I know that I’m a little behind on the times with this, but I need to get on the internet and bitch about Avatar because I watched it last night and was not pleased at all. Three main complaints go like this:
1. The Story. I have heard a lot of defense/offense both ways on the storyline of Avatar, and I’ve held back my judgment until watching the film. I think the story is fucking terrible. I don’t think the plot was bad, since it was beat-for-beat a near-perfect screenplay as far as technical aspects go. The chases felt right, the action was great, and way that characters interacted was alright when it actually made sense.
The story itself, however, was so bad that I was rolling my eyes in the theater. Nevermind the comparisons to Dances With Wolves or Fern Gully, or even the suggestion that the idea for the movie was lifted from some old Pohl plot. It was just plain bad. Every trope in the book was run and without any real reason to do so. You can’t tell me that Cameron couldn’t have come up with something better than space rhino, space horse, and space bird? What about something better than “manhood trial”? That actually leads me to my next major complaint.
2. Representations – I was really uncomfortable with two different representations in the flick. The first was the way the science of the Na’vi was played out as far as relations between the sexes were concerned. Once again we have a society where women are more connected with nature, emotion, etc. and men are strong, brash, and kind of stupid. So James Cameron, the genius that created “space pack dogs”, couldn’t write a society that didn’t develop the exact same way as every goddamn society on Earth?
Maybe that’s tied into my second complaint about representation, which is the way the “native” aspect of the Na’vi was treated. I understand that a large part of the science of their world was their connection to Pandora, and that’s cool and all, but why the fuck did they have to run through every beaten-down trope in the book? Bows, spears, horses, living in a tree, life bonding with animals, arranged marriages, tribal leaders, over protection, manhood rights, and the list goes on and on. I guess you could say that these traits are coded into the Western concept of the Native, and you might be right, but I think that a director with a little more storytelling vision could have done something a little different. I could go on and on about how this is reconstructing the false notion of the native in the Western cultural system, but instead I just wonder what Tarsem of Del Toro could have done with this planet.
3. Characters – Avatar is a 3D movie populated by 2D characters, and that’s really sad. There’s the everyman, the nerd, the doctor, the capitalist, the rebel girl, the military guy, and the natives. There you go. That’s the whole goddamn cast, and whatever assumptions that you’re making based on those names, they’re exactly correct. We’re given very little backstory on the characters, and the movie does a great job of tricking you into not caring about it. I cared about it a whole lot.
In the end, I didn’t like the movie very much at all. It was pretty, and the ecosystem was pretty, but it was like going to the zoo. We walked around, we saw some animals in isolated incidents, and the setpieces were cool looking. I wasn’t really impressed with the 3D short of a few shots, but admittedly those shots (any chase scene) were cool enough to make me glad that I saw it in the full IMAX 3D.
Not the best movie by any stretch of the imagination, but not the worst either. There’s a lot to be talked about as far as themes of the movie are concerned, with some being tread over again and again (capitalism, empire, militarism).
The one thing that could really be thought about is the connection of terrorism and the Na’vi. While General Military Guy tells everyone that the Na’vi are terrorists, it’s strange to me that the only act of terrorism committed in the movie is on the part of the humans. That event, the destruction of the home-tree, is eerily similar to 9/11 as well. There’s definitely something there, but I’m not sure what it is.
In any case, I think the only people who should even be considered for awards in this movie are the animators. I probably won’t watch this movie again.