Title: Just saw Avatar (in 3D no less)
Posted: December 21, 2009 (03:38 AM)
First off, I really liked the film. But my enjoyment comes with some baggage.
For one thing, it's sad that such a high concept has to be given such a Hollywood treatment. There are so many places to go with the concept of putting ourselves into alien bodies and experiencing alien cultures first hand and the film has this sense like it wanted to let the audience know it was aware of those things so it touches on them briefly before charging ahead with the usual "humans versus aliens" science fiction battle plot.
I also am upset by some of the racial imagery associated with the film. The aliens draw direct parellels to native americans. Or, I should say, a White Man's understanding of Native Americans. That's the biggest problem with the film, in my opinion. It has a message of befriend nature and the native Americans were right, but as usual, White writers and directors (in this case James Cameron on both fronts) miss the whole point. Being in touch with nature isn't some mystical thing that's exciting and filled with graphic splendor. It's hard work and requires a loss of our comforts and our inflated visions of who we are as a species. Similarly, the Native Americans weren't magical shamans who respected nature because they could talk to it and feel its pain. It was common sense. Shit in your own backyard and you'll have to clean it up someday. Cut down all the trees and you may have a house today, but tomorrow your children won't be able to eat. When you kill an animal, try to end its pain quickly because it's not pleasant to watch anything die in pain. Cats play with their food. Humans have the ability to choose not to do that. That's part of what makes us special. These are common sense things but White people can't seem to ever call it for what it is. They always have to disconnect it with fantastical terms and mystical trappings.
"Oh please," some folk might say. "You can't do anything these days without offending someone." Offending someone isn't the real issue, though. I mean, we took these people's land and murdered their kinfolk. We're kind've past offense. At this point, it's about education. Continuing to propagate a Native American stereotype as being "Tribal" or connecting issues of environment to mysticism isn't particularly an ill-intentioned decision. In fact, in Avatar's case I would say it was well-intentioned. Nonetheless, it's an uneducated decision and that can be dangerous.
Other than that, the film is beautiful, well-acted, and is pushing forward new ways of filming that are going to reshape the industry... at least for those who have the millions of dollars to utilize the techniques. It's also highly reminiscent of Ferngully. There's one scene in particular where I was waiting for Tim Curry to make a cameo appearance and start singing about "slime beneath me..."
Posted: December 21, 2009 (09:31 AM)
To be fair I saw it more as a critique of the Iraq-America conflict, but yeah, the overtones were pretty big.
Didn't watch it in 3d though, it was all sold out, and to be fair I can only imagine the strain on my eyes it would have. The amount of vibrant colors and all made my eyes bleed blood after three hours from watching in "normal" mode.
Posted: December 21, 2009 (12:13 PM)
I got more of a general "humans are shit" message than anything racial. Notice how the main character refers to his fellow homo sapiens as "aliens" by the end of the movie. Subtlety is definitely not James Cameron's thing. (And between this and District 9, 2009 has been quite a year for damning the human race.)
I saw the movie last night in 3D and will probably be writing my own blog post about it soon, so stay tuned. In short, I did enjoy it, but only for reasons that will probably be irrelevant in a couple of years.
Posted: December 21, 2009 (10:43 PM)
James Cameron described the Na'vi more as idealized versions of ourselves, which I suppose is why they fall under the "noble savage" archetype. I haven't seen the movie yet, but my impression is that it's concerned more with the idea of escapism than any commentary on current or prior human history. Of course, the parallels are there, but I suspect Avatar is about as much an Iraq allegory as Star Wars was a Vietnam allegory.
I'll try to catch a (2D) showing in the coming weeks.
Subtlety is definitely not James Cameron's thing.
Oh yeah. There's the ending to "The Abyss," which is basically the undersea people saying "Stop global war or die!" On top of that, Sarah Connor's little monologue in T2 about man and the atom bomb, and this one line Ripley had in Aliens:
"You don't see them fucking each other over for a goddamn percentage."
Cameron movies are always served with a little cheese on the side. :-)