Friday, March 19, 2010
I finally saw Avatar, and since so many of my friends have asked my opinion, here it is. Warning: Spoilers below.
My mom, sister and I traveled a half hour to the city south of us to see it in 3-D. I actually think the Industry is jumping the gun on this whole 3-D craze, because the infrastructure isn't here yet. The glasses we were given were painful (not only to our eyes, but literally caused pain to our faces) and dirty. Half the time, the image on the screen was blurry until it stopped moving. It was cool to see depth, but I am left feeling like I need to see the film again to experience it "properly" without all of the distractions of "what the heck am I looking at? Oh, now it's in focus -- wait, it's gone." But enough on that.
Overall, I enjoyed the film. The bio-luminescent world that Cameron and his team created is very pretty. The action scenes are very fun. The music was lovely and, as a big James Horner fan, I'd rate the score as "good" but certainly not one of his compositions that I will turn to for pleasure or inspiration. Yet it complemented the film well.
There were several things about the movie, however, that made me snort. For example: robots. I'm sorry, but as soon as I see a giant humanoid weapon marching around, I can't take the story seriously. From that point on, I can't get "little boy's fantasy" out of my head. But unlike Transformers or Terminator (the latter of which I saw in the theater... only for Mr. Bale), I knew Avatar wasn't about how super cool giant robots could be, so I tried to keep an open mind.
And then Sigourney Weaver's scientist character waltzed on screen demanding a cigarette and we were once again in the Hollywood land where all scientists wear lab coats all the time. Okay, that's a convention that's laughable but doesn't harm anyone. However, the convention that annoyed me was Weaver's quips. She was, unmistakably, meant to be seen as a tough woman in charge who can best any man with her witty remarks and hard-assed attitude. I get it, Cameron, you're writing a "strong" female character (which is a description I loathe and refuse to use, for slapping the adjective "strong" onto "woman" or "female" infers that women are inherently weak). He's trying to show how tough our ovaries have to be to survive in this man's world of the future (dude, we live in a man's world right now and women have to constantly negotiate man crap, and we're not all a bunch of bad-ass wise crackers). But no one likes a character who marches around and spits people out all the time. They're annoying. I always want to hit them.
It gets even worse when there's two. Michelle Rodriguez' character had some excuse to be obnoxious given that she was in the military and used to displaying bravado, but still, bravado at the expense of character? Granted, we find out more about Rodriguez's morals later on in the film, but Weaver's character suffers the same shallowness due to her "machismo." And she's a character we're supposed to invest in. Short of being decent and suggesting that the military doesn't kill all of the aliens, we aren't provided much insight into why Weaver's character is doing what she is doing, which would have been interesting. She could have been a source of intense moral drama. As it is, the only part of the film where I felt torn about her character was when she told the military that the aliens' attachment to the Tree of Souls wasn't just "pagan mumbo jumbo" (or whatever her term for nonsense was) but that there was science behind it. That made me pause, because I couldn't help but think "Yeah, believing a tree houses the souls of your ancestors is so ridiculous. Nothing like believing in immaculate conception and that a dude with a stick parted a freaking ocean). But that's what made it realistic -- religious people always view another religions beliefs as inferior. Not that Weaver's character was religious (in fact, she embodies another scientist stereotype -- that all scientists have science as their religion at the exclusion of other beliefs which is complete bull), but we have "In God we trust" written on our money. Just saying.
But in the end, I guess these two women (the only two human women in the film) don't have to be very interesting because they both die in the movie. I guess bravado only goes so far.
But wait! There's the alien girl who remarkably has naturally-curled eye-lashes and whose boobs are always magically covered up by a necklace. All of the alien women's breasts are. What the heck? They're aliens. Why can't aliens bare their breasts? Would the rating of the film have jumped to R if there was, God-forbid, an alien nipple? Not like, on a man, because that's totally normal, but like, a glimpse of an alien woman's nipple? Tee hee hee! Boobies are silly! Apparently. Because I'm pretty sure that's why they're covered all the time. What a bizarre double-standard. Male aliens show their blue nipples non-stop but if the females do... uh oh. Anyway, topless women in film are a different subject and Cameron's playing by rules he didn't create in that regard, so moving on...
Guess what? The giant blue people are part of the land. You know, like, they are nature. In fact, they're so in-tuned with the earth (sorry, Pandora... planet of the floating mountains... literally) that they have neurons in their hair which they can plug into the antennae of other animals and share thoughts and live together in mutual peace and respect. Or so says the blue alien lady. But it's clearly not true. She teaches the avatar dude Jake how to plug his hair into a wannabe pterodactyl's brain or something so that he can ride him and they can be partners in harmony for all time. Except for the part that the human/alien controls the pterodactyl's brain the entire time they're plugged in, and when telling the creature to fly into battle, gets it killed of no will of it's own. That's not mutualism (what the heck is the pterodactyl getting out of this relationship?) as the film wants you to believe. That's parasitism. The aliens in Avatar are parasites.
