The hot movie at the moment is Avatar - in 3D, of course. We'd been waiting for the crowds to die down a little before going to see it, and went to an early session. I wondered if it would really be as good as everyone said. I posted a comment on Facebook, and was interested in what people put up - quite a few said things like 'There are plot holes but just go with it' or 'Just enjoy the experience' or 'The 3D is amazing'. A couple of friends said the same kinds of things. So off I went, curious about what they meant.
Now, if you absolutely loved Avatar and won't hear a word said against it, stop reading now! Because although I liked it, it came nowhere near reaching my Top 10 Movie list. Yes, the 3D is amazing, and adds a huge amount to a movie about a world where the environment is in perfect synch with the animals and natives. I loved the various plants and animals they created, the colours and the details. But as a writer, I couldn't get past two big glitches: the story structure was poor, and the villainous characters were so one-dimensional and OTT that they were unbelievable.
Halfway through, I got that feeling you're never supposed to get in a great movie - I started looking at my watch and wondering when something was actually going to happen. There is a huge sag in the middle which is basically drumming it into the viewer that this is a perfect world and Tully is falling in love with it and the people (and of course the girl). It's all about showing off the special effects, and it goes on and on. And while we get all these special effects, the character complexities fall away into almost nothing. I felt like I was being given a big dose of telling, instead of believing what was happening through the characters.
The two villains - the boss money man and the boss marine man - were terrible. Who on earth wrote their dialogue? It could have come from a 1950s B grade script. It was as if we were handed two stock baddies, whose motivations were money and killing, and expected to go with it because that's how the baddies in our world today are behaving. Because of course the themes were all about invasion and environment, and they're the hot topics for people who care, so a movie that blatantly portrays bad characters as 'evil destroyers' is going to be a hit, right?
Yes, I sound really critical, and I'm trying hard not to be. The themes of Avatar are very worthy, and it's really difficult to create something worthy that doesn't ram stuff down people's throats (or make them feel that way). But the way you do that is through good writing, i.e. a great script with complex characters that you engage with on every level. An amazing world in 3D is not going to make me feel any less or more committed to the environment. But, like any story, characters who show me the world through their eyes works every time.
What did you think of the movie? As a writer? Or a viewer?
(* those are the rose-coloured ones, not the 3D ones)