Avatar (2009)

If you live on earth, you probably know that Avatar is the newest James Cameron movie, starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Giovanni Ribisi. And if you live on earth and like going to the movies, you’ve probably already seen this film.

Some time in the future, there’s a space station on the planet Pandora where the humans are mining for a valuable mineral. To ameliorate the relations with the humanoid inhabitants, the Na’vi, the military has developped a program where a few people get avatars – Na’vi bodies humans can steer.
One of the people with avatars is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). He quickly develops a friendship with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), one of the Na’vi. But when the tension between the humans and the aliens becomes stronger, Jake will have to decide.

Avatar looks beautiful. And that’s where the good things stop. The story is crap. Ridiculous crap. The acting is so-so. The music is pompous. Actually, the whole film is pompous. Not to mention racist and ableist and just plain bad.

The technology really is impressive. As is the design of the world and anything visual. For the first half hour of the movie, I was perfectly content just to watch. Unfortunately, after that I was stuck for two and a half hours foaming about the stupid, offensive story.

In fact, to put it with David Cox in Avatar shows cinema’s weakness, not its strength:

It cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It was four years in the making. Its facial performance capture system alone took 18 months to perfect. In spite of gloomy prognostications, the end product looks staggering. Nonetheless, Avatar fails in one rather important respect. By common consent, its story’s rubbish.

There are many people who have written about Avatar and said the things I want to say. Still, let me reiterate:

  1. It’s racist. I mean, Noble Savages? Really? Didn’t I already critisise that in Australia? Does nobody ever listen to me? [Dances with the Smurfs still cracks me up, though.]
  2. It’s ableist. Loads of Miracle Cures (TM) and of course, you can only be happy and live a fulfilled life if your body’s functioning perfectly. Yeah… no.
  3. I initially thought that it was sexist, too. But it seems that I misunderstood some things (or deadra and me saw two slightly different movies), so I’m not going to say it anymore until I see the movie again. Which, in all likelihood, will be never.

But apart fomr the politics behind the film, there was the quality of it… I mean, excluding the technological side, everything was sub-par. The acting was absolutely mediocre (to be fair, none of the actors had much to work with. It’s hard to play clichés). The music was overbearing and it was much too long.

I went with my brother-in-law who quite liked it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t help myself and was a total buzzkill, arguing the entire ride home why this movie sucked so much. I’m guessing we won’t be going to the movies anytime soon again. :)

Anyway, if you really want to see it, try to catch it in the cinema – because watching it on a small screen really defeats the whole purpose.

15 thoughts on “Avatar (2009)

  1. I’d love to see it in the movies. I love meaningless specatacles.

    And I don’t mind the noble savage chlichè (in fact I’m very fond of Winnetou). Of course it’s stupid, but it doesn’t hurt people. I think it’s like the “All Germans are precise” clichè. (Your studies of sociology might bring up the privilege argument.)
    But maybe I don’t see something (because of privilege.. an idea that I have never correctly understood because it seems racist/chauvinsit to me. Educate and enlighten me.). Always happy to get new insights from you.

    • But spectacles are cheapened by offense since they don’t remain meaningless then.

      The Noble Savage cliché hurts people like any other cliché hurts people: When it’s the only thing left you perceive about a certain kind of people, it becomes harmful.
      And that’s were privilege comes into play – as you correctly assumed.
      Short-short version: privilege keeps people safe from being reduced to one stereotype. If one white man does something stupid, everybody says that it’s just the one guy. If it’s a black guy, they say that all black guys are like that.
      Also, privilege keeps you from noticing/experiencing stuff: As a white person, you might say, “oh, it’s only a joke” when somebody makes a racist quib, as a black person, it hurts.
      Privileges come in degrees and depend on the situation.

      And what do you mean by “racist/chauvinist” concept?

  2. aaah. So privilege is a group notion?

    “racist/chauvinist” concept?
    Calling women, blacks, gay people etc unprivileged somehow reminds me of calling people inferior. I know it’s not the sense of the scientific word privilege but I’ve heard males owning up to privilege (I hope the sentence makes sense?)like “I know that as a man I don’t understand…” and then they went on as if “female” was some sort of sickness. You feel sorry, you treat them kindly – but no way close to equal.

    Gotta borrow soe basic books from you. :P

    • Maybe it would help to think of it like this…

      A and B have to run the same distance.
      A does it on a level running track (because anything else would be silly), while B has to run up an incline (which A doesn’t see). B will probably take longer, but that doesn’t make them an inferior runner. It makes A privileged.

      Does that make sense? I was at work today, so my brain is still confuzzled.

        • HEY!!! That sort of insult is completely uncalled for!!!

          (although I sort of get what you’re getting at…I spend so much time explaining stuff that I can’t stop even when I’m at home…it’s worrying)

          • Most teachrs are weird, crazy, misanthropic buggers.

            But there are some who are TEACHERS. People who feel proud about their pupils achievements, who have a genuine interest in their personality and who are talented at explaining stuff (which has a lot to do with recognzing personalities)
            You’d be that kind of teacher (Plus: you have some geekness that comes in handy :P)

  3. This would be awesome. I’m genuinely interested in sociology but somehow the two of us never crossed paths, unless you count “Basic sociology for lawyers” which was a very cool seminar some years ago.

  4. The racism and ableism (is that a word? :-/)angles aside(because well, they’re routinely ignored in Awards and whatnot anyway) I’m still surprised a movie with this bad a plot got a Golden Globe for something besides visual appeal.

    • Yes, ableism is a word – albeit a neologism.
      Anyway, I totally know what you’re getting it – I don’t get it either. Visually and technologically, it was very good. But everything else just wasn’t good quality…

      But then they also chose The Hangover for best comedy and that movie wasn’t even a little bit funny…

  5. Pingback: “Avatar”: The big blue things and the human invaders « Radu presents: The Movie-Photo Blog

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