Avatar review without the bias (s)

I know the movie has been out for a while now and there are several reviews out there on the Internet, but most of them are extremely liberally biased and/or praise James Camereon for the symbology (be it actual or made up by him).  What I’m going to do here is review the movie without all of that bias and offensive nature of Cameron’s statements, though I will talk about those later.

This will be slightly different from my past entries.  What I’m not going to do, is draw on outside references or make oddball comparisons.  No, you’ll get even more of a taste for the “every day me” instead of my comedic writing.  Also, I’m breaking this into sections.

Movie Plot
A corporation has found a unique material called “Unobtainium” on a planet designated “Pandora”.  Pandora also happens to be the home of a race of extremely tall, extremely strong humanoids called the “Na’Vi”.  When a former Marine’s twin brother ends up dead because of a mugging on Earth, he is enlisted to join the “Avatar Program” and journey to Pandora for a rather large paycheck over the course of six years.  What he learns when he arrives on Pandora changes his outlook on life and the fate of both the Na’Vi and the Earthlings, called “The Sky People” by the Na’Vi, are on his hands.

Basic Impression
Now, I saw the movie in IMax 3D and I was impressed.  Not only did the movie have excellent pacing which kept it from getting boring (perfect for a three hour movie), but the IMax 3D was amazing.  The movie had depth and added that extra dimension of realism I think would have been otherwise missing had I seen it as a traditional screening.

Avatar has great graphics.  The renderings are very impressive.  Now, I wasn’t completely blown away, but I think it’s because my computer routinely displays such amazing pictures back to me in my video games, thanks to my graphics card.  However, the people I went to see the movie with kept talking about how amazing the Avatars looked.  The 3D was awesome regardless, however, and kept my interest the entire time.

This is where Avatar really wanted to shine.  While it does in most ways, there are quite a few areas it needed improvement.  Obviously nothing is perfect, but when you’re trying to beat people over the head with the Liberal Stick, you need to be better at it.  As subtle as Avatar tries to be in the beginning, it turns into a tree hugging fest a few times, but the story quickly moves away for a moment or two.

The over all story is really good, and if nothing else, should be taken with a grain of salt in order to enjoy.  Yes, everyone gets it that the most precious resource and treasure is nature and not a rock, but a rock is also nature.  Thus, the logic is flawed.  After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not?

Full Review
When I went to see the movie I didn’t know any kind of “message” Cameron was really trying to present.  I knew it was going to be about Earthlings “invading” a different world in order to get some mineral for their own use and that was it.  So, when I saw the movie, some of the “messages” took on different meanings for me, and not in the “Love the puppy and hug a tree!!!” way.

Before you get your panty-briefs in a twist, I’m saying that I did enjoy the movie.  It was a fun ride and worth the price for seeing it in 3D.  I wouldn’t have felt justified seeing it as a traditional screening, however.

Okay, back on track with the actual movie here.  For me, I didn’t consider the mercenaries to be a reflection on the military (mercs are hired guns after all and don’t have to play by a lot of the same rules), the corporation being the US government (it’s an independent entity out to make a profit, which is brought up a few times), nor the Avatar drivers being “gamers” (which Cameron has decided they are for some reason).  Also, the reason the rock is so valuable is NEVER explained.  Ever.

What I recognized in the armed combat unit in the movie is that many of them are there only to collect a paycheck while others are there because it’s a chance to explore, without having to deal with the military.  Being a former soldier myself, these hired guns in the movie didn’t reflect anything I had experienced in the past or in the present.  To me, it was more of a message “Blackwater BAD!!!!” than “The military is EVIL!!!”, which is, apparently, what Cameron wanted us to think.

I didn’t try and connect the entire corporation is the US government, either.  I also didn’t try to connect their ambitions to “Manifest Destiny”, which Cameron wanted us to do.  Instead, what I saw was the traditional “Corporations BAD!!!!” message and the message of “open your mind to other options”.  Manifest Destiny?  Hardly.  The corporation knew what was were and was going for it.  They weren’t trying to take the land from the Na’Vi, they just wanted what was in the ground.  Why the corporation simply didn’t use all their technology to dig a pit and then tunnel under the Na’Vi’s home is beyond me, but obviously Cameron wanted us to see mankind as only a destroyer and polluter.  After all, we’re made to see the ships used by the Earthlings blowing out HUGE pillars of black smoke and constantly strip-mining the area.  If this was supposed to be 2154, there would obviously be huge changes in mining techniques.

