The protagonist of Avatar is an ex marine (it doesn’t exist such thing) who, after being injured in duty, sees himself in a wheelchair. His second chance arrives when he’s enlisted again for a scientific program in which, through very complex machines, he’s able to transfer his conciousness to a genetically created alien body, the so called avatars, so he can walk and fight again. James Cameron’s film isn’t very far from this character: a movie with its two legs -read story and characters- useless, and only with the aid of complex special effects can it walk anywhere.
Avatar is an undisputed success of form over content, a huge show, visually impressive, overwhelming in its details, breathtaking in the wide shots. To reach this orgy of colours and textures, the special effects team gathered every existing technic and pulled it beyond its limits: CGI, motion-capture, 3D… No one doubts that, on this field, Avatar is praiseworthy to be a referent, to be taken into consideration for a long time; it will become the high standard to beat, the hateful comparison that every movie of this genre will have to suffer in the near future.
Another thing is that, in its way, its director had forgotten that a movie is, prior to anything, characters telling a story. And Avatar’s story goes on wheelchair, running through paths we’ve ran before, pushed by stories we’ve been told before, although not so very well wrapped. Messianic messages, mistic ecology and some sort of naïf pacifism, contributed by characters that, on the contrary of the colourfull environment, are black or white, good or evil, or, even worse, as predictable on their minimal evolution as the movie’s end, which you can see coming in the distance, unavoidable, without any hope of sudden change.
However, not for awaited less painful, movie’s great deception is James Horner music. When the usual scenario is for a composer to have a few weeks to write a film’s soundtrack, for one historic time a composer had nothing less than eighteen months to write Avatar’s soundtrack. And what did Horner do? The same thing as he always does: regurgitate once again the refereces to his previos works (yes, the four notes of the ‘danger theme’ heard in Willow, Enemy at the gates, Troy, Titanic and so on are in Avatar, too). At the same time, he conjures every and one hackeneyed subject of the genre: ethnic percussion and instrumentation for Pandora’s natives, beautiful chants in an invented language for the epic moments, synths and programmed percussiones for the military, a beautiful but forgettable romantic theme… It is not bad music, afterall Horner is still a skilled craftsman. It’s only that this music is more of the same thing, again, a wasted chance to do something really new and original.
Avatar is film’s history, as it was The Matrix. Looking back a few years from now, it will be seen as the movie that changed the way movies are done. No one denies that. But don’t ask what Avatar is about, because, does it really matter?