June 28, 2010

Justify My Netflix: Avatar

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Avatar, 2009 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because it's Avatar. Duh.

The reality: This is now the second time I've seen The Most Expensive Movie In Human History -- like seemingly the rest of the planet, I too saw it in the theatre last Christmas when it first came out -- and I have to plainly confess, this time I didn't even make it through the first hour without having to stop the DVD and put it back in its Netflix envelope. And that's because, once you get past the admittedly dazzling special effects on display (which will get easier to do with every passing year), the only thing you're left with is James Cameron's plodding, insultingly simplistic storyline, which to intelligent viewers might as well consist of getting punched in the face every couple of seconds for three straight hours, while someone next to you screams in your ear over and over and over and over, "NATURE GOOD! FACTORIES BAD! NATURE GOOD! FACTORIES BAD! NATURE GOOD! FACTORIES BAD! NATURE GOOD!!! FACTORIES BAD!!!" And this is not to even mention the dozens upon dozens of big giant plot holes found throughout, which for half a billion dollars you'd think they could've hired someone to fix. (Where is all that water from those floating-island waterfalls coming from? Why do the natives' arrows first bounce off the humans' tanks, but then suddenly start shattering their canopies the exact moment we need them to? I could go on and on in this vein...but I won't.)

Plus (and this has already gotten me some flack at Facebook, so bear with me), is it just me, or in his desperation to show the "inner dignity" of these "noble savages," doesn't Cameron in fact turn in a project more accidentally and backwardly racist than anything we've seen since Rudyard Kipling and the late Victorian Age? Because although our one-with-nature "Na'vi" creatures are clearly supposed to be the heroes of our story, Cameron also treats them as literally only one step above animals themselves, the kind of cringe-inducing "Jungle Book" caricatures who literally hiss at feral dogs in order to chase them away (the moment I had to turn the film off the second time), and who still explain basic scientific phenomenon through the filter of hazy ritualistic superstition. (For example, note that the humans understand exactly what this so-called "unobtanium" mineral is and how it works, the entire reason they're there in the first place, while the natives still chalk up its "magical" properties to The Big Blue Grandfather In The Sky or some such sh-t like that; and the fact that Cameron paints these people as somehow happier for being stupider just proves my point even more.) And this wouldn't be so horrible on its own, except for that Cameron so clearly and nakedly bases the Na'vi on mid-continent Africans, all the way down to their dreadlock haircuts [!] and their Lion King outfits [!!] and the fact that he hired a bunch of humans of color to play all their parts [!!!].

A hundred years from now, I'm convinced that humanity will look at Avatar the same way we currently look at, say, Uncle Tom's Cabin, i.e. with a wistful sigh while saying to themselves, "I know they had good intentions, but seriously, what the f-ck were those people thinking?;" and I have to admit, I'm embarrassed and ashamed to live in a society that would heap so much praise on a creative project this pandering and offensive. Let's all pray that James Cameron finally learns how to tell a little better of stories; but given that the mouth-breathers literally fell all over themselves in their haste to give Avatar their money, I have a feeling that my prayers won't be answered anytime soon.

Strangest piece of trivia: This was the first-ever 3D movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

Worth your time? Ugh

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:55 AM, June 28, 2010. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |