Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reel Thoughts: Avatar = Déjà Vu

After all the hype, you might feel like you’ve already seen James Cameron’s three hundred million dollar Avatar (in theaters Friday). Guess what? You have! Although it’s undeniably stunning visually, the story is a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie made of bits and pieces of dozens of other better films. To spare you a raging case of déjà vu, I’ve compiled a handy list to clip out and take to the theater with you:

In Avatar, A clueless marine (Sam Worthington, barely concealing his Australian accent) is turned into an alien, but ends up bonding with the reviled creatures and fighting the cruel government’s attempt to eradicate them. Meanwhile, in District 9, a clueless bureaucrat (Sharlto Copley) is turned into an alien, but ends up bonding with the reviled creatures and fighting the cruel government’s attempt to eradicate them.

As a rite of passage, Avatar's Jake Sully (no relation to the heroic US Airways pilot, we think) must tame a flying dragon and become its master. Ditto the hero of Eragon ... and Dragonheart ... and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ... and The NeverEnding Story ...

And the Avatarian familiarities continue:
  • Dances With Wolves: A military man bonds with an indigenous people and ends up fighting the evil and greedy “good guys” bent on taking their land.
  • Pocahontas: The wise indigenous people are one with nature and worship a “mother tree” (not, alas, played by Linda Hunt).
  • Aliens: Gung-ho Marines, including a hard-ass Hispanic woman, invade a hostile planet, unprepared to fight the native creatures. Cameron also reuses the two-legged loader that Sigourney Weaver manned so heroically.
  • Total Recall: The alien planet’s atmosphere is always a danger to the hero, leading to scary scenes of near suffocation.
  • More Pocahontas: The hero faces ridicule and the threat of death by the tribe’s leader, but he is saved by his love, the chief’s daughter.
  • King Kong: In the alien jungle, the hero is nearly trampled by a group of dinosaurs, then is nearly eaten by a bigger, more ferocious dinosaur.
  • 10,000 B.C.: The hero must unite warring peoples to topple the corrupt and evil oppressors. Both movies stink.
  • The Alice in Wonderland ride at Disneyland: Garish fluorescent plants and creatures are everywhere, and both are best experienced under the influence of some sort of hallucinogen.

has some of the worst dialogue ever uttered, and most of it comes out of power-mad Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Referring to the film's exotic planet setting in one of the more picturesque examples, he barks, “Pandora will shit you out".

Finally, just when you think you’re safe, Leona Lewis sings “I See You”, the Love Theme from Avatar, over the credits. It’s a derivative retread of "My Heart Will Go On" (minus Celine Dion) and it’s the perfect capper to an overlong sci-fi slog through the jungles of clichéland.

UPDATE: Avatar is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.


  1. The first time I saw the previews for this, I leaned over to my friend and whispered, "We've just seen the entire movie."

    I have no desire to see this in theaters. Maybe netflix.

  2. I would add in Fern Gully and Braveheart as rip-offs too.


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