Thursday, 13 May 2010

James Cameron has Successfully Melted my Higher Brain Functions.

Well, I had heard the metaphor in Avatar wasn't subtle, and I suppose having finally seen the finished product, neither is much else in there. This film pretty much sums up the ADHD generation: glittery, sparkly surface with absolutely no substance - or more importantly, story. Actually I take that back: it does have a story, albeit a limping mutant wanked together from the leftovers of the Matrix and Dances with Wolves. If you never thought you'd see a Kevin Costner / Keanu Reeves hybrid, there's a good reason for that; and if you can get past the HD porn the screen's peppered with, you'll see why. To coin a phrase from Charlie Brooker, the film "looks like a fireworks display being sick." For all it's showy, glittering magnificence, you can sum up the amount of things VITAL to the plot in one sentence: a man transfers his consciousness into the body of an alien and goes native just in time for his asshole boss to decide to blow everything up. All else is window dressing - window dressing of a standard as yet unseen in cinema, but window dressing nonetheless. Yes it's very colourful, but so was Timmy Mallet and I don't want him to mount a comeback after such a long break in his career either. I can only hope that Avatar basically marks the pinnacle of visuals-over-content film-crafting, and makes any further cgi one-upmanship so impossible that frustrated producers are forced to fall back on such forgotten tricks as cinematography, or strong writing, or not casting people who look eerily like Mark Wahlberg. From a writer's perspective it's abysmal. It falls prey to a weird ongoing meme Hollywood has of pretending that not only can someone master an ability it took everyone else years to learn, they can do it in three months and better than most of the people who've been doing it for the last twenty years. It even comes in the kind of montage sequence that makes it painfully clear that Cameron HASN'T been in films since the nineties, although it does lead to one of the film's best contrasts - Jake getting back to the real world after a particularly active session, only to sling his painfully atrophied legs over the edge of the pod. I can't help but feel however that the World of Warcraft addicts who would have benefitted most from the metaphor were too busy typing 'hot tail on tail action' into Google. Speaking of the amount of times Jake fucks things with his mullet, god help us once BangBros decides to make a porn parody of this. If the film is any indication, the amount of times people have to rape - sorry, forcibly 'see' - horses, dragons and trees, the end result is probably only going to be seen in Sweden and bittorrent (which amount to much the same thing). You've also got your cookie-cutter antagonist with no real motivation apart from the obvious 'greed' and 'getting raging hard-ons for explosions,' which means they should have just gotten James Cameron to play him. The entire cast are characters there to fulfil a function rather than having a rounded existence of their own - the marine with the right genetic code, the aloof scientist to hate and then bond with him and the asshole corporation guy, who's all corporationy, and he likes money and stuff. Also, I'm just going to say 'unobtanium' once and then move onto the next paragraph, because I'm sure I don't need to say any more than that. The point is, if you simplified any one of the CGI sequences you'd have absolutely nothing of interest or merit left in that part of the film. The sequence where Jake wanders off on his first time out and gets attacked by a hammerhead-rhino and then a panther-rhino and then a bunch of mini-rhinos would be far less interesting if you imagined it as just a man in Africa wandering away from the group, for two good reasons: (A) You'd think he was a dick for wandering off and (B) you'd think he was a dick for wandering off when his commanding officer (who survived several tours of the place that got Jake paralysed) turns around with a fucking great scar and points out how extremely deadly a planet it actually is. This motivates the entire plot, and for a plot starter, you have to admit it's pretty weak. He wanders off. If the inciting incident of a character's epic journey is that he's a little bit ADHD... actually no fuck it, that works; at least Cameron is relating to his audience. I'm not even going to bother going into the ludicrous Iraq metaphor - complete with randomly inserted moralising by side characters - because at some point halfway through the film, I gave up. James Cameron successfully destroyed my higher brain functions to the point that I am now left with a post-masturbation level of shame about having enjoyed myself. Seriously, that's all this film is, it's an eye-wank. It's the part of your brain that kidded itself it needed a 64" 1080p TV with surround sound giving itself a pat on the back because this film is probably the first ever to actually make use of it. It doesn't matter that the film is peopled by laughable stereotypes, because that's what a cheesy visual feast needs. It doesn't matter that the plot is CGI padding, because there is a lot of CGI to prop up, and very impressive it is as well. And it doesn't even matter that some important part of my brain is screaming at me to stop writing all these treacherous lies and I've got a university education for god's sake and I should be watching the copy of Citizen Kane that's glaring balefully at me. I don't care about any of those things when the explosions and pretty lights are shining. Cameron has managed to out-Michael-Bay Michael Bay, and that's an achievement in itself. All in all I give it two thumbs up - James Cameron's ass. Which he'd probably consider some form of bonding.