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Friday, August 13, 2010

Movie Review - AVATAR

AVATAR is the single most-overrated movie in the history of movies. Writer-Director James Cameron has made the highest grossing movie of all time by stealing and recycling the plot of the noble savage and setting it in space and populating the screen with whiz-bang special effects and explosions while beating the viewer over the head with an environmental theology ripped from the talking points memos of Greenpeace, PETA, and Al Gore.

It is also a big, giant piece of shit.

The Plot

Basically AVATAR is Dances with Wolves/Dune in space. A soldier goes off to a mysterious world, falls in with the local natives, learns their ways, loves one of their women, and essentially becomes a native himself and helps his new brothers and sisters against the white man.

This is not a new plot. Dances with Wolves wasn’t original when it came along. But Dances with Wolves didn’t look like an exact copy of anything. It had key elements of Dune and Lawrence of Arabia but felt original because it was set in the Old West. AVATAR doesn’t feel original at all. It feels like the “ah-shucks” moments of Dances with Wolves thrown into a blender with the bad-ass warrior leading his new tribe against the intergalactic Great Houses from Dune.

Oh, but the comparisons to other movies don’t end there.See also:

The 13th Warrior
Rambo III
Lawrence of Arabia
Terminator 2

What? Wait a minute. Those last three are other James Cameron films. Yeah, Cameron steals from himself. In T2, Ah-nuld plays the Terminator with a heart of gold (thanks to some handy reprogramming). He sheds his cyborg race and takes up with a human to protect him and other good humans from the evils of Cyberdine (a greedy corporation run by evil humans responsible for the World War III) and their avatar, the liquid metal T-1000. In the in-between, there are zany adventures, comic relief, and the winning over of the skeptical (including the audience). Gosh.

In Titanic, Kate Winslet’s character Rose is a young woman from an upper-class family who decides to shed their snobby tentacles and go slumming with Leonardo DiCaprio and his fellow immigrants, ne’er-do-wells, laborers, and whatever other stereotype they could squeeze on board. She falls in love and when the shit hits the fan, decides to stick with the native rather than her family. In return, Leo protects her from the avatar of the greedy upper-class, the liquid metal hair-pieced Billy Zane. In the in-between, there are zany adventures, comic relief, and the winning over of the skeptical (including the audience). Gosh.

In Aliens, Sigourney Weaver plays Ripley, a space miner who heads out with Colonial Marines to investigate a mining colony’s status and to determine if her “alien” experience may be happening again. She learns the ways of the Marines, kind of falls for one of them, and gains a new adopted daughter (lone survivor of the colony). When the shit hits the fan, she fights with the Marines to survive and protect her little girl against the greedy corporation (who wants an alien to study) and the object of their desire (the aliens). In the in-between, there are explosions, comic relief, and the winning over of the skeptical (including the audience). Gosh.

Yet I’m not bashing all of those other movies (other than Ferngully. That sucked). If they all had similar-type plots with familiar characters and somewhat predictable endings, why am I not screaming about them?

Because none of those movies portrayed a perfect and over-hyped world populated with lazy characters and writing.

The Setting

AVATAR is set on a planet named Utopia - I mean Pandora. But in the world of the film, Pandora is Utopia. It’s perfect. It’s pretty. It’s filled with mysterious creatures that live in harmony under the protection of a God Tree and floating octopus flowers. There is no evil on the planet. Only good. Except for the humans working for that greedy corporation. They’ve come to Pandora to mine a rare mineral that, apparently, keeps the stock price up and the universe functioning. Their presence and actions have upset the natural order of things. As we all know, humans are the only living thing in the universe incapable of existing peacefully with other things. Especially white humans.

Look at history for example:

Native Americans lived peacefully amongst themselves before Europeans showed up. Oh, wait…

The Japanese never fought until the Europeans and Americans showed up. Oh, wait…

Animals peacefully co-exist. Oh, wait…

Yes, I’m exaggerating but not anymore than the complete exaggeration that is the world Pandora.

