Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar - You Can Fly, You Can Fight, You Can CAW CAW CAWWWW !

Not since the invention of pornography itself has a director achieved the level of disparity between the visual experience of an audience and the story itself as James Cameron has accomplished in his latest film Avatar. I would be remiss not to warn you of potential spoilers in the next few paragraphs, but if you have been part of the movie-going public for the past three decades, nothing I can write is capable of spoiling Avatar's altogether predictable story.

Fundamentally, Avatar is Cameron's retelling of the 1991 Robert Williams classic "Hook" with heaping portions of FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Dances With Wolves, and Capitalism: A Love Story thrown in. In Hook-like fashion, Jake Sulley (the only name you will remember from the films long list of forgettable characters) is forced to interact with a seemingly inferior people-group that is facing down an evil, but technologically superior, race. After a beautifully-shot montage, Jake becomes aware that although the blue tree-folk appear to be developmentally delayed with nearly every respect to their society, their hippy-ish qualities are appealing and deserve his protection. Unfortunately for the blue people, the audience could not be more apathetic about their plight; Smurfs garnered more emotional investment from viewers than these people. In Dances With Wolves the audience found itself pulling for the frightening-in-the-first-hour-but-lovable-in-the-second-hour native-Americans; in Avatar, however, the audience did not seem to care who lives or dies as long as the victor promised more awesome 3D action.

Again, borrowing from Hook, Jake-the-outsider challenges the alpha-male of the blue people and becomes the leader of the blue people, although we later discover that Jake has access to some kind of high-explosives or something, so that could have had some influence on his political ascendancy. There is no Tinkerbell character per se, but all of the blue people have glow-in-the-dark features that make them less Tinkerbell and more Black Eyed Pea.

Avatar

 



Not Avatar

Much like Rufio, leader of the Lost Boys, the former alpha-male of the blue people (who has a name, but nobody cares what it is) recognizes Jakes true heart and heroically sacrifices himself for the cause. Cameron fails to include inspiring lines like "Looky, look, I've got Hooky" and "You can fly, you can fight, and you can CAW CAW CAW crow." And, yes, Avatar's dialogue would have been improved with lines such as these.

The story surrounding the marketing of this film is that Cameron has had the desire to make Avatar for the past 30 years, but technology is just now capable of allowing him to see his vision attained. I find this hard to believe considering the heavy-handed preaching the audience receives about the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A religious people lives on top of vast amounts of a valuable mineral deposit called "unobtainium" (seriously) and this primarily caucasian military-industrial complex invades their land in order to obtain the "unobtainium." The following phrases are actually used in the film: "shock and awe campaign," "we will fight terror with terror," and the blue people call themselves "martyrs" at one point. With marked efficiency, the military, whose stereotypical leader spends the entirety of the film wanting to blow crap up, achieves a swift victory striking the political heart of the blue people which causes the warring clans of blue people to unite in order to aid the clan who was attacked. Outgunned, the blue people form an insurgency because, as one of them explains "We know these mountains better than they do."

Cameron is not satisfied to simply lecture his audience about the Iraq war; he uses his film as a platform to push his environmentalist and anti-capitalist agendas. The evil capitalists (who, we are told, "destroyed their world" such that in their world "there is no longer any green left" presumably because the evil capitalists so thoroughly raped mother nature back on earth) viciously attack the blue people who appear to function within  some sort of utopian communal monarchy. Cameron's lecture culminates in a scene in which a giant pollution-spewing tree-chomping machine tears through the jungle that is a shot-for-shot remake of the Hexxus from  FernGully: The Last Rainforest.


Capitalism


The most frustrating aspect of the film is dropping $15 to see a movie that incessantly preaches about how evil capitalism is. In this case it is especially maddening because James Cameron's films have earned in excess of $3 BILLION not including Avatar. Yeah. He despises capitalism. Can't you tell?

In the end, Avatar is full of eye candy, but, like candy, the calories are empty. The visuals are the best I have ever witnessed in a film, but the plot, dialogue, and characters are uninspired and yawn-worthy. I would recommend seeing this movie simply because each shot is so beautiful and the 3D effects are superb, but if you decide to see it, make sure you go to the theater because you will be disappointed watching this one at home.

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