The Herald's entertainment team is daring each other to do terrible things. Today, Chris Schulz is forced to sit through Avatar.

"Can a man in a smurf suit fall in love with a smurf?"

What kind of question is that? Why did I ask it? What was I thinking? Was I having personal issues at the time? I've never even watched The Smurfs! And they have literally nothing in common with the Na'vi from Avatar - apart from the fact they're blue.

That pathetic attempt at a sentence is how I opened my review of James Cameron's Avatar back in 2009, a critical assessment that heaped four out of a possible five stars on the biggest blockbuster of all time.

"It brings a sense of awe back to cinema," I wrote while probably stroking my chin. "If you haven't yet checked out a film in 3D ... this is the one that will make you go, 'Wow'."


Wut? Here's the thing: I now regret almost every word uttered in that review.

Hey, it happens. We critics get it wrong. For me, it's not the first time, and probably not the last. I once gave psych-rockers The Horrors a five-star review - and where the hell are they now?

When it comes to Avatar, I suspect I'm not the only critic with regrets. Jump on Rotten Tomatoes and you'll find so many positive adjectives you might turn blue under the weight of them all.

From 2009, New York Magazine's David Edelstein called it "dizzying, enveloping, vertiginous," while Deadspin's Will Leitch stammered, "Avatar ... reminds me of what movies can do, what they're capable of, what (they) can really mean."

And At the Movies' AO Scott really went nuts: "I had the feeling coming out of this movie that I haven't felt since maybe I was eleven years old in 1977 and I saw Star Wars for the first time."

Stop it. Nup. Nope. Never. Here, with the benefit of eight years of hindsight, I prefer to look back at Avatar the same way that theme park expert Martin Lewison does. "I've never seen anybody ever walking down the street wearing an Avatar T-shirt," he told AP.

Or, as Telegraph scribe Ed Power put it: "Avatar, it seems, is a sandbox nobody wants to play in ... (it) slid silently beneath the waves, unloved and unmourned."

Harsh, but is it true? Does Avatar really warrant four Cliff Curtis-staring sequels, a half-billion dollar Florida theme park, and a Cirque du Soleil show touring here in September?

My workmates heard me complaining. They told me to answer those questions myself. How? By rewatching Avatar. Ugh. Okay. Here goes ...

Diary of an Avatar nightmare


We're just two minutes in, and Sam Worthington's injured military man Jake Sully is knocking back vodka shots in a dive bar. WANT.

00.05: Sully is sleeping. ALSO WANT.

00.12: As Sully sees his own avatar lying in a tank of goop for the first time, I have a sudden realisation: I don't want to be here; I don't want to do this. I hit pause, head to the kitchen, strike up a conversation with someone, anyone, and take much, much longer to walk back to my desk than is necessary.


Sully is recording a "video log". It's called a 'vlog' now mate. Even Max Key's got one. It's terrible. But get with the times.

00.14: Sigourney Weaver wakes up, yells, "Ugh," and demands a cigarette. She's way too cool to slum it here.

00.19: I hit pause again. I need coffee. A little later my coffee buddy and I get soaked by a sudden downpour and nearly get hit by a car. Running back to the office in the rain, I tell her: "This is still better than watching Avatar."

00.22: Sully is running amok in his avatar body on Pandora. Those ridiculously lean bodies of the Na'vi look, well, flat and lifeless on my Dell work computer monitor. Was it this bad in the cinema? Or were we all just bamboozled by James Cameron's 3D trickery?

00.26: You know, if there's one piece of tech built in my lifetime, I don't want a time machine or a hoverboard, I want a mech suit like the one that just stomped past Sully. The things I could get done in one of those. Auckland's constant motorway repairs would be solved in a single day, for one. And no cars could hurt me when I'm on a coffee run. Result.


Michelle Rodriguez is in this! I'd forgotten. Her chopper swoops through clouds and over waterfalls and she's chewing gum like a boss and it's actually kinda cool. This probably looked great in 3D. A quick Google reveals Pandora's floating mountains were filmed in China's ZhangJiaJie National Forest Park. I want to go there, but


"Get your punk ass back to mammy" are words that literally just came out of the mouth of Sully as he fights a hammerhead dinosaur in the forest. All good feelings from those sweeping vistas have now been forgotten.

