Skip to comments.AVATAR (2009)** (out of four)(Dances with Thundersmurfs?)
Posted on 12/16/2009 5:56:58 AM PST by Maelstorm
A morally, historically, socially, and politically childish amalgam of Pocahontas and Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Avatar finds James Cameron--still the Cameron of Titanic (or the uncomfortably simpering T2, if we're honest with ourselves) rather than the Cameron of Aliens and The Terminator--trying his hand at being Kevin Costner: powerful, dim, and only relevant for a tiny window of time he doesn't realize has already closed. The more simple-minded liberal proselytizing he perpetrates like Avatar, the farther away he gets from the B-movie muscularity that indicated his early career. It's a bad thing, believe me, that the first set of movies people think to compare your latest to is first George Lucas' ridiculous prequel trilogy--then Dances with Wolves.
Like Lucas, Cameron's made the fatal error of writing his own screenplay, larding it with gut-busters like "Pandora will make Hell seem like R&R!" whilst recasting Native Americans as giant blue cats and Sam Worthington as the Next Big Has-Been (see: Cameron's failed attempts to shove Michael Biehn down America's throat). Cameron's long-awaited reunion with Sigourney Weaver isn't another Alien flick, but this thing with Ripley recast as do-gooder scientist Dr. Grace, battling the bellicose military over the soul of the Noble Savages inhabiting a verdant planet. Man is here, see, to harvest priceless ore "Unobtainium" (seriously--if you're that committed to being retarded, why not call it "Cantgetitanywhereium," or "Itsrareium"?) with a band of mercenaries at the beck of Cameron's evil, monolithic Company, led by pressed-shirt Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). We're not far now from naming someone "General Grievous," are we? Dr. Grace has developed the titular Avatar program, which breeds giant blue cats that are then electronically linked with human drivers--the better to freak out learn the ways of the natives and win their hearts and minds. A shame that jarhead Jake (Worthington) falls in love with giant blue cat Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, doing voice and MoCap duties), fucks her under the Spirit Tree upon becoming a member of The People (the Na'vi), and switches sides to repulse the human spoilers after taming a dragon, fulfilling a primitive prophecy, and earning the Indians' fealty. Stupid Indians.
Of course the military, led by muscle-bound Duke Nukem manqué Col. Quaritch (Stephen Lang), doesn't understand the beauty of the Na'vi culture nor the bumfuddling sanctity of nature, and of course Selfridge doesn't care that the Na'vi's village is housed in a mystical tree that's growing over the largest concentration of unobtainium in the known universe. What you should care about is that Cameron has essentially retold the Pocahontas story with giant blue cats subbing for the Powhatan and every single Native American stereotype subbing for taste. (Jar Jar isn't speaking Jamaican! He's an alien!) The Na'vi, it seems, are literally in tune with their Mother Earth, use little feelers in their tails to again literally commune with their horses, and engage in brutal spiritual rituals in order to Man Called Horse whitey into their inner ranks. Fans of oaters will also be pleased to check off: the presence of a Magua-type character who doesn't like Jake very much because paleface is making eyes at his squaw; the noble chief who takes shrapnel; the witch woman making witchy pronouncements; and the moment when Captain Smith makes good by conquering a savage superstition and henceforth rallies his clan with the horse-cats of the plains and the fierce water-cats of the north. Because this is a Cameron joint, you also have a tough-talking Latina and a bunch of scary-looking mechas; and because this is a late-Cameron joint, there's unfortunately a lot of stuff about how humans destroyed their own planet out of greed, how the misguided men must fight "terror with terror" by employing "some kind of shock and awe," and how naïve an intellectually-limited billionaire filmmaker sounds when trying to force himself into some kind of relevant conversation.
The real hell of this 160-minute marathon is that it's shot well, edited brilliantly, paced with heat and wisdom, and yet undone at its end by its reliance on the same old shit--on stale outrage (Bush Jr. lied to get us into Iraq? Well, gorsh!) and tired paternalism. This exact thing was done better, and with infinitely more scabrous self-awareness, in an episode of "Futurama" called "Where the Buggalo Roam"--a sad thing to say about a film that took ten years and a medium-sized country's GDP to bring to fruition. Even the special effects, though, have the scrolling, smooth quality of a Pixar feature without the commensurate command of storytelling and almost mystical contact with the zeitgeist. An extended sequence of Jake exploring this wonderland, Pandora, has him tripping luminescent moss in a deeply sad--and probably unintentional--homage to Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video, while elsewhere, Cameron inserts the (literal) deus ex machina in floating forest spirits plucked from Miyazaki's cutting-room floor. It isn't much better than the faux-wow of Ferngully, clarifying the truism that cutting-edge F/X, if not married to a thematically-strong, well-written framework, result in ferociously-defended pieces of camp-classic drag bullshit like Tron and Willow.