Probably one of the most offensive things thus far is that Cameron has decided the Avatar drivers are like people who play video games.  I’ll get more on his statement later, but let me talk about this part first.  I guess because people who play video games aren’t in their own bodies inside the game, and instead controlling something which cannot do anything on its own, they are just like someone playing Call of Duty.  This never, ever, not once, occurred to me the entire time I was watching the movie.  After all, several times in the movie the characters talk about how the Avatar program is there to get them in with the Na’Vi, learn their ways, get their trust, and let them allow the humans to strip mine the area.  Yeah, I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but whatever.  I don’t get how this is similar to gamers.  No, really, I don’t.  Hell, the first time you see Sigourney Weaver’s character, she asks for a cigarette while shouting obscenities to her employees.

Apparently this is where Cameron is trying to make a message: The character and gamers only care about their Avatar bodies and not their real ones, by drinking, smoking, and eating food that makes them fat.  Excuse me?  I run a mile every other day and do pushups, situps, and arm curls on the days I don’t run.  I don’t smoke, I drink extremely rarely, and I game 20+ hours a week often times.  Go sit on a piece of shattered glass sticking straight up, Cameron.

As the audience, we’re introduced to the material “Unobtainium” not long into the movie and told that it sells for $20 million a kilo.  Why is it so precious and expensive?  Who the hell knows and you’re not supposed to care.  Personally, I took it to be a great kind of metal with naturally super conductive abilities, which explains the reason it sold for so much.  My attitude towards it was, “Awesome!”  No, however…you’re supposed to see an ugly gray rock, and because there’s explanation as to why it is so expensive, you’re supposed to hate it and the people after it.  It’s supposed to make you wonder why you like gold, silver, diamonds, sapphires, enter-whatever-gem-metal-and-whatever-here.  I didn’t connect it to anything like that, and I personally don’t give a damn about any of those.  Sure they look cool, but I don’t go, “OH DIAMONDS!”  To me, it’s a shiny rock and don’t care, which is probably why I didn’t consider any of it.

Now, as far as the Avatars go…at one point there’s a romance scene between the “hero”, Jack Scully, and the Na’Vi girl, Neytiri.  I don’t know if Cameron wanted you to feel happy for the couple or try to make a new fetish, but it was kind of awkward and unneeded.  Yes, I did kind of feel the Na’Vi people were supposed to be like the American Indians, but not the real ones…the ones we are supposed to fantasize existed and lived in direct communion with nature…which most never did.  No, the American Indians were most often at war with each other and while they used most of the animals they killed, they had to in order to survive.

Now for the whole “invasion” thing…come on.  We are supposed to feel hatred toward the humans and sympathy for the Na’Vi.  I didn’t.  At least no more so than for anyone I would here on Earth.  I didn’t go away not like the humans in the movie and I didn’t go away thinking the Na’Vi were pure.  The humans are chastised and hated because they fight against the Na’Vi, but the Na’Vi go out of their way to kill the humans on sight, without provocation.  Sure later on in the movie they are defending themselves, but early on the audience is told they stalk you in the forest and kill you.  Oh, and the best part is, we see it to be true with Neytiri stalking Jack Scully’s Avatar in the forest, before she is stopped by a “message from their god”.

This brings me to the next part…we’re made to believe their god is real and basically that the “Christian” god is fake ideology.  When the Na’Vi are defending themselves, the reason is that the mercenary unit is out to blow up their most holy place.  Why are they doing this?  Because they’re hanging out there after having their home destroyed.  Again, this is supposed to make you think about the US Military fighting Islamists over in the Middle East.  Problem is, not even the United Nations would okay such a terrible act.

At one point we’re told that everything on Pandora is connected through a network of root systems and the Na’Vi can upload and download information, including what is considered consciousness, to this network.  I don’t know if this is supposed to be a reflection on the Internet, but maybe it is.  I didn’t consider it until just now typing this out, so again, Cameron fails.  Yes, it’s extremely cool that an entire ecosystem is connected like that, but it’s a tragic flaw for the planet…what happens when a virus gets spread amongst the plants?  Everything would die and so would the planet.  Oops, Cameron, didn’t think that one in, did you?  Obviously not, because the destruction of the biggest tree on Pandora didn’t cause massive problems for the planet, which you suggested it would.

Final Thoughts
Do I suggest you see the movie?  Yes, if nothing more for an entertaining ride.  Remember to take everything with a grain of salt and just enjoy the journey you’re put through.  However, if you’re an influential ass, such as one who watched Sideways and changed the way they thought of and drank wine, then stay the hell away because you’ll be reading way too much into things.  At least, you’ll be reading into nonsense that Cameron claims was there.

Oh, and, hey, Cameron!  If you wrote this “epic tale” over six years ago, then how can you possibly claim somethings, such as Sigourney Weaver’s character is a direct reflection of gamers when it’s just been a scant two years it’s become such a popular thing?  Yeah, you’re a hack intelligently, but at least you can make a movie.  However, you’ll never get the right to do “The Edmond Fitzgerald”, and rightfully so after Titanic.

See the movie in 3D and it’s worth the price you paid.

Posted 1/6/2010 at 4:9 PM on Xanga