Armchair Mogul
The (backseat) driving force behind Hollywood. Way behind.

Hometree Advantage: Avatar has Arrived

It’s not often that I find myself at a loss for words – particularly when those words are explaining how a simple rewrite could’ve improved a movie, TV show, ad campaign or shampoo directions (yes, they have directions).

But when faced with pointing out the shortcomings of James Cameron’s “Avatar”,  I stand here today at Hometree before all of you and in the eyes of Eywah, wordless.

Here, let me use the following 653 words to explain…

While there are a million things that could’ve been done differently in “Avatar”, I don’t think any of those things would actually IMPROVE the experience – only alter it.  You see,  I’ve long held that there’s only one way to judge movies in a fair way – and that is simply to ask yourself this:

“Does the movie succeed in being what it was made to be?”

That’s it.  That’s the only way a movie like “Braveheart” can be judged against a movie like “Bring it On.”  And by this scale, “Avatar” may actually be a perfect movie.  The characters, the story, the action, the romance, the effects, the music, the sound design, the scope, the pacing – all of it – is EXACTLY what it needs to be to tell the story Cameron wanted to tell.  Almost surgically so.

Could the Ampsuits have been cooler, more dynamic?  Sure.

Could the environmental message have been toned down?  Of course.

Could the narrative have been changed to be less formulaic?  Absolutely.

But would those changes have made it a better movie?  Or just a different one?

In this ever-graying world of diminished absolutes where everyone’s right all the time, it’s difficult to distinguish between your preferences and correctness.  Like, you know when you go to your cousin’s house for Christmas and her 12 year old kid’s still got that Elmer Fuddian speech impediment because no matter what you and the army of teachers, doctors and specialists said to the contrary, she insisted it wasn’t “wrong” when the kid was 5, it was just “cute?”  Yeah, that’s the gray area I’m talking about.

I try to be conscious of this not just when judging the parenting skills of my relatives, friends and neighbors, but also for important things, like when evaluating my entertainment.  For instance, Titanic’s a great movie…that I absolutely hate.  Is “Castle” a good show?  Definitely.  Is its premise flawed?  You bet.  I love “American Psycho” but I can’t argue that it’s a good movie – in fact, I suspect it might suck.  Meanwhile, “Grey’s Anatomy” is just one inane bout of stupidity after another – but told really, really well.  And hey, I rather enjoy it.

“Avatar” is crafted so skillfully and with such precision with the specific goal of satisfactory storytelling, that to bombard it with criticism is like hating a car for not being a truck. 

The biggest criticism I see out there is about its story – that it’s the same story we’ve seen a million times before.  People say it borrows too heavily from Ferngully, Dances with Wolves, Delgo and others.  But let’s face it, we see the same stories over and over again for two simple reasons:

1) They work.

2) It’s exactly what you want.

Aren’t all sports movies the same story with different balls?  Aren’t all romantic comedies the same story over and over with interchangeable faces on the poster?  And there’s a reason every action movie is pitched as “Die Hard” on a such-and -such.  It’s because as long as there’s something about a formula that resonates with the audience there’s no reason to throw it away.  Especially if you’re going to enjoy seeing Tom Hanks fall in love Meg Ryan just as much in Seattle as you would on the Internet. 

Remember how much you were looking forward to” Watchmen” because it DIDN’T follow the formula?  Remember how much you disregard it now for that same reason?  How you’d much rather watch the formulaic “Dark Knight?”

“Avatar” is what it has to be to succeed.  James Cameron wanted the most people possible to have the most satisfying experience possible and that drive informed every decision he made on this film.  To understand that is to see past what you wish the movie was and to recognize it for the technical, aesthetic, storytelling and ultimately satisfying  achievement it is.

“Avatar”, I see you.


P.S.  Fellow Mogul Voodrew had THIS to say regarding “Avatar”:

Voodrew here.
I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to say TOO much about AVATAR that other people havent said already. Everyone with a website is throwing in their two cents, so I have decided to merely say this: I am one of the biggest Star Wars nuts on the planet. The original trilogy came out at the perfect age for me, so I have enveloped myself within it all these years. I even have a Star Wars collection that has been showcased on
With that said, I would like to send an open letter to George Lucas.
“Dear George,
I know you have that pesky restraining order and all, but I have to say this will be my last letter.
Mr. Lucas, please watch AVATAR 3D IMAX, and then drive home and watch Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menance.
After that, please kiss my ass. I’m selling my Star Wars collection, you are welcome to buy it back from me.

5 Responses to “Hometree Advantage: Avatar has Arrived”

  1. ““Avatar” is crafted so skillfully and with such precision with the specific goal of satisfactory storytelling, that to bombard it with criticism is like hating a car for not being a truck.”

    Brilliantly said, pal.

  2. I’m so old and jaded now, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy a movie without comparing it to past loves. So I try to experience new movies through the eyes of the teenagers who are seeing it with fresh eyes. I totally get why people are going ape-dookie over “Avatar”. It’s just plain neato. Now, I will say that James Cameron needs to improve how he writes/directs bad guys, human bad guys that is. Both Giovanni Ribisi and Colonel Quaritch are about as one dimensional as Billy Zane from Titanic.

  3. I get that. That’s legit. But I still have to give worst villain to Zane because at least Quartrich and Ribisi had orders. Know what I mean? THEY had people to answer to, jobs to do. Get the job done or be fired. Zane had nothing but a twisty mustache, some rope and a railroad track. And a bit too much guyliner. And a hairpiece.

  4. […] too terribly long ago, we published a review of Avatar basically praising it for being a perfect film – “perfect” being defined as a film […]

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