Avatar Fails at Storytelling?

In an attempt to infiltrate an alien clan native to a planet called Pandora, a paraplegic ex-marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is chosen to replace his late brother in a mission to gain the trust of the Na’vi tribe.  The military’s mission is to use whatever means necessary to obtain a natural resource in Pandora’s ground, which is a mineral that could significantly benefit Earth.  The only problem is that the Na’vi rest upon the very spot where the mineral resides, and they will not be forced to move from their sacred land.  Advanced technology and mixed human-Na’vi DNA allow Sully to take on the shape and form of a Na’vi alien, which is known to humans as an avatar “suit.”

With the help of the deceiving avatar suit, Sully is soon accepted into the Na’vi tribe after a series of teachings and incidents in which he proves to be worthy of the Na’vi way.  During his mission, he finds himself unexpectedly in love with the tribe leader’s daughter, Neytiri.  The story begins to unravel the true loyalty of Sully when he is forced to choose sides, while the fate of the Na’vi lay in the balance.

The movie Avatar was a very powerful movie for me.  Contrary to what some people are saying about the film, I wouldn’t have been disillusioned without the 3-D or CGI effects.  James Cameron did a spectacular job capturing his vision on screen.  For anyone that criticizes the film over the lack of an extraordinary script and virtually total reliance on stunning visual effects, wake up.  So what if the majority of the movie was in CGI; it’s a fantasy world, unless you can go find a set in a space similar to Pandora. The script didn’t take a backseat to CGI, but rather, it all worked seamlessly together to bring us into a place that only some of us could ever dream of. The CGI and 3-D were both added influences, but I don’t give all the credit of my enjoyment of the film to those two aspects.  It was a beautiful story told in a beautiful world.

A love story with action and imagery full of wonder, but it was also a story about trust, loyalty, betrayal, forgiveness, and strong bonds made between souls — not just shallowly seen as alien or human.  It was a great film that reached far into the corners of your imagination, revealing the splendor and the pure respect for a place whose inhabitants appreciate and interact with their world; all the while, they never lose sight of the wonders that were given to them.  Maybe Avatar is also trying to hint to us what we as a human race should think about as we continue to move forward into a technology-driven, money-hungry world at the expense of our planet and its people.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

In this sixth installment of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) was overall just okay.  I found myself dozing off in a few scenes (or wishing I had).  Steve Kloves did a wonderful job on all the other Harry Potter movies, with the exception of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) as that one was directed by Michael Goldenberg.

First comes first, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince follows Potter in his sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  This time around, he works closely with Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to try and extract a specific memory from the new potions professor hired at Hogwarts, Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent).  Dumbledore believes this specific memory could be the key to finding out critical information about young Voldemort when he was a student at Hogwarts, also known as Tom Riddle.  In the usual fashion of these Harry Potter films, a mysterious item also flags the attention of Potter’s interest in the unknown “Half-Blood Prince”.

The fantasy inspired series has always been able to catch most people’s imaginations, adults and children alike.  However, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince failed to do that this time around, at least for me.  With only a few action scenes, the movie appeared to have lost its whimsical charm and creative luster.  No doubt, there were traditional scenes that showcased J.K. Rowling’s bag of magical tricks, such as the love potions, the Peruvian darkness powder, memories stored in a bottle, etc.  However, there were a lot of conversational scenes that could have been deleted, as well as scenes that were — for the most part — uneventful and disconnected from any storyline.

Probably the #1 thing that bothered me most about the movie was that I just didn’t know where the story was going.  Maybe the movie lost me somewhere after Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) suddenly built a liking to Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), or maybe it was Harry Potter’s sudden love interest in Ron’s sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright).  Yes, I see that we have to remember that the movie is following a group of teenagers in school where they still come across normal stages in their life apart from magic, but the problem was that it all seemed very random (pretty ironic use of the word in the context of a fantasy/adventure movie).

I didn’t feel as though I got anything out of this movie.  I hate to say it, but this installment seemed more like a filler for me — only filmed to get a few key scenes or plot points in there, but that was it.  It’s always Potter fighting the Dark Lord (we already know that) but at least put a little more pizazz in the movie to excite the audience.  Cheap tricks and brief zap attacks with the wand can only go so far.  I want to see more fireworks, not a little bug zap here and there.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars — Average, but still worth watching