What sinks this world for me, too, is the utter lack of grit. It’s too…PRETTY! All the animals are cool looking. All the Na’vi are slim and fit and perfectly BLUE! Where’s the off shade blue ones. The darker blue ones. Where are the fat ones? Where are the dwarf ones? They look like they came off an assembly line.  Or out of a computer.  Wait a minute.

Oh, and they have that cool little USB cable in their hair they can plug into anything on the planet and take complete ownership of it. Wow. Know what that means? Means no domestication. No toughing it out and working hard to raise livestock or work animals. No clearing land for crops cuz they can do whatever they want just by plugging in their hair. Lazy fucking Na’vi, jumping from tree-to-tree, riding birds, and sleeping in their cool spider-web hammocks.

The Characters

Unremarkable and stereotypical.

1. The warrior who finds a new life.

You know, John Dunbar

T.E. Lawrence

LT Dan

Paul Atreides

Josey Wales



John Winger

2. The girl who falls for the renegade outsider.

You know, Juliet

Catherine Earnshaw


Stands with a Fist

Princess Leia


3.  The corporate scum who will destroy whatever he has to to keep his profit margin in place.

You know, Daniel Plainview

Gordon Gekko

Carter Burke

Seth Brundle

Emperor Palpatine

Emperor Shaddam IV

Ben Bernanke

4.  The bad guy who will do whatever he has to for the corporate scum to win and protect the profit margin.

You know, Frank

Agent Smith

Vladimir Harkonnen

Darth Vader

 The Nazgul

Dark Helmet

5.  The actor that does nothing but serve as a tool to dump information.

You know, Q

Basil Exposition


Na’vi. Na├»ve. I get it. Or is it a rip-off of that helper fairy from The Legend of Zelda. It was named Na’vi. And we all know James Cameron likes to steal things.

Pandora. The woman created so that her descendents would torment mankind as payback for Prometheus giving fire to man. So, the Na’vi are descendents of the planet Pandora and they’re going to torment any human bastard that sets foot on the planet who doesn’t agree with them. Oh, I get it. That’s symbolism.

Unobtanium. The precious mineral that the greedy humans want and just happens to be the thing powering the God Tree. Un-ob-tanium. Are you fuck-ing kid-ding me? Yeah, I know the term is actually used in science to describe an extremely rare and hypothetical mineral or element BUT give it a better name. Hell, Star Trek came up with dilithium. If the corporation had first discovered it and hadn’t given it a name yet, okay, I’d buy unobtanium. But they’ve been mining it for years. Come up with a better name already. Wishalloy. Dreamspice. Spice? Oh, he stole that idea from Dune, too, didn’t he?

James Cameron Steals

This is not new news. He had to pay Harlan Ellison for ripping off the “Demon with a Glass Hand” and “Soldier” Outer Limits episodes. Terminator 2 was basically a rip-off of the first movie except a terminator is sent back in time to protect the boy vice a human being sent back in time to protect the mom. And as I’ve already pointed out, he recycles his characters and plots.

Besides the fact there are several lawsuits against Cameron right now for plagiarism, the most blatant theft is that of Dune.  Let me count the ways.

In AVATAR, unobtanium is the end all, be all mineral needed by the humans.
In Dune, the Spice is the end all, be all mineral needed by the humans.

In AVATAR, unobtanium is tied into the special trees on the planet, which happen to be sacred to the Na'vi.
In Dune, the Spice is a bi-product of the sandworms, which happen to be sacred to the Fremen.

In AVATAR, the Na'vi ride these big f-ing birds.
In Dune, the Fremen ride these big f-ing worms.

In AVATAR, the Na-vi have to pass a rite of passage by calling and riding a big f-ing bird.
In Dune, the Fremem have to pass a rite of passage by calling and riding a big f-ing worm.

