It's been a while since I've written any movie reviews. We actually haven't seen much that was new of the last few months. Nevertheless, we finally hauled ourselves to the movie theatre a few times over the last few weeks to see two of the big winter blockbusters -- Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. Both cost megabucks to make and are raking in megabucks at the box office but realistically, neither of them left me feeling either so fired up or disgusted that I immediately had to write a long review about either of them.
Still, I do want to get back on the movie reviewing horse so here are some quick thoughts on each of these.
Let's be honest -- it's a shamelessly derivative story ripped off from multiple sources, including Dances with Wolves, Ferngully, Medicine Man, Pocahontas, and many more. Anyone who makes a case that Avatar's story is in anyway original is out to lunch or has been living in a closet for the last 25 years or so. Dances with Aliens, anyone?
Does it bother anyone else that the Na'vi look like they're just blue catlike humans with boobs who have been put through Willy Wonka's taffy stretcher but all the other creatures on Pandora have six legs and breathe through gills in their shoulders? How did that evolutionary divergence happen?
Bonus points to scenery chewing Giovanni Ribisi for channeling Paul Reiser's untrustworthy corporate hack Carter Burke from James Cameron's Aliens. Plus, they must have gotten a deal by recycling the big exoskeletons that Sigourney Weaver so ably used to kick Alien Queen butt in the grand finale of that 1986 classic (and there's no sarcasm intended there...I absolutely love Aliens, one of the great sci-fi films of all time).
However, all of those bothersome little details (and many others) don't matter in the grand scheme of things if you're looking for spectacle. It's a brilliant movie to look at as it creates an alien world and the Na'vi at a dazzling level that I think has only been achieved twice before -- in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, simply based on how powerful it was for me when I first saw it, the original Star Wars trilogy. You forget you're watching CGI and just get completely immersed in it.
This is absolutely a big screen movie. Don't wait to for it to come out on DVD if you really want to experience the world of Pandora.
The interaction between Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law is outstanding and really the only impressive thing about this film beyond the overblown overacting by villain Mark Strong (personally, I think he was a much better villain in Stardust) and the poor casting of Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler. In the end, I found Sherlock Holmes to be moderately entertaining while watching it though there was at least one moment in the theatre when I looked at my watch wondering when it would all end. Then, when I finally did leave the theatre, I discovered that I'd left behind most of my memories of this movie as well. A trifle at best, I'd wait for the DVD and then inevitable sequel.