Been there, done that
You may have heard of this legendary computer-animated film in which the protagonist finds himself in a drastically resized body and falls into the hands of those whom he was originally trying to destroy. Once among his erstwhile enemies, he is taught their ways by a winsome lass who wins his sympathy and inspires him to switch sides.
The movie is The Ant Bully and it came out in 2006.
Oh, did you think I was talking about Avatar? I guess I could be.
James Cameron's Avatar is currently raking in box office receipts and capturing the imagination of the movie-viewing public. Cameron got a few bucks from me earlier today. I have to admit that Avatar is very pretty and serves as an excellent example of the state of computer-generated graphics. In that sense, Avatar is a tour de force.
In every other sense, it fails.
Perhaps I was inoculated against truly enjoying Avatar by the premature hype and over-the-top expectations. I was irked when the characters of Bones were drooling with anticipation over seeing the movie. To me, product placement is an irritant and a distraction. Aggressive marketing predisposes me to dislike the product, whatever it may be. It does not whet my appetite.
Nevertheless, I wanted to see Avatar and give the movie an opportunity to entertain me. The visuals are very nice, with spectacularly imaginative flora and fauna for Pandora, the planet on which the action occurs. The gigantic blue natives, the Na'vi, are rather excessively humaniform, but that's okay. Rapacious Earthlings want to mine Pandora for its motherlode of “unobtanium,” which has antigravitational properties. A little trite, yes, and scientifically absurd, but I can suspend my disbelief that much. I sense, however, that I'm getting just a little overextended.
Our hero, a marine named Jake, gets lost in the Pandoran wilds and is rescued by a lovely native named Neytiri. She turns out to be the daughter of her tribe's chieftain. (Of course.) Her mother is the tribe's spiritual leader (naturally) and it is she who decides that Neytiri will be responsible for teaching our hero the ways of the Na'vi tribe. (Wouldn't you know it?) This will cause some trouble with the heir-designate to the leadership of the tribe, Tsu'Tey, a great warrior who is also Neytiri's betrothed. (Oh, please.)
I was instantly bored and restless. Nothing surprised me. Will our hero learn the ways of the tribe? Of course. (At least they spared us a montage.) Will he win grudging respect from the people? Damn right. Will Tsu'Tey continue to resent him and hope he dies? You bet! Does Jake make mistakes that put him in dire straits but still recover and win through? Every time!
I'll grant you that it would be unfortunate for the hero to be put out of commission too early in the movie, but it would be nice if something provided a modicum of suspense. When Jake and Neytiri barely escape an attack from a Leonopteryx, a flying monster the Na'vi refer to as the “Last Shadow” (because its shadow is the last thing you'll ever see), she tells him that her legendary grandfather was the last member of the Na'vi ever to tame one sufficiently to fly upon it. Instantly, you know without a particle of doubt that Jake will be flying one before the movie ends. And, of course, he'll displace Tsu'Tey as Neytiri's fiancé.
At least, I assume so. I walked out right after Neytiri's story about her ancestor and the Last Shadow. I was afraid of dislocating my jaw.