With more blizzards and more bad news this month for climate change fear-mongers about how the earth’s atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have not risen in the last 160 years, James Cameron’s newest $200 million opium opus magnum, released in theatres this month as well, seems to ring somewhat hollow. ‘Avatar’ was billed as this generation’s Star Wars, and a culture and societal altering piece that would be unmatched this decade. Cameron himself said that:
“We’re going to blow you to the back wall of the theatre in a way you haven’t seen for a long time. My goal is to rekindle those amazing mystical moments my generation felt when we first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey or the next generation’s Star Wars. It took me 10 years to find something hard enough to be interesting.”
Ten years ago a movie which had a message about how humanity is destroying the earth, American industry is evil and how we could learn a thing or two from people living in dung huts might have made a little more sense. Heck, two or three years ago that might have been the case. But, in 2009, Al Gore has been exposed as a fraud, Climategate has revealed the truth about climate change alarmists, scientific evidence is mounting in favor of man-made climate change skeptics, and the world is still embroiled amid a deep recession. A little late to the game, Jim?
The story is bland. Ex-marine Jake Sully, paralyzed from the waist down takes over for his deceased twin brother on a mission to the planet Pandora, where Avatars engineered from the combination of human DNA and that of the Indian indigenous Na’vi humanoids are used to try interact and learn from the Na’vi, to gain access to a priceless mineral underneath the ground brilliantly called oil ‘Unobtainium’. Excuse me while I chuckle.
Sully, along with a few others, successfully infiltrate the Pandoran people. Sully falls in love with a Na’vi, Neytiri, causing him to question the mission he was sent to accomplish. There is the obligatory evil general and corrupt industrialist, both irrationally bent on the destruction of all that is good. Think Halliburton. Because Cameron wants you to. Sully upsets these special interests greatly and leads an improbable revolt against the evil dreadnoughts of industry, with explosions and frolics in the trees to ensue.
I viewed ‘Avatard,’ as I affectionately refer to it as, in IMAX 3-D. The movie is technically stunning. The effects, CG, and environments are immaculate and are enough to entertain even for the three hours that this movie runs. Unfortunately, that is really where the movie begins and ends. The plot, which brings together Fern Gully, Dances With Wolves, Disney’s Pocahontas and Smurfs is vacuous. Nothing is new under the sun with this film, as I am told a much shorter movie with the exact same plot, called Battle for Terra was released to rave reviews in the science fiction community in 2007. Avatard combines a shallow and one-dimensional plot and a self righteous message to create a movie which aimlessly and ironically attempts to poison the minds of American filmgoers against all things productive and modern. An excellent video game and a nice diversion, but Cameron’s message is 10 years too late, and would have been rendered irrelevant today anyway. Avatard is no Star Wars. It is no Space Odyssey. It is not a timeless classic. Avatar is a weak story supported by fantastic graphics, which themselves may be eclipsed in a handful of years.
Though (pseudo-spoiler alert) there is tragedy, it is almost reckless to call it tragedy, as the heart strings the movie attempts to tug won’t budge. Many of the main characters are simply annoying. If everyone’s crotchety English professor dying anti-climactically is Cameron’s idea of adding dynamic to a film, then he has another thing coming–of course, this comes from the Director who killed off Leo DiCaprio in Titanic…
Will Avatar define a generation of moviegoers? Probably not, unless you consider the fantastic lack of depth and critical thinking that defines this generation. Even by its own standards, Avatar is beat at its own game by countless movies that have come before. In the end, the universe Cameron created may have been immaculate and infinitely deep, but Avatar is a victim of just that–a movie that compensates for a lack of time by scratching at the surfaces of characters and meaningful dialogue. Seemingly aware of this fact, Avatar pushes a self righteous agenda to make up for it.
Avatar is not the best movie of the decade. It may not even be the best movie of the week, bested by Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. To those of you who found the movie profound and relevant in any way (those of you who may also have a tendency to be a non-conformist–just like all your friends and everyone else you know–Y’know, the guy at Thanksgiving dinner who can’t resist regaling everyone with tales of Indian slaughter and small pox), I ask you this: just how many rainforests do you think could have been saved with $200 million?