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Movie Review: “Avatar”

24 December 2009

Roger Ebert compares it to Star Wars.  He’s wrong about that.  Star Wars was groundbreaking and unexpected.  It established the precedent that movies like it are supposed to push the envelope.  So, that’s exactly what audiences expect of movies like Avatar.  In a word, groundbreaking films have become sort of mundane.  Ebert is probably right that Avatar is destined to be a cult movie (I.e., for grown adults living out of their parent’s basements).  I’m only agreeing with him there because I have a negative view of our culture. 

Elements of the story which are cliché: 

1) Pandora’s (the fictitious planet in the movie) version of Gaia

2)  The Na’vi, with their worldview, long black braided hair, tall slender builds, large noses, and body painting – obvious knock-offs of Native Americans.

3)  The greedy corporation ravaging an innocent people and planet.  Of course, James Cameron, far from his antagonists, deserves to make a profit, even though the equipment he uses to make that profit is derived from minerals mined from the ground, and also from (gasp) petroleum.

4)  The dialogue – it reads like adolescent literature.  The only thing keeping my mind off of it was the special effects, which are (I must admit) stunning.  But when my attention wandered back to the dialogue, then I’d get annoyed all over again. 

5)  The whole bargaining thing going back and forth between the greedy corporation and the Na’vi.  It has the feel of a manufactured moral dilemma.  Haven’t we seen this before – Pocahontas?  Most Westerns, perhaps? 

6)  From a business point of view, this is just too stupid to be cliché … It doesn’t make sense to go to war to go after the larger mineral deposit, when the smaller deposits they already mined apparently yielded enough profit to send a small army several light years into space.  Just doesn’t seem like good business.  Why not just hang on to the profit already made, or better yet – Go looking for it on planetoids or asteroids around Pandora.  Wouldn’t these bodies be made of the same “stuff” as Pandora, after all?

7)  Also kind of stupid – what’s the value, exactly, of the mineral (“Unobtainium”) that the corporation is after?  Specifically, what does it do, or what can be done with it?  And why is that function valued at many times the GNP of the world?  I just don’t understand the concept of a commodity that is so valuable that it has the potential to destroy the finances of the acquirer or the buyer. 

Other stuff – There is a fair amount of swearing in the movie, and at least one instance where the Lord’s name is taken in vain.  My biggest problem is with the New-Age slant the movie has. 

About 2/3 of the way through, I noticed a parent walking out of the theatre with their child. I agreed with him. 

My advice – Wait for the DVD, and then wait some more for it to go on the dollar shelf.  By then though, I suspect that most of the hype will have died down, and Hollywood will have probably come out with the next groundbreaker. 

(Yawn)

– Elder

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