By Colin Campbell

It’s just another James Cameron film. The story isn’t good enough to merit an Oscar for best picture.

Those two sentences have gotten me into arguments with everyone from long-time friends to complete strangers. I’ve even had to defend my statements while being shot at in an online multiplayer game. ”Avatar rocked!” one announced defiantly, clearly confident in both of the words that comprised his argument.

One argument I can’t stand against are the groundbreaking visual effects of the film. Many have stated that James Cameron has created a new form of film making due to the technological innovations the film demanded. It’s far and away the most visually stunning film of the year and deserves every credit on it’s technical achievements, perhaps even a special award honoring the milestone in film making that’s been crossed.

But the best picture of the year? You’re all under a spell, and I’ve seen this before – 1997.

In 1997 we had an anti-hero in Melvin Howard and his unconventional initiation to romance in As Good As It Gets; a slow economy that led unemployed family men to become strippers in The Full Monty; Matt Damon gave us a glimpse into the agony and triumph of a troubled genius in the form of Good Will Hunting; and we were taken back three generations and dropped into the police office of L.A. Confidential.

Each of them tremendous films, films I wouldn’t hesitate to throw into the DVD player or even upgrade to a Blu-Ray. But Titanic… no, I don’t need to see that again. Most would agree with me, finally, after all this time.

Sweeping cinematography and breathtaking scenery, a handsome young leading man and an equally beautiful leading lady. Struggle and tragedy, sacrifice for love and ultimately a resolution years later to remind us all of our mortality. Yes, all the elements of an epic film are there, but the story is so horribly cliche’, filled with textbook protagonists and antagonists that can truly antagonize considering Cameron’s preference for films over two hours in length.

In 1997 I saw it all coming as I worked in a bookstore at a local shopping mall. Tiny droves of teenage girls came in every few minutes, each of them asking about the new “Leonardo DeCaprio stuff.” Not the Titanic book or full color spread of the making of the film, just the DeCaprio stuff. It wasn’t long before the entire public forgot all about the other films of 1997, and overwhelming public influence led to Cameron getting a record number of Oscars. It already happened once, does it really need to happen again?

I contend that Cameron hasn’t learned a thing about writing a decent story since that time and that Avatar’s just as much of a cliche’ ridden mess as Titanic was. A corporate overlord only concerned about profits from the new planet? Check. A military commander more interested in blowing them all to bits than allowing diplomacy to run it’s course? Check. A scientist working towards a peaceful solution but still tough enough to butt heads with the military and corporate influences? Check. A young hero, pure of heart, wounded but still spirited and brave enough to succeed where others have failed. Check.

Things get even worse when we gaze upon the beautifully rendered Na’vi. Protectors of nature, wary of outsiders, mysterious, savage, linked to the animals they live among. Our heroine isn’t immune to these characteristics either: daughter of the chieftain, drawn to the outsider but always suspicious of his intentions, beautiful, spirited, and 100% cliche’ from start to finish.

You could probably interchange pages of this script with Disney’s Pocahontas and never tell the difference as long as you changed the names. It’s such a shameless overuse of tried and true standards it’s almost laughable if it wasn’t so horrible, and now you’re going to give him another best picture Oscar for doing it again?!

Choose wisely, general public.