By Scott Tibbs, June 7, 2010
I finally saw Avatar after listening to months of hype about it. I was bored to tears.
There was not anything specific about this movie that I truly hated, though I thought the political commentary was heavy-handed and preachy. The special effects were nice. The problem was that there was too much movie. Does a popcorn movie like Avatar really need to be 2 hours and 40 minutes long?
The Lord of the Rings series changed movies, demonstrating that people are willing to sit through longer movies. As a result, movies are getting longer and longer. There is a qualifier for that, however: the movie has to be an excellent movie to get away with being 3 hours long. While that works with the LOTR series, it does not work with Avatar. Had this been 90 minutes, it would have been great.
The good news is that it was better than Transformers 2.
I realize that the 3-D effects in Avatar have changed movies, and Hollywood is rushing to cash in on the 3-D craze. The problem with Avatar was that there was not a great story to go with the special effects. Groundbreaking though the effects may be, as movies come out with technology that is just as good (and eventually better) than Avatar, there will be movies that look as good but have a much better story. Avatar will be forgotten.
Allow me to use video games as an example for why you need substance to go with a leap in technology. Back in the 1990's, Donkey Kong Country revolutionized 16-bit graphics, but along with the graphics came a great game. Rare actually improved the gameplay in the two sequels.
But improved graphics do not make a great game. Final Fantasy VIII for the PlayStation was a step forward in graphics for the series, with a much more realistic look for the characters and beautifully rendered cut scenes. The problem was that the gameplay left a lot to be desired. The "draw" system for magic was tedious busywork and the junctioning system for character's abilities was overly complicated and annoying.
I do not doubt that Avatar revolutionized the way movies are made, because we are seeing more and more movies use the 3-D technology. The problem with a new technology, however, is that companies love to jump on the technology without realizing they need substance and not just flash.
Again, using video games as an example: the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation brought 3-D to the forefront, and there were some great games - especially Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. But there were also a lot of games with broken controls, an awkward and infuriating camera, and all around bad gameplay. Making a game in 3-D does not ensure a great game. It merely ensures the game will be 3-D.
Ultimately, Avatar was a lot of sizzle and not enough steak. Final Grade: D+