Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why I didn't like Avatar...

So the Oscar nominee list came out the other day, and I am so underwhelmed by this years films I'm like basically 20,000 leagues under the sea of whelmed.

I just want to get out there a little discussion of why I disliked Avatar. In this blog post, I hope to use the line 'E.T. backwards is not Avatar' but I don't think I'll be able too. They are kind of the same stories in reverse. I don't have much more of a point than that, but I like the sentence.

Anyways, there are many reasons to dislike this super expensive monstrosity of a film. Let me get rid of some of the reasons that aren't my reasons.

1. James Cameron is a pompous blowhard who makes idiotic overpriced melodramas.
OK, agreed, but I love Titanic, so being an idiotic overpriced melodrama isn't enough for a movie to be on my shitlist.

2. Someone smoked!
This is so stupid it doesn't even deserve an answer, but here goes. First of all, there is no proof that smoking in movies causes people to smoke. Second, smoking was a symbol of how Sigourney Weaver was so out of touch with her body and with nature, and how she was willing to flout social norms and lab rules - it was seen as more than a little iffy within the context of the movie. Most importantly: SHE DIES. Not of cancer, but even my Hollywood code rules, someone can do something bad, as long as they are punished within the film and she DIES.

3. It is such a racist, colonialist trope - white setters come, clash with darker natives who are pure, in touch with nature, sing and dance well, and have nice butts. Some settler switches sides and leads the natives in battle.
I won't disagree that this is a classic colonialist story. I'm with you that fetishizing native peoples isn't like a huge step forward in our nation's discussion about race and the origins of this country. But even this isn't what really bothers me about the film. Fetishizing native peoples is maybe a small step forward from seeing them as violent savages. Also, this whole thing played into that 'environmentalism' thing Avatar sort of taps into, or at least taps into enough to make people feel that they are watching a meaningful film.

4. The Acting was bad.
Again, I wont disagree, but this wasn't my reasons. I LOVE many films with appalling acting.

What was it then? It was the part of the film everyone praises even as they admit the plot, the acting, everything else was bad - I was not super impressed by Avatar's visuals. Ok, so it was pretty awesome when they were flying - whoosh, whoosh. Ok, so some of the Navi expressed pretty complex emotions through their special billion dollar animated faces (or at least as complex emotions as Zoe Saldana can express). Ok, some of the plants in the forest were cool. But if this is a movie mostly about a really gorgeous, very finely detailed alien landscape, why was it so uncreative? Why would a forest in Pandora look basically like one in northern California, but with some cool flowers? Why would leaves be green? There's no Oxygen right? Why would lilypads look exactly like the ones I used to throw pebbles at? After a little while, the Pandora landscape ceased to hold my interest as much as the landscape in, say, Lord of the Rings. Wouldn't it have been better do ditch the fancy half real/ half animated thing, and just animated it and made it a really fully imagined world. I say yes.

So, no, I didn't like the acting, or barely disguised colonialism, but basically I found Avatar visually unimaginative. Take that Oscar voters!