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Finally! The pope and I can agree on something.

[I know this particular recycle is really off-topic, but I liked this one and thought it worth saving.]

Senior citizen Saturday. But that’s o.k.

This weekend, my mother took pity on me and we went on a Saturday afternoon movie date. [Actually, I think she was secretly amused by my New Moon review and is trying to set up a second career for me as a disgruntled movie critic.] We navigated the opera-goers, got settled into our cushy pleather recliners, and spent the only moderately warm, sunny day in 2 months sitting in a windowless room.

The movie was an epic tale of a disheartened solider who finds himself cut off from the rest of his division and dependent on the local natives for survival. With the help of a young woman, he immerses himself in the native culture and finds spiritual relief and the love of his life. Wait, nevermind, that was Dances With Wolves

I’ll try again: Outsider from another planet finds himself on a strange and exotic land where he is almost mystically able to assimilate indigenous customs and behaviors. Prophetically, he harnesses the largest of the local predators for his personal use and defeats the evil forces threatening the domestic tranquility. Oh, geez… Sorry, that was Dune. My mistake…

Ok, unit of eager Marines are led by a grizzled, irascible, and somewhat unstable Commander to defend their base from being overrun by seemingly primitive, but fierce, local fauna. Crap, hang on. That was Starship Troopers

Alright, man who is usually fairly non-descript finds himself transported to a bizarre realm through a hi-tech connection with his brain, but finds out he may have the unique ability to integrate these disparate versions of himself…Damn. That was The Matrix. Wrong again…

Let’s see… Race of forest-dwelling creatures must defend their beloved home and sacred tree from the malevolent machine of corporate greed. No. No. No. That was Ferngully…

Here it is–in order to stave off the malignant evil threatening to destroy their way of life, all the sentient creatures of the realm must form an unusual alliance in an epic battle…Hmm… Nope. That was Lord of the Rings

“We will fight terror with terror.” Err..Sorry again. I think that actually was one of George W. Bush’s addresses to congress about the invasion of Iraq…

Let me give it one last try…Formulaic plot that heavily borrows facets from several other major motion pictures, contains sundry non-subtle sociopolitical commentaries, never manages to produce an original story element, but is interlaced and varnished with staggering special effects. Aha! Now, THAT’s Avatar.

Let’s start with the cloud.

I’m pretty certain the woman sitting on my left during the movie thought I was insane since I spent a portion of the movie rolling my eyes [not that she could see that part exactly], laughing inappropriately, and guffawing at even more awkward moments. She seemed irritated at least.

But seriously! I swear the man actually said, “We will fight terror with terror” at one point. They named the mineral deposit they wanted to mine “Unobtainium”. I’m fairly certainly it was only because of merciful editing we didn’t get to hear the Colonel say, “I’ll be back.”

I spent the first half of the movie waiting for Kicking Bird to show up and wondering which of the forest creatures would be called t’tanka. And how exactly does a braid grow dendrites? And if they are so ecologically attuned and highly developed, why do they have the braid AND the tail?

I am just going to briefly mention the soundtrack. During the film, wonderfully appropriate. Roll credits and you treated to the atrocious “theme” song. Leona Lewis? Is there anyone who thinks she is evenly vaguely suited for a sci-fi soundtrack? They should have called in the Wachowski brothers for some consulting work.

And let’s not leave out the gratuitous smoking by Sigourney Weaver. Perhaps it was just me, but as someone who struggles with this particular addiction, I would like to think that by the year 2154 we will somehow have managed to eradicate this scourge. At the very least, with high-tech everything else, I certainly wouldn’t expect cigarettes to look like they’re fresh from the 21st century Marlboro Man. James Cameron apparently said it was some kind of statement about how people become so immersed in their online world they neglect the health and well-being of their physical selves as is evident by current-century corpulent gamers and their pasty, pock-marked skin. Ok, so he didn’t use those exact words, but the general message is the same. Did I mention the non-subtle sociopolitical commentaries interspersed throughout this thing, yet?

