When I saw the trailers for Avatar over the summer, I thought it looked like a really neat idea if for no more than the special effects. After all, it was James Cameron – the man who made Titanic one of the worst-written movies in history. But then the hype machines started belching out the plumes of praise for Avatar, and I really expected this movie to fail on every level *except* visual effects. Boy, was I wrong.
I took my daughter to see Avatar on Christmas day. I wanted it to be an experience for her the way Star Wars was for me. When Star Wars came out, I was 13. I went to see it 6 times within a couple of weeks. It changed everything. And yet, when I watch it today I am underwhelmed with the effects and clearly see where the storyline is very basic. But sometimes basic equals classic. Think Beatles.
And this is exactly where Avatar works for me. Yes, it's the most visually stunning movie I've ever seen, but the most surprising thing was how the visuals were wrapped around a very solid story. Sure, the dialogue is predictable and innocuous, but the story is based on the same core concepts as most classic movies/stories. Good versus evil. Honor versus duty. Love versus indifference. etc. Classic themes. Themes that resonate and reach across generations and demographics to touch universal ideas that exist within each of us.
This is a 2 hour and 40 minute movie created with mass global appeal in mind – after all, it's still important that a movie makes money. And because Cameron and his gang are out to appeal to the widest audience possible, much of the dialogue is very basic. Even so, the dialogue doesn't suck as much as Titanic did.
If you were moved by Star Wars when it came out, I highly recommend Avatar. If you weren't moved by Star Wars, I still recommend Avatar – you'll just end up picking it apart more than sitting back and letting this movie take your imagination to new places. Look – nothing is original. If a movie were completely original, no one would go see it because it would be a complete disconnect. Rather, the best we can do in our storytelling (whether in creating advertising for brands, or creating global blockbuster movies) is to take familiar concepts and build on them in ways that get us to think about things differently. Avatar does this brilliantly. Go see it for yourself. If you're like me and my daughter, you'll leave with a big smile and one word – "Wow."
Note: Despite its length, my daughter (almost 9) sat mesmerized the entire time without one pee break. Proving that really good movies can make you forget about everything.