Before I saw the film, a manager mentioned that it was intended as a metaphor for what happened to the Native Americans (Wes Studi even voiced the chief). Yeah, okay, but what happened to the Indians of this continent has happened to nearly every people on earth at some point or another. Which is good because it makes the story universal. But if it really was supposed to show how natural and peaceful and innocent Indians were before white people arrived, it kinda failed because A) That's a stereotype and B) Indians weren't idiots. Avatar/Jake is like "evacuate -- giant bulldozers and bombs and machine guns and robots are coming!" and the Indians/aliens are like "We think that our bows and arrows are more powerful than your robots so we'll all wait around here until we get run over and stuff because we're indigenous and this is our land." Is that a suggestion that Indians' "innocence" led to their genocide? In fact, 90% of the native population of the Americas had been wiped out by disease (brought by Europeans) before many of the Indian wars even began, but I wasn't expecting Cameron to include that in his film. It is just a metaphor, and it clearly remains a metaphor, because the avatars or whatever the blue people are win and get to keep their land.
And I'm a little offended on behalf of the military. The lead military antagonist (we'll call him Mr. Big Penis because I, obviously, can't remember the names of any of the characters other than Jake Sully because everyone called him that every time they directed a comment at him) is a deranged psychopath. When he finds out that Sully has commandeered a chopper to go help the aliens, Big Penis grabs a machine gun and tries to shoot the chopper down. Because that is so protocol and totally permitted, no matter you rank. Right. Then Big Penis hates Jake so much that he gets into his giant robot suit and tries to beat the crap out of him. That's how big his penis is. He doesn't even have to use his hands. Okay, that part is typical of males with the Big Penis syndrome -- "I'm so bad ass that I'll fight you with a totally unfair advantage so that I'll be sure to win because I'm not insecure." Isn't that the same as big game hunting? Shooting a lion, who is obviously more dangerous than any human, with a gun when the lion least suspects it, then gloating about it.
Let's get one thing straight. Big Penis is the military leader of the base on Pandora. The military is on Pandora to mine unobtanium (I prefer unfindable rock or reallygoodathiding rock, personally, but anyway) so that people back on earth can have lots of money by selling it. Big Penis is just doing his job of protecting the miners and he is not profiting from the sale of unobtainium. Yet he wants to blow up the aliens and screw them over crazy bad. Because that's who he is. And he wants to kill Jake because Jake betrayed him by warning the aliens of the humans' intentions. That last sentence is his one shred of motivation. Except that it withers when you consider the fact that the betrayal wasn't really that bad because Big Penis had no personal stake in obtaining unobtanium because he's just there to make sure the aliens don't get in the way. Is this confusing? I know.
In other words, Big Penis has no motivation until the end of the third act, and even then, he still looks like a maniac. Maybe he's just supposed to be a maniac in a giant super cool robot suit, but I don't find much compelling stuff in that. Make a comment on how his greed led to his mania, Mr. Cameron, or how he was so conditioned to kill that when he thought he wasn't going to kill, he went nuts and made up an excuse to kill. Raving lunatics are only interesting when they're rocking themselves in corners, muttering truths that no one wants to hear.
I did say that I liked this movie, though. A lot of people think they're pretty damn clever for pointing out that the story is almost the same as Disney's Pocahontas, but few have taken the observation a step further to wonder why. The story of Pocahontas and John Smith is at the heart of American history and culture. It was the start of the hard birthing pains of a nation. It's in our psyche. I'm surprised more stories don't follow the same pattern in a uniquely American way.
Furthermore, what is the end message? That we cannot allow greed to render us without compassion, and that we must stop destroying the earth. That's a message that's worth repeating, in my opinion. Every generation has their story that reiterates this message, from James Fenimore Cooper to James Cameron. And the fact that the message of kinship and guardianship of the land has never left our consciousness, and that we're still willing to go to great lengths to share it (and hear it) is a wonderful sign. It means we haven't yet turned into the greedy rapists of Avatar, nor have we destroyed the earth to the point of no return. And we're intent to keep it that way.
As Tracie's last comment reminded me, I keep forgetting to warn people. Most of the "Anonymous" comments being left here are by a spam robot. I've been trying to keep up and delete them but sometimes miss a few. Don't click on the links!
Mackenzie's Momma -- Did you get to see the tulips yet? And I love the party theme -- that's awesome!!
Tracie -- I'll be sure to keep posting animal pictures! And if you have a Facebook, you can even become fans of our pets. Check out Fans of Toot, Fans of Chee Chee, and The Communist. :) Oh, and the Commie's real name is Black Bear, but we just call him Black.