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Avatar Review: Turn the Volume Down

January 9, 2010

I saw Avatar last night for my boyfriend’s birthday celebration. I’d heard both awesome and terrible things about it from friends, ranging from “not worth half the ticket price” to “the most spiritual movie ever and my new all-time-favorite.”

I was really excited for the experience more than the story. I’d read that even Steven Spielberg commented “The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way it was the first time I saw Star Wars.”

I knew it would be controversial; I heard it makes you think on ‘a higher level’ because it’s about a Marine grunt who decides to go against the war he was supposed to be fighting and that it lifts details from the WOT for its own storyline. I was kind of prepared to be offended. It turns out that just the premise of the movie was so unbelievable that I didn’t care: The Marines are enthusiastically used as a single pawn by a corporation to extract ‘Unobtanium’ from an indigenous culture on a pristine planet. Not only is the premise a pedestrian remix of select recent events, but the giant holes in the plot made me wish I could just spend a few hours with the volume down just enjoying the realistic 3D images.

The movie script cuts all corners and just uses a stereotype for every single character so you’ll instantly get what the message is. Marines as war-loving, corporations use force and disregard life if lest they have ‘a bad quarter’, natives are enlightened beings who live in total harmony with God/mother nature, scientists are insightful anthropologists who are terrible politicians when it comes to promoting their views alongside the science they’re paid to research. Well, those were all the groups of people right there.

And you know what, thanks to the ridiculous plot holes, you do end up taking the side of the Marine who ‘turns against his race.’ Not because the movie successfully helps you suspend belief or side with the aliens, but because he turned against a group of really gawd-awful people who don’t have any personal motives.

I was sorry the movie didn’t have any plot complexity. I would have liked to see a conspiracy theory like that the Marine didn’t know that the true intent was to move or kill the aliens. I wish he hadn’t been a ‘stupid jarhead’ who didn’t think to get on with his  mission to broker a deal for the Unobtanium before it was too late. I also wish there was something personal in it for the Marine colonel to be so jazzed about bombing a tree…maybe he had a job offer waiting from the corporation he was reporting to.

I wish the audience wasn’t expected to buy into the aliens as the manifestation of our idealistic stories about our own natives. Michael commented “I would call it “alien orientalism.'” Just like we all know it is a fairy tale that Native Americans were peacefully squatting out their existence, it’s just too bad for the aliens to be represented that way without diving much more into their culture and spirituality.

But above all, I was so enthralled with the graphics that I really wish that the concept of this planet Pandora were turned into a 3D TV series. I’d download it from Apple TV each week, even I watched it with the volume down.

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2 comments

  1. I was very happy to sit through a 2-1/2 hour spellbinding, hi-def, 3-D, Sci-Fi movie without having to get up and traverse half a theater of feet to go pee. Life is good. The movie was enjoyable. P’raps the two bourbon and gingers plus two steamship round sammiches consumed immediately before-hand put me in a less analytical and a more recreationally receptive mood. I wanna be a big blue giant with a swishy tail.


  2. Nice review!! I’m still not buying the lame-O, America-bashing plot.



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