Ink Blotting - Avatar

Posted on Tuesday, February 09, 2010 at 12:00 AM


Forgive a parent of a two-year old for having less time nowadays to see movies on opening night, but after 7 weeks at number one I hope that writing about Avatar is still prevalent. And what is interesting is that at this point in the review structure, because Avatar is old news – inasmuch as what the movie is about – I have that much more to draw from than I usually do.

Usually when writing a review for Ink Blotting on I will draw from standbys:  those reviewers to whom I know for a fact will have an articulate and potent perspective on the film. People like Armond White or Roger Ebert will always have a review up on opening day. These are classical reviewers whose perspective their readers are intimately familiar with. There was a time in fact, when I was seeing almost 3 movies in the theatre a week, where I could tell you whether or not Roger Ebert would like the movie before I'd seen anything written by him on it. For most movies I turn to typical sources for reviews, but after seven weeks at number 1, is there anything I can tell you about Avatar that would induce you to finally go and see the movie, or to see the movie again from a different perspective?

Perhaps. Google sure did bring up a lot of blogs, reviews and comments when I typed in "I hated Avatar". Combing through some of the more visceral and venomous links a trend began to develop. Because Avatar is so exceptional at drawing the viewer into the setting and the world it presents there is a great deal of fall out when viewers see themes and motifs that are incompatible within the context of the structure Cameron has laid out. Most are simple in nature and don't delve beyond the pale. They compare it to a Sci Fi Dances with Wolves, or as my wife so eloquently stated "Let's go see Pocahontas in Space." From my reasoning these reviews are flabbergasted that a story so minimally articulated should be presented in such grandiose and extravagant a way. They're just not articulating that though. Armond White comes close in his review (linked above), but he couches it in such hogwash terms about present day racial politics that you can't get beyond his umbrage. Even Roger Ebert's review colludes with Republican vs. Democrat dogma creating barrier for entry for understanding the deeper roots of the issues within the story. But it is the issue with the story that drives the main antagonism towards the picture.

Okay, let's pause for a moment. Let's say you've already seen the movie once and have begun to think it might be worth your time to go and experience it again. I italicize the word experience because unlike so many other movies to date Avatar goes to great (500 million dollars worth) lengths to pull you into the setting. Your brain is tricked into believing that you're looking at three dimensional images in the ways that perspective and shadow have heretofore been unable to achieve in cinema. Breathtaking and groundbreaking technologies were brought to bear to tell us this tale. You want to see it again. I know, because I sure did. I didn't even realize that so much time had passed, even though I knew the movie was over 150 minutes in length going into it. I was spellbound while at the theatre, and the positive reviews of this spectacle indicate en masse that others think so too.

Nevertheless the movie still suffers in plot. I don't marvel that James Cameron was able to bankroll the film – I mean, this is James Cameron (the guy who did The Abyss, Titanic, The Terminator, Aliens to name a few) he's a certifiable hit maker. But how did even he justify spending more money than any movie has ever spent on a story that not only has the feel of having been told before, but in no way uniquely or differently.?

I was about to explain the basic story structure and setting for Avatar, but you can get that from other reviewers who have taken the time to more eloquently lay it out. More than likely after 7 weeks in the theatre you already know what the movie is about.

You need to see this movie. You being everyone. We're finally looking at a movie that others will say breaks through the moribund husk of a 23mm film chrysalis and emerges with swiftly drying wings to take our flights of fancy to newer, brighter and more engaging heights. Story be damned, you've never seen anything like this.

At the time of this posting Dear John has unseated Avatar as the #1 movie in North America.  This is a sign that Avatar will start to lose theatres and timeslots. With Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Wolfman and Valentine's Day opening this weekend Avatar will be lucky to hold the top three.

Kyle Gould is a University of Calgary Graduate in English devoutly trying to make the 25,000 dollar piece of parchment not just a glorified ink blot. Currently it would serve better as a Rorschach test. Feel free to throw some ink his way at


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to