Firstly, Avatar gave me a big, blue boner. I can’t wait to see the Na’vi cosplayers at Comic Con this year. Though there won’t be maybe people who can pull off anything but “chubby Na’vi”. Those CGI fuckers had like 0% body fat.
The fact that I felt conflicted about Avatar is probably a good thing. I can’t just unqualifiedly say that I liked it. There was a ton that I did like; it looked lush and deep, and I wasn’t thinking “okay this is real, this is CGI”. It was extremely immersive and visually enjoyable. The technology and characters were like a pastiche of earlier James Cameron films, (Carter Burke! As easy to loathe today as he was in the 80s!) but that’s not a bad thing. Â And the 3D was the least bad, most unobtrusive of any I’ve ever seen. Â It seemed to push back the background rather than pulling out the foreground, deepening scenes instead of smacking you in the face with protruberances.
However, the story was simplistic, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Not every movie can or should be Fight Club or a Shyamalamamamanian piece or something like that. In fact, the simple story seems to be making a comeback lately, possibly as a reaction to the “what a tweest!” mentality that has been entrenched in Hollywood for the past decade or two.
Also, the message of environmental harmony and whatnot, whilst being a message I agree with, was brandished like a club and the audience was beaten severely about the head and neck with it. On the one hand, this is bad. I can imagine the reaction of right-wing punditry shitting on Avatar as a product of liberal, hate-America-first Hollywood. It’ll turn some folks off. On the other hand, it strikes me as good. Hopefully, a fucking ton of little kids who might miss a more subtle message will be enthralled by Avatar and grow into adults with a deeply ingrained sense of anti-imperialism.
I realize that I liked just about everything about the movie. However, it didn’t grab me by my viscera. It didn’t make me believe in the world. When the bad guys took down the Na’vi treehouse, yeah, there was an emotional response, a bit… like the way I feel when I see that video of the US soldier in the Iraq throwing a puppy off a cliff; ashamed of people in general. But when I was a kid, I really, REALLY got into this stuff. Now, I’m older and I can’t enjoy it the same way. So I guess my discontentment with the film is mostly within myself. Also, it concerns me a bit that our society (America, the West, Humanity in general) can empathize more with the big blue aliens on the screen in front of them than they can with real people half way around the world. But, if Avatar can kindle that empathy in a generation of children, that’d be a damn good thing.
Addendum: I’ve now seen Avatar a second time, and it holds up, and in fact it even got better. Â I was past all my expectations about what the movie would be and was able to immerse in the film (with the help of some herbal refreshment) and enjoy the avatars in all its glory. Â My previous criticism still applies, but it’s extremely enjoyable as a moviegoing experience. Â All around pretty enthralling, though I still can’t get totally invested, with childlike fascination. Â Which is good, because I’m an adult now, and I don’t want to wind up like the guy on the right in the picture above…
Also, I’m fairly certain I saw some blue nip-slips, but the Na’vi look so realistic that it’d feel tawdry to go on about it.