Saturday, October 30, 2010

Poor Na'vi Gation


I am, perhaps, one of the few people on Earth who was not overwhelmed with Avatar. I looked on with puzzlement on the people who flocked over and over to indulge in their visions of Pandora, and I certainly didn't understand (and never will understand) all those people who were truly depressed, perhaps even suicidal, because they could not live in this fantasy world. Somehow, these people (who frighten me in the fact that they can VOTE) somehow came to believe Pandora was either more real or far better than their own worlds/lives. I cannot answer for the emptiness of their lives, but I can say that I have seen Avatar once and haven't had a need to see it again.

I haven't changed my views on the film: certainly visually arresting, but without an actual story. I've seen Dances With Wolves, and somehow I had no desire to see Dances With Na'vi. I'm not unsympathetic to having a greater awareness of the importance of preserving Earth's resources and preserving the environment, but somehow James Cameron has got it into his head that humanity need HIS guidance, HIS wisdom, and more importantly, HIS filmmaking, to make us more aware of these things. If there is one thing I detest in a film, it is being lectured at one, regardless of whether or not I agree with the message. Avatar to my mind, basically was a heavy-handed allegory about how:

  1. Corporations are evil & determined to destroy both planets and living things.
  2. The natives ALWAYS live in peace and harmony with nature.
  3. The U.S. was evil for invading Iraq, and by extension Vietnam and in reality coming over to the Americas in the first place.
  4. The military is almost always evil, period, interested only in destruction and death.

It does surprise me that some very politically conservative people I know have embraced Avatar as the Citizen Kane of films, that there were no films before Avatar, and no films after Avatar. That is, until now...

Cameron has announced not one but two Avatar sequels, diving deeper into Pandora (no pun intended). I ask the cynical question: if the film had been a flop, would we be getting more Pandoran Productions? Be that as it may, I frankly haven't been clamoring for more stories on the nobility of the Na'vi and the evil of all non-Na'vi.

I give Cameron credit when credit is due: he has created an absolutely fantastic visual world, and Avatar should be appreciated for how it looks. As for what it says, and how it is said, Cameron is not the best writer around. He did a poor job writing Titanic, and he did a poor job here. If one starts telling me the scripts were brilliant, I would like to point out that neither film received a Best Original Screenplay nomination (even when Titanic swamped the nominations). His dialogue is always heavy-handed and unreal, the plots and situations not the most original. Cameron is a visual master, but a screenwriting villain.

Now we will have TWO Avatar follow-ups, and I suspect they will make money. I don't know how well those films will be: I did give a positive rating to Avatar, although I made my issues with it plain. Frankly, I don't understand the hold Avatar has on so many. I see Avatar as an amazing visual spectacle, but nothing more. It didn't tell me anything I didn't already know or suspect, and some of the acting was rather bad (Sam Worthington wasn't worth the high cost of 3-D, and that includes Clash of the Titans).

Financially, this is a brilliant move: Cameron has a ready and eager base that will pay much to indulge their Pandora Fantasy. Artistically, that remains to be seen. In any case, I can only hope that they will tell better stories and not be as blatant as their inspiration.

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