In AVATAR, Jake is taken in, taught the Na'vi ways, and loved by a female Na'vi.
In Dune, Paul is taken in, taught the Fremen ways, and loved by a female Fremen.

In AVATAR, Jake Sully becomes Jake the Na'vi imitator and finally Jake the fully blooded Na'vi after he beams his consciousness fully into the avatar body permanently with a little help from the Tree God. He becomes the Na'vi messiah and liberates Pandora.
In Dune, Paul becomes Paul Muad'Dib when he joins the Fremen and finally The Kwisatz Haderach when he drinks the Water of Life.  He becomes the Fremen's messiah and liberates Arrakis.

In AVATAR, Jake teaches the Na'vi tactics to defeat the humans.
In Dune, Paul teaches the Fremen tactics to defeat the humans.

In AVATAR, Jake has to fight the big badass one-on-one at the end in a knife fight.
In Dune, Paul has to fight the big badass one-on-one at the end in a knife fight.

In AVATAR, Jake and the Na'vi force the rest of the opposing humans to leave for good.
In Dune, Paul forces the rest of the opposing humans to leave for good.

Pandora Doesn't Make Any Sense

Okay, we know it's a perfect world but nothing that happens on the planet makes any sense.

First, why are the Na'vi blue?  I mean, they live in the rain forest.  If you're a believer in adaption, you'd think their skin color would have changed to something that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb in the jungle.  And why are all Na'vi blue?  Even the ones living near the ocean and other places around the planet are the same blue.  No differences.  No change to reflect the environment they're in.  Didn't make sense.

Second, how did the Na'vi learn to fight?  If it's such a perfect peaceful planet, why do they have warriors?  Seems like they'd be a little bit more passive.

Third, why do the Na'vi need weapons?  If they can literally take control of any animal, there is no reason to have bows and arrows.  They can just jump on its back and hook-up the USB cable and think, "Lay down and let me slice your throat."  All done.

Fourth, the Na'vi live in the rain forest up in the tall trees.  Not the mountains.  Not the open ranges.  Yet their rite of passage is riding a bird.  Doesn't make sense.  It should be riding that panther thing.  The ones living by the ocean should be riding whales or whatever.  The ones in the open ranges should be riding birds.  In canopy jungle, the panther makes more sense.

Five, why aren't all the Na'vi on the planet one big tribe.  In a perfect world, are there any differences?  Sounds like all of them should be on the same page.

Modern Topics Delivered with a Sledgehammer-Like Approach

Phrases like "fight terror with terror" and "shock and awe" and "their world isn't green anymore".  Oh, give me a fucking break. 

Final Conclusion

Pandora needs to be liberated from the Na'vi.  Yes, you heard it here first.  The Na'vi have subjugated the creatures of Pandora long enough.  Their USB cable allows them to enslave everything on the planet at their whim.  It isn't a shared consciousness.  It's the Na'vi enforcing their will on the creatures of the land.  They usurp control and make them fight wars they may be against or fly to places they may hate or attack humans that may be there to free them.

Freedom for all of Pandora!  Not just the power-hungry Na'vi and their tree deity.  Not just for the human sympathizers.  But ALL OF PANDORA!

I hope in the sequel the humans return and unleash hate and discontent on those blue fuckers.  Take them down a peg or two.  Remind them who the boss in the universe is.  It'd be a hell of a better movie, that's for sure.


John Mantooth said...

I've never seen it, but this review gave me a few laughs. Now that I think about it, I've never seen Titanic either. What are some other Cameron movies? Is it possible I've never seen a James Cameron movie? That might be kind of cool.

Anyway, enjoyed it.

Erik Williams said...

Oh, you've had to see one of his movies. I like most of them:

The Terminator
The Abyss
Terminator 2
True Lies

And of course

Piranha 2 (not lying, it's true)

Henry Ng said...

I enjoyed your post. Ya done good, sir. Ya done good.