle for this. But given its lack of maturation in the storytelling department, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see what Cameron does with his upcoming Battle Angel. Technology allows filmmakers to provide instant gratification to viewers. But you need a story for a film to be memorable, for it to age well. The Matrix is shockingly corny now, and I have little doubt that Avatar will also fail to hold up in the annals of time, box office receipts be damned. Its legacy, however, will be carried forth by the technology and all the cinema that will be founded on it.