Bonus post: On Avatar

I wasn’t planning on writing anything else here until after the holidaze, but Annette, Will, and I went to see Avatar this afternoon and I felt compelled to write some thoughts before going off to bed.

Before I get to the (potential) spoilers, let me say this:  I enjoyed the movie quite a bit– perhaps not as much as Will and Annette, but still quite a bit.  It’s certainly worth seeing in the theater, preferably in 3-D and in an I-Max theater.  It looked absolutely fantastic and that in and of itself made the whole thing worth it.  Though one problem I have with the 3-D is that I wear glasses, and I have to say I don’t think the glasses over the glasses thing works that great.  I’m looking forward to the not so distant future in which the glasses are not necessary. Go and see it, you’ll be glad you did.

That said, I’m not sure this was a “great” movie or this generation’s Star Wars or whatever other hyperbole you want to apply.  I think the main problem/limitation I saw in the movie is that is completely derivative of so many other movies over the last decade or so.  More on which movies– along with many MANY spoilers– after the jump.

First and most striking to both me, Annette, and Will, Avatar is basically a live action/CGI and updated version of the movie Fern Gully, which is literally the same plot as  Avatar: the local’s home (in both movies, a giant tree) is under siege by greedy corporate bastards.  The bulldozer used to mow down the forest is literally the same design in both movies, though Tim Curry is only in Fern Gully.

Second, you’ve got Dancing With Wolves. Basically, Jake Sully ends up “going native” pretty much in the same way as Kevin Costner’s character in that movie– which, btw, was really good too.  And while we’re at it, there are aspects of the way that the natives are are portrayed in this movie that are potentially problematic– stay tuned for critiques from Native Americans and other indigenous peoples.

Third, there’s Aliens, which has the impressive connections involving both Cameron (he directed and co-wrote) and Sigourney Weaver is in both.  But besides that, the plot of both movies is essentially the same:  corporate whores are trying to harness the bounty of a far-away planet, it doesn’t work out as planned, hijinks ensue.

Then you’ve got The Matrix.  The whole avatar/plugging in thing is not at all unlike what happens with Neo et al going into “the matrix,” and the similarity with the armaments in these movies– the “full body” fighter rigs, the quasi-helicopter things, etc.– is hard to ignore.

Plus you’ve got Braveheart and/or Henry V where stirring speeches are delivered just before the natives get their asses kicked, and various versions of Pinocchio (Jake gets his wish of being turned into one of the natives at the end, after all), and some Star Wars (aren’t the Na’vi really a tall and blue version of Ewoks?)

You get the idea.  To sum up, as far as I can tell, the story/plot of Avatar is a mix of every movie that Cameron has ever had anything to do with professionally and probably every movie he’s ever seen.

3 thoughts on “Bonus post: On Avatar”

  1. I thought the native Na’vi were a rather idealized lot. Could they really have no venal instincts, no real jealousy, etc.? From a cultural perspective, why should theirs be better than ours? That all seemed a little too simplistic to me.

    However, the breathtaking sweep of the movie and the idea of an integrated planetoid entity were very appealing. And, I liked the movie quite a bit. I just found myself having to get around this idea of Na’vi as an ideal incarnate more often than I would have liked.

  2. To be honest, I don’t buy the whole white guilt angle, mainly because I believe it over analyzes the situation by half. However, I tend to agree with the notion that really only one cultural perspective is critically examined in this movie.

    We never really fully credit the Na’vi culture because it is not critically examined. I lived in 4 different countries among the native population between the ages of 18 and 24. The movie never gets beyond the 6 months infatuation stage.

    For what it’s worth, I much more appreciated a film from 18 years ago, Black Robe:

    It switches back and forth well between French idealist priests trying to preach to Native Americans about eternal life and those native Americans who have something else in mind entirely. Once I got to the point where I understood how places really worked, that was more often my experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.