00.44: Sully's avatar is covered in white pillowy butterflies and he's glowing like an orb. Must be his outfit for the Met Gala.

00.52: Normally, it's about this point in a three-hour movie that I fall asleep. It's the talky bit, the lull as Cameron sets up the second half of the film. It's especially boring. "My cup is empty," says Sully, trying to persuade the Na'vi clan who've captured him not to kill him. "I was a warrior ... of the jarhead clan." Even those Star Wars prequels have better lines than this.

00.56: Giovanni Ribisi is a great actor. Not here. He's a corporate baddie, he wants to mine all the Unobtanium (has Cameron played too much Ratchet & Clank?) from a plantation where the Na'vi live. But his problem is typical of Avatar overall - his character has no sense of humour, there's no wry twinkle in his eye, no subtle nod to the viewer. He's just a one-note money man bogged down in dialogue. "It's not Ribisi's fault," I whisper. A workmate asks if I'm okay. No, I'm not.

1.06: Sully is on Pandora making his avatar hunt for his own flying winged thing.

1.10: Still hunting.

1.16: Still hunting.

1.21: Still effing hunting.

1.23: He's flying! Why did that take nearly 20 minutes?

1.32: At this point, around the halfway mark, as Sully is sitting sullenly in a spaceship, it's important to recognise that James Cameron has made some incredible movies. Aliens. Titanic. Terminator. Terminator 2. They're all fantastic. I would rather watch any of those than Avatar again. Actually, I'd rather stare at a wall for three hours without blinking than watch Avatar again.

Actor Ben Stiller at the 2010 Academy Awards, pretty much summing up everyone's feelings about Avatar. Photo/AP
Actor Ben Stiller at the 2010 Academy Awards, pretty much summing up everyone's feelings about Avatar. Photo/AP


Something else just occurred to me: I have never heard anyone utter the words, "Let's watch Avatar again!". Aside from Ben Stiller at the 2010 Oscars, I have never seen anyone cosplay a Na'vi. I haven't seen any demand for


games, TV shows or spin-offs. I've never Googled 'Avatar 2'. Literally no one talks about it. Ever. Maybe it's like

Jersey Shore:

at some point, we all just decided to pretend we'd never heard of Snooki and J Woww and The Sitch.

1.51: Things are getting pretty tense now. War ships are flying in, Sully's had a fight with his girlfriend, Weaver's avatar is tied to a stake and a giant tree is burning. I'm keeping busy by thinking about a lot of other things. None of them have anything to do with Avatar.

1.55: There's a whole hour to go? I can't.

2.23: This might be the closest I've ever been to falling asleep with my eyes open.

2.40: The mech suit is back! Avatar's climactic battle sequence - Sully vs Colonel Miles Quaritch, who was a baddie all along - is actually pretty well orchestrated: it's like Jurassic Park meets Transformers. And I'm not mad at that. But it took a while to get here. And it's all so predictable. But if Cameron is good at one thing, it's nailing a decent action scene. Not sure about that giant knife though. Who leaves a giant knife lying around in the jungle?


There's some

Return of the Jedi-style

celebrations, upbeat


music starts and Leona Lewis plays us out. The end credits roll. So do my eyes. Gah. Aside from a couple of sequences, Avatar hoodwinked us all. We were misinformed, distracted, doped up on the 3D hype train and out of our god damned minds. We got it wrong. I got it wrong.


doesn't deserve four stars. It doesn't deserve three. Maybe, just maybe, it deserves two stars. It sure looks great, but I'm left feeling like I spent three hours opening a particularly sh*t present after being distracted by the pretty wrapping paper.

2.57: It's over. I can say with absolute unequivocal certainty that I will never watch Avatar again. Do I have room in my life for four sequels? Short answer? No. Long answer? Well, to quote Jake Sully: "Get your punk ass back to mammy." I'm out.