Friday, January 29, 2010

The Avatar Blues

Yes, yes, I know--everyone is talking about Avatar, and who wants to read another poor slob's take on it?

Sorry, folks, but this poor slob just saw it and now I see what all the fuss is about.

Yup--it IS terrific. Amazing, amazing world building. The Na'vi are gorgeous (yes, they're blue, but they're TALL and THIN!!), their world, Pandora, is beautiful, and the fantasy engrossing.

Maybe a little too engrossing.

You know the saying--how do we keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Paree?

Just sub Pandora for Paree and you'll get my drift.

According to the London Daily Mail's online site, some viewers are having trouble coping with the real world after experiencing James Cameron's virtual one. For example, on the Avatar Forums site you can choose from hundreds of responses to the thread "Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible."

Fans on other sites use words like "grey" and "meaningless" to describe the world we live in as compared to Pandora. One fan even thought suicide would be viable--if s/he could be assured of rebirth on Pandora. And one poster on the Naviblu site wants you to join him in forming his own Na'vi tribe.

Come on, guys, let's get real.

Or...let's not.

I confess I felt a bit like an avatar myself after watching the movie. In fact the entire moviegoing experience is very much like that--your body is in this world but the rest of you--mind and spirit--is submerged in the world of the film. I felt this way after seeing War of the Worlds as well as after Avatar. But, trust me, I didn't want to be reborn into the former.

As for the other critiques of the film? Yeah, the military gets short shrift. Talk about stereotypes. Then again, if Cameron had cast a subtler actor (or directed a more subtle performance) that might have been undercut. Stephen Lang, who plays the leader of the Marine security force protecting the work of the evil corporation out to destroy Pandora, does not know the meaning of nuanced.

On the other hand, I'm doing research for a new book, and after reading Peter Maas's Crude World--a book about the violent world of oil extraction--what happens on Pandora IS as real as it gets. I just wish Cameron had made the corporate stooge as prominent a villain as the soldier.

The racial issue is obvious, though I see it more as a take on first world vs third world conflict. The Chinese are just as rapacious in places like Sudan as we and other European powers are. Avatar's 'savior' may be white-skinned, but what really matters is he's a representative of the larger, more sophisticated power. We may wish for the indigenous population to "save themselves," but if you look at what actually happens on Earth, the locals enrich themselves at the expense of their own people far more than they save them. Just look at Nigeria.

No wonder everyone wants to escape to Pandora.


  1. I'd rather be blue.

  2. Thanks "Anonymous" for marketing yourself on our site. Is stealing room on our comment board the same as stealing unobtainium from the Na'avi? In any case, if you are feeling blue and you want to tell the world, anonymous has a t-shirt for you.

  3. First up, Annie your comment to Anonymous is hilarious! Thank you.

    And thank you, Anonymous, contributing nothing at all of importance. You have all the hallmarks of a graffiti artist, but none of the talent. Bravo.

    Great post, Annie. I was really uninterested in seeing Avatar at first (I don't like hype), but the almost DH (D soon to be H?) insisted and I was just blown away. It really is a gorgeous film, and it is easy to get swept away in the fantasy of it. I'll be interested to see what impact this new technology and the sheer scale of it will have on film in the next few years.


  4. I've heard the buzz about the movie's game-changing technology, too Gretchen. I'm also kind of curious. Are they saying all movies will now be motion-capture? Surely not. I have a bit of difficulty imagining what game will be changed by this. Maybe instead of shooting in France movie makers will create a "virtual" France? It's a little scary to think we might not be able to tell real from fantasy, though I guess that's already in motion on some films. Well, well, we do live in interesting times.

  5. This is definitely one movie I've been wanting to see but I can't get anyone in my family to go with me. If I can dig myself out from the 14" of snow we got yesterday, I guess I'll be one of those sad people who go to the movies by themselves. Gotta do what ya gotta do.

  6. I really enjoyed Avatar and I'd like to see it again and again, and even again. Grin.

  7. My kids saw it and their reaction was: "Eh, Pocahontas." Same old same old--evil military, even more evil corporations and genetically evil white people. Used beans like this, I can do without. If not for the technology (which could be the product of gasp! evil corporations) it would amount to nothing. Nothing.

    I'm not signed in and haven't the interest to look up my password, so I'll be Anon 2.0

  8. Lori, I go to movies by myself all the time. I don't think it's sad. I always feel grown up and artsy--as if the movie--"film" to us artsy folk--is an important piece of art to veiew. At least, that's what I pretend! And once the show starts you won't be alone anymore. You'll be the avatar, immersed in another world...

  9. Yeah, Anon, it IS the same old, same old. In fact it's over the top same old. But even with its many flaws I liked it.

  10. I go to the movies by myself frequently as well. There have even been a few times when my boyfriend and I have gone to the theater together, then split up to watch the movie we each wanted to see, and met up afterwards. I *really* enjoy going by myself, there's no social pressure to do anything other than get immersed in the film.

    I used to work as a film critic, though, and with some of the horrible movies I've been sent to (that NO ONE was willing to see with me), you get over any uncertainty about going it alone pretty quickly :)

    Give it a try, Lori. You may find that you really like it :D