Worth mentioning is that Avatar, along with end-of-aughts brothers like Precious, The Blind Side, Invictus, Transformers 2, et al, demonstrates that the United States remains incapable of dealing directly with race in its mainstream, prestige entertainments in any way save for the obvious, pandering, sometimes condescending, sometimes just bigoted, always ignorant, and, it almost goes without saying, tediously offensive. In defense of Avatar, it's probably the best Cameron can do with regards to discussing the Native American genocide--that is, replicate the Trail of Tears as space cats evicted from their burning tree and showcase them chanting to the Great Mother to save the soul of the white man, then hijack history to show the beset-upon, oil-rich nation triumphing over its evil exploiters. It's The New World, but the Powhatan succeed in repulsing the Colonists. It's so confused about itself, with its Princess Mononoke rebellion of Nature subtext married to its wampum-for-Manhattan outrage, that despicable Colonel Quaritch snarls at Jake at one point, "What does it feel like to betray your own...race?" It's pitiable. At least Avatar, while displaying the same racial insensitivity and tin ear as Titanic, is unlikely to pollute the culture to the same extent or for anywhere near the same duration as Titanic. Watch the recent "South Park" satire of it ("Dances with Smurfs"), created without first-hand knowledge of the film at a miniscule fraction of its budget, to see the poor, benighted thing punched square in the babymaker.-Walter Chaw
LOL Walter - don’t hold back
Dances with smurfs on SouthPark
Dr. Grace= Good Guy
Parker Selfridge= Bad Guy
“General Greivance” LMAO!
And the best of all;
“Unobtainium-seriously—if you’re that committed to being retarded, why not call it “Cantgetitanywhereium,” or “Itsrareium”
I don’t patronize Hollywood movies or TV. Never. Period. Any freeper that does is a liberal enabler.
“Dances with Thundersmurfs”
LOL. Good movie or bad you got to love the alternate title.
That was exactly my thought when I saw the previews.................
Well I’m torn on that one. I think if we shut ourselves out of the market we will guarantee movies like the Passion of Christ, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, or even movies like The Lord of the Rings and the Lion the Witch and the wardrobe. Hollywood even though it pretends to be above capitalism thrives on it.
One thing I don’t understand is how many people on this site just love to root for a movie to do badly. They want this to bomb because Hollywood is evil. I don’t have a dog in the fight either way. I probably won’t see this movie beacuse I rarely see movies and have to go to ones my wife agrees to see on the rare occasion we have a night away from the kids.
SF/Fantasy is not her cup of tea, although we did see The Lord of the Rings trilogy and she enjoyed that. My point is, who cares if this movie does well? How would that effect your life? Isn’t a movie making a billion dollars good for our struggling economy?
The same can be said when Mel made Passion of the Christ. All kinds of left wing loons wanted that movie to tank. Of course it made a ton of money. Isn’t that a good thing?
So see this if you want, or don’t. I don’t understand tearing the guy down. Cameron took the risk to make this and that’s what Capitalism is all about.
“...it’s probably the best Cameron can do with regards to discussing the Native American genocide...”
IT’S A FRACKIN’ FANTASY MOVIE, WALTER!!
Honestly, what the hell does this guy expect? It’s obvious he hates James Cameron on a very primal level, and it’s hard to believe that anyone can get this worked up about a frickin’ movie.
He probably bitched about “Ironman” when it came out because the colors clashed on his armor.
I doubt he approved of the Hobbit’s foot-hair in any of the LOTR movies.
He probably just hated the fact that Bruce Willis wore a “wife beater” t-shirt in “Die Hard”.
My wife is taking Friday off so we can catch the matinee of “Avatar”. It promises to be very entertaining, and we do not intend to try and view it seeking solutions to the US Economy, the Iran v Israel conflict, the Zimbabwe financial crisis, or how to free Roman Polanski...
I just thought the review was entertaining. lol Enjoy the movie. It did remind me of ferngully. It is unfortunate that so much money was spent on a shallow liberal story line that could have been spent feeding the homeless or paying down the national debt. ;-)
Personally, if I'm spending my money I prefer to simply be entertained. When "the message" is more important than the entertainment, I enjoy seeing it fail than I do seeing it.
Not to be prudish, but you might want to put a language warning next time.
I don’t plan to see it and here are the reasons. If you can’t come up with a better name than the stupid inane one “Avatar” which just happens to also be the name of an anime cartoon then no amount of money can save it. I don’t want to encourage that behavior. This is clearly a throw enough money at it deal. I am a big fan of the first two Aliens Movies but I’ve just not been impressed with a lot of Cameron’s stuff. I didn’t go to the movies to watch Titanic though I did watch it and it was ok. This movie has the feel of a Kevin Costner boondoggle and appears to be just another example of Hollywood self important largess. The worst part is there are so many classic sci-fi/fantasy stories and worlds that deserve to be brought to life and instead we get this crap? I’m sure it is beautifully done but it still doesn’t make it worthwhile.
I ROFLED on the “ThunderSmurfs”!...