'/> Uncommon Hours: Not Seeing the Forest for the Screen: Avatar
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Not Seeing the Forest for the Screen: Avatar

Not Seeing the Forest for the Screen: Avatar
Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

James Cameron’s Avatar is a movie about going to the movies. It’s about what you’re seeing and how you see it. The money shots are panoramas of futuristic control towers full of floating computer screens and holographs, more panoramas of floating mountains and phosphorescent foliage, and still more panoramas of flying war machines hell-bent on ripping everything to shreds.

The movie pretends to be an allegory of the pernicious treatment of indigenous peoples and the natural world by a technologically-driven society whose core value is profit, but the irony of this spectacle of technological movie-making delivering such a message (in 3D!), and doing so on behalf of Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, Inc., must have escaped the applauding audience members at the showing I attended. I wondered how many of those people were inspired enough to call their congressmen and tell them to get us out of Afghanistan and support the climate bill.

Without a good story and believable characters, all you have is spectacle. Cameron, my wife aptly pointed out, wasn’t even