Ridiculously Late Review: Avatar (Part Two)

Last weekened, my brother and I watched Avatar for the firt time. I won’t bore you with the basic plot as most of you should probably know it. Despite my expectations (I was expecting Titanic in space), I am surprised to say that I like this film. Or at least the last hour or so.

Avatar starts off slow and shaky, and it is not until midway to closer to the end that the film begins to pick up and actually finds its rthym. While I don’t think Cameron focused too long on any one aspect of the film, I just feel that the first half is too slow and rather dull.

My biggest issue with the film comes from the world building. I’m a whyporn kind of guy, so I like the explanations (even if it comes off as stupid). That said, I have several issues.

I feel that the depiction of Earth as overcrowded, dystopic, and corporatist is certainly cliché by now (particularly since a corporation run future seems to be everyone’s favorite bugaboo). I just find it hard to believe (even in a hundred fifty years) that a single corporation (even with multigovernment backing) could pull together the resources to exploit a planet light years away and hire a small mercenary army.

Speaking of this, the whole reason for being on Pandora is rather ludicrous. Unobtanium? Please, that is just dumb. A much better reason would be if the humans came to Pandora to colonise the place as a new home (with the attendant exploitation). Otherwise, it begs the question, what the hell does unobtanium do that makes it so valuable?

Another beef I have with the film is the Na’vi. In conversation with my brother, I came to the conclusion that for the story Cameron wanted to write work, it had to focus on aliens with a Native American flair. I accept that, I don’t think it could really work any other way. But Pandora is a large place (not as big as Earth but still large), and one would expect that (much like on Earth) there would be some cultural or civilizational diversity. What would a Na’vi equivalent of the Roman Empire look like? Or even a Na’vi Aztecs? Granted, this issue is endemic to much of science fiction as alien cultures are pared down to a “global constant.” It annoys me, but it is what it is.

I also agree with my brother (and several other critics) when they point out the problem inherent in Jake Sully, a human white male (even if he is handicapped), saving the Native Other. This is another typical problem with popular depictions of Native resistence to exploitation. Often a sympathetic (and often the protagonist) member of the exploiter class will find commonality with the opressed and “go native” to help them survive. This is exactly what Sully does in a big way (he becomes Na’vi). Is it rascist? Yes, it is, and it is endimic to this type of story telling.

Now for what works.

The visuals are amazing. So pretty and well rendered. Often, it is the real-life actors who look fake compared to the CGI. That is an accomplishment.

While I am not too pleased with the world building, I have to say that I enjoy the plot of the movie immensely. While I wish it had gone into more details, I really like it.

Avatar is a great film, not the greatest and certainly does not live up to its hype, but amaizing anyway. While from my comments above, I should dislike the movie, most of the problems I have do not take away from the enjoyment factor. Some of it is frustrating and unimaginative, but it is a good movie.

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Posted on August 21, 2010, in Movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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