— by CAM SMITH —
On the surface, James Cameron’s “Avatar” feels like a work of unadulterated hubris, containing every element of the director’s stylistic arsenal cranked up to near parody levels — More military porn! Bigger mechs! Tougher warrior women! Oh boy!
Still, it’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the majestic sweep of the new full-length trailer, which plays like nothing if not dazzling visual crack.
Utilizing more than its fair share of expository dialogue, the three and a half minute clip more effectively communicates the film’s storyline — which is essentially a fairly conventional, but glossy, sci-fi variation on “Dances with Wolves” or “The Last Samurai” — and provides uneducated viewers with a more comprehensive understanding as to why there are lanky blue people leaping across the screen.
Certainly, Cameron’s behemoth-scale combat scenes make for some dazzling trailer snippets, with the alien Na’vi people taking on the deliciously sneering Stephen Lang’s colossal war machines, and the sheer scope of the film’s universe is truly staggering. If you’re as much of an easy mark for cinematic world-building as I am, it’s impossible not to appreciate the immensity of the filmmaker’s undertaking.
While this preview will no doubt help convert average movie-goers, I’m still reluctant to consider “Avatar” a sure-fire guaranteed smash. Though the scenes set within the pristine color-soaked foliage of the alien planet Pandorum are breathtakingly rendered, there’s a synthetic, cartoonish feel to the environment which sometimes feels at distracting odds with the recognizably grungy, lived-in world of Sam Worthington and the other human characters. The trailer often feels like a mash-up of two very different films, with a considerable emotional disconnect between them.
There’s also the issue of the vanilla dialogue — can we please call for a moratorium on variations of the line “You’re not in Kansas anymore”? — which, while nowhere near a deal-breaker, is disconcerting. It’s not fair, or necessary, to demand Mamet-level verbal gymnastics, but it would be nice if there was a single good memorable line in the trailer. I’m also praying that the film’s “Braveheart”-like rallying speech sounds far better in context than it does here.
Regardless, the “Titanic” helmer has yet to make a disappointing popcorn epic (not counting his cheapie debut effort “Piranha 2: The Spawning,” obviously), and damned if that chill-inducing score doesn’t almost make you want to start lining up right now.
Nitpick and over-analyze as I may, Cameron clearly won the battle for my $12 long ago.
If you cannot access the trailer above, click here.
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