What more can I add to all the chatter about James Cameron’s Avatar? Not much, except to share my opinions. You probably already know all that you need to know about this movie, and I certainly don’t want to include any spoilers.

First of all, it’s absolutely essential to see it in 3-D, preferably in IMAX. The three-dimensional effects were absolutely convincing, especially in the outdoor scenes, giving the viewer the sense of being in the action rather than watching the action. The result was a thoroughly entertaining, amazing film. I was totally absorbed by it, having no trouble sitting for nearly three hours. (The Tempur-Pedic seats definitely helped! I guess that’s one of the benefits of seeing a movie in a theater that’s located in a furniture store.)

The linguistically sophisticated artificial language of the Na’vi was of course of interest to me, though it was really a minor part of the movie. Although the three-dimensionality allowed subtitles to hover well in front of the action — thereby making them less intrusive than they would be otherwise — it was still appropriate for Cameron to use the device of having the main Na’vi characters be more-or-less capable speakers of English as a second language. Doing so allowed him to get away with minimal use of subtitles. Perhaps I’ll write a follow-up post concerning their own language .

I was surprised to see some little kids at this showing (early Sunday afternoon). Either their parents had no idea that there would be so much violence, or they didn’t care. Avatar is basically a war movie, after all, so they should have cared.

As a war movie, it included every cliché in the book, and therein lies its major flaw. The flaw isn’t the lack of originality; I discount critics who observe that this movie has been made before. Yes, the theme and story line are taken from other efforts, but so what? It’s commonplace for plays and films to do this; even Shakespeare took story lines from elsewhere. No, the flaw is the piling on of cliché after cliché. Fortunately the action and the visual effects are so stunning that it’s almost possible to ignore this problem, but “almost” isn’t good enough. As an unsubtle metaphor for the Europeans’ destruction of American Indians and their lands, it was bound to be somewhat predictable — but it didn’t have to go to such extremes. The result was a collection of one- and two-dimensional characters who fell into situations that anyone in the audience would have expected.

Despite that flaw, and despite its transparent political correctness, Avatar is still a successful film. Aside from the special effects, the spectacular scenery and the attention to detail redeem the story. Go see it — warts and all!

A small linguistic question that has nothing to do with the movie: why is it that I have no trouble with the ostensibly misplaced modifier in the fourth sentence of my second paragraph above? By proximity, the participle “having” should modify “it,” yet the intended reading where it modifies “I” is definitely the dominant one to my eyes and ears. Something to ponder…

Categories: Linguistics, Movies & (occasionally) TV