James Cameron‘s billion-dollar baby, Avatar, is as simplistic an adventure movie as they come. The last movie which so perfectly played by the numbers to deliver a rewarding and surprise-free night-out was, perhaps, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. Both films are perfectly plotted “hero’s journeys” that rely heavily on archetypes and tried-and-tested models of mythological storytelling to guide the audience through a satisfying fairytale with as little discomfort as possible.
That’s a compliment. And one not even intended to be backhanded. There’s something really enjoyable about a well-done clichéd, hackneyed, formulaic and trite storyline. Afterall, they became clichés for a reason: they work time after time.
The problem is clichéd adventure stories are so often not done well and we’ve developed a distaste for them. We claim we’ve “seen it all before” while forgetting there hasn’t been a new story since Perseus gave Medusa a haircut.
And when it comes to our new fairground-ride styled blockbusters which place so much emphasis on CG and effects, you really need there to be a story behind the glitter that works effortlessly with the audience.
Star Wars Episode I is a classic example of a technologically advanced marvel that fell on its face by trying to hard to push the envelope for storytelling at the same time. There’s a Dune amount of characters and plot in that movie but only enough time to tell a story like… well… like Avatar.
Avatar is really what Episode I should have been. Imagine something like this: Read the rest of this entry »