An hour after word first began circulating that Kobe Bryant may end his two-week injurcation to suit up for the Lakers-Grizzlies game, I received this text message:
"I would like to have date night on Tues."
The Liberian Girl who sent that text had no knowledge of the status of Kobe's health on Monday, but she does know where the Lakers rank on my Priority List. She also knows where she rates on that same list.
On Tuesday night, as Andrew Bynum--also recently mended--jumped center in Memphis, I slid a pair of 3D glasses up the bridge of my nose in anticipation of my second screening of Avatar. The Liberian Girl burrowed into my left rib and nibbled on Nerds. She hadn't seen the film yet and finally caved to all the buzz about it. (After we ate a proper dinner first, of course.)
At this point, what more can you really say about Avatar?
The mythology of the film has been shredded, diced and gnarled by critics from all sides. "Why does the white man gotta save the natives again?" "Why is capitalism always the villain?" "How did we survive three hours without a single nipple slip?"
(Whoops. That last one is more pornographic than political. But those two disciplines share so many things that who can really tell the difference?)
The story--and this won't spoil anything if you've not seen it yet--is underwhelming. The characters are reduced, ironically, to flat caricatures. The dialogue is the height of cliche. There is more than one nagging continuity question. And, most alarmingly, there's no actual nudity despite the fact that those lithe blue bodies dance through the jungle for 2/3 of the flick.
All of which is to be expected.
Avatar is nearly three hours long, but it MOVES. It jukes through a brilliantly imagined world. And it sprints through a simple narrative that isn't meant to do anything more than provide back-up for a massive, MASSIVE creative accomplishment.
There are so many teams of people who collaborated on that film that you need a second mouse to scroll through the whole cast and crew list on IMDB.com. If you know anything about the process of trying to make a film, the more people who get involved, the more likely it is that something about the finished product could suck. Long chains do tend to have lots of slack.
So if you're spending eight kajillion dollars to invent a whole new way of making movies, something has to give, no? If you're going to get anything really, really right, then you need to conjure up all the genius your acres of collaborators can muster to make sure the world you create together is jaw-dropping. Anything else--like the story--should probably be executed as simply as possible. That compromise, regardless of what non-lethal stereotypes it furthers or what agendas it hamhandedly espouses, can ultimately be forgiven.
Upon exiting the theatre, the Liberian Girl evaluated the film with a fitting eloquence, "The story wasn't amazing, but everything else was."
That's just about as precise as Kobe was during the closing seconds in Memphis.
(So I was told by a very different text.)