I need a smoke break.

And the inevitable silver lining.

If you are anything like me [and you should be thankful everyday that you are not] any time someone mentions the name Giovanni Ribisi, you can’t help but form a picture in your head of him leading the marching band from the film The Other Sister. I was dutifully impressed by how well he went from grilled cheese ironing to egomaniacal corporate manager. Although I’ll still conjure up the band image, I think he did a phenomenal bit of acting in Avatar.

Also, since there wasn’t much plot to work with, the powers that be threw the bulk of their resources into other areas. If you have seen The Polar Express, you know how creepy full-body CGI that is attempting to look natural can be. Since the main group of characters here aren’t actually human, it isn’t nearly as weird and almost passes for realistic. Not to say there aren’t a few jerky movements that don’t fit well; at least you don’t end up psychologically disturbed by a trainful of children who look like they’ve had too many Botox treatments and spinal fusions.

They have paid meticulous attention to the little things cynical viewers [like myself] would normally pick apart. For example, they briefly explain at the beginning that the “avatars” are created from a splice of human and native DNA. Although they mostly resemble the indigenous folks, there are enough subtle differences to keep you from getting confused; they have five fingers instead of the standard-animation-issue four, and they have eyebrows whereas the locals seemed to have evolved past that nonsense. [I wonder if they have appendixes.] The lead male is wheelchair bound, and they actually manage to make his legs appear atrophied. [Of course, for all I know this actor was recruited based on having knobby knees.]

Will the defendant please rise and face the Holy See.

It does make me giggle that the vatican hates this movie. Seriously? They endorse “The Simpsons” and think Homer is iconic of the modern man’s struggle with faith. I swear. Google it. They describe Avatar as a “simplistic and sappy tale, despite awe-inspiring special effects” in which “everything [is] reduced to an overly simple anti-imperialistic and anti-militaristic parable.” Let’s all stop for a moment and imagine the pope in a movie theatre with 3-D glasses watching Avatar while surrounded by red-clad cardinals.

Ignoring the fact that I essentially agree with catholicism for the first time ever, do the folks over at the vatican not realize that by publicly renouncing a film they are guaranteeing it will make a bazillion dollars? Raise your hand if you want to see it just to find out what they are upset about. Don’t be ashamed, we all do it, it’s perfectly natural.

I was also a little upset at the distinct lack of the Apple logo anywhere in this film. I wish I was kidding, but the first time someone wandered across the screen with a tablet computer I immediately thought it could pass for a concept design of the new Mac goodie in the works. All that fancy computer operated equipment they showcased certainly isn’t running on a Windows machine. And why don’t we have a heads-up monitor for the general public yet? Or a convex personal terminal for the mini-Imax effect?

Cliff notes for the pop-quiz.

In case I made my feelings about Avatar a little too vague, I want to summarize:

Go see this movie immediately before it leaves the theatre.

Seriously, I mean it. I also recommend drinking, because you don’t have to pay attention to the plot and I think it would be just fun. [I actually may try that and watch it again.] Visually, it is worth every penny, but will not move well to the small-screen. I would love to catch an Imax showing of it, but I don’t think they’re running locally anymore. You could probably even plug into an iPod and listen to an Audible book if you feel like you’re wasting time because of the bad script.

I’m putting it on the Value Menu.

Just to keep things tidy.

Don’t bother giving me crap for ruining the story and failing to post silly “SPOILER” alerts all over the top of this post. You didn’t see Titanic and expect a surprise ending, you shouldn’t expect one in Avatar, either.

How in the hell did this movie win best drama film? Doesn’t that require some measure of drama?

Just to keep you thinking.

I also want to point out there is a link to the “Vatican Secret Archives” on the vatican’s site. Moreover, while you’re googling the aforementioned “Simpsons” thing, you should know you can also follow the pope on Twitter. Really. He’s “tweeting” about his sorrow over an excommunication. See for yourself. Pope Tweets.

I am perpetually mystified by dogma.


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