Dec 15, 2009

Cinematters: You know wht? Fuck Avatar!

For a year it has been looming, like a big, blue, threat. From the second I saw the first leaked character design and thought ‘holy shit, that looks stupid’ I’ve been dreading the advent of James Cameron’s first fictional film in more than a decade; the supposed game changer that is Avatar.

Though I am not paid as a film critic I take what I do very seriously (which I hope shows through this site). I’ve tried, this year, to see as many films as possible. So far I’ve racked up 156 films at the cinema and a grand total of 173 of this year’s releases - each a larger number than ever before - so I don’t think you could accuse me of slacking off. In seeing that many movies I’ve watched a lot of stuff that I wasn’t really looking forward to, largely because I thought it would be a good idea, as a critic, to have an opinion, or that it might make for a fun review (why the holy hell else do you think I saw New Moon). In seeing that many movies I’ve, despite finding the technology and the artistic merit at best underwhelming and at worst downright appalling, seen a good few 3D films and only twice this year has a big film for which I wasn’t especially excited managed to surprise me (those were An Education and Up, which, by the way, I’m confident will be better in 2D, if only because its colour scheme will be correct).

However, when it comes to Avatar I am drawing a line in the sand and saying 'thus far, and no further'. As the promotional campaign has gathered pace I’ve been praying that each new piece of material would allow me to see the potential that people have been talking about. More pressingly than that though, I’ve been hoping that I’d see a movie on the horizon. I can’t, all I see in the trailers (which I’ve seen in both long and short forms, in both 2D and 3D) is a rolling demo for a computer game. I don’t say this lightly, or without some real evidence. A few months back Empire Magazine printed some pictures from the Avatar computer game, which were all but indistinguishable from images from the trailer, pretty computer games are all well and good, but when I watch a movie that what I want it to be; a movie and so far Avatar looks like anything but.

Another problem I’ve had with the trailers is just how plastic everything seems, and here I‘m not just talking about the CGI, which seems to have that odd weightless feel that so bothered me in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, combined with the dead eyes of A Christmas Carol’s characters. The dialogue that wev’e heard so far seems perfunctory at best, and from what I can glean of the plot I feel like I’ve pretty much seen the movie having seen the trailer. Worst of all is the 3D, at least in the trailer it still felt like a distraction, from what I’ve seen I can’t conceive of any reason that this story needs to be told in 3D, and the process seems just as much a cry of ‘look at me’ as it ever has.

I’m being careful here not to form a judgement on Avatar, or to make any suggestion that you decide to see or not see it. I took the Daily Mail to task (for 4500 words) this year for doing that in reference to Antichrist. The only judgement I can make about Avatar at this point, and that which I am making, is that not a single thing I have seen induces me to want to see it. Not a single thing makes me believe it will impress me, or that I will even remotely enjoy it. This being the case I really would rather spend 160 minutes doing something else, something I feel that I have some chance of enjoying. You likely won’t be seeing a review of Avatar from me on this site, and if you do it certainly won’t be until the film hits (2D) DVD.

PS: If you go and see Avatar then please feel free to send a review to me at and, with you permission, I may publish it on the site.


  1. Whoa. Ok, very strange that you've seen 173 09 releases but are avoiding the biggest, most anticipated one, but I *think* I understand your reasoning.

    I would understand if you are resisting the 'look at me' pull as you wouldn't have to hand Cameron 6 of your great British pounds...but you saw New Moon.

  2. You know, I was unsure about this one as well, but I saw it last night and I thought it was extraordinary. The trailers do nothing to sell it, and I just saw a clip of it on Film 2009 and it almost looked like a different film - it seemed so flat and unreal compared to the rather astonishing experience I had at the IMAX last night. Contrary to what you say about there being no reason for the story to be told in 3D, I honestly can't imagine watching it any other way. This might mean it doesn't have much in the way of re-watching value down the road, but as a one-off cinematic entertainment (or twice, as I'm going again this weekend), it really is something special. Also, the character work is light years beyond Zemeckis' dead-eyed zombies.