Monday, August 24, 2009

Titanic was the biggest movie in the history of the world, so director James Cameron's followup has to be big. Avatar has all the ingredients: it's a mix of live action and animation, it's in a brand new type of 3D, and it's cost $200 million so far.

Avatar is being released in December, which means it's time for the hype to start. 20th Century Fox showed sneak previews of part of the film for a few random million, including just about any blogger who's got more than four faithful readers.

What can I tell you? I lied.

The film looks pretty terrific, though the 3D isn't substantially better than what we've seen before. (When the camera moves, you might as well just shut your eyes until it stops.) The main problem is the script and story seem to be absolute crap.

Jake Sully is a Marine who was disabled in combat. He's selected to participate in a secret program where he's transformed into a giant animated cat, then sent to a mysterious land for some unspoken mission. The problem appears right after Jake's transformation: as he awakens in his new body, he's overcome with emotion. He can walk! He's whole! He's a fuckin' giant cat! He levels half the laboratory before he breaks out.

Now, it's an electrifying scene, and the 3D is extraordinary. But if your brain synapses are firing, you'll think something, like "Wow, you know, government research scientists should really perform psychological testing on people before they send them off on vital missions."

NASA does it, to avoid scenes like this:

MISSION CONTROL: Congratulations, Lunar Module 1. You are now on the surface of the moon.

ASTRONAUT: Roger, Mission Control. (PAUSE) Now I'm gonna fuck . . . shit . . . UP!

Unfortunately James Cameron doesn't, so we're stuck in some bizarre hybrid we can't reconcile. Jake is young and stupid and dripping with testosterone, and whereas five years ago he was a naive youth ready to defend his country in war, now he's physically and mentally damaged -- so add "bitter" to the pile and you've got a protagonist straight out of Brian De Palma. And he's our ticket into this faux-Jurassic Park where dinosaurs romp in My Little Pony day-glo purple wonderlands.

It's like Scarface's Tony Montana wandering into Alice in Wonderland and mowing down playing cards with an AK-47. We wonder if George and Martha from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will turn up next.

MARTHA: Look, George, we're giant animated cats! And we're in 3D! Ooh, everything's poking out at me -- except your loincloth, of course.

GEORGE: Oh, shut yer yap, you stupid cow. It's a good thing this movie is G-rated, because there ain't enough yellow in China to paint those saggy tits.

MARTHA: Why, you insignificant little twerp. Why don't you help Jake fight the natives, like a real man? What, is big George afraid of the kitties?

GEORGE: If I was afraid of stretched-out pussy, I'd never have married you.

Jake's love interest is an allegedly-beautiful warrior cat. (I say "allegedly" because it's hard to attach the word to something that looks like my own little adorable Pumpkin, except it's on two feet and has Barbie's waist and tits.) Neytiri calls Jake on the carpet for his behavior, and our hearts sink as we think, Oh God, if she falls in love with this loser and her love and innate animal wisdom prompt Jake to realize the error of his ways and become a complete, fulfilled human being, this movie really will be the worst pile of crap we've seen in years.

Still, I know none of this matters. You've seen Transformers and X Men Origins and G. I. Joe. So go see Avatar the second it comes out. It's got angry dinosaurs and giant flying lizards and fighting cats, and man, they really fuck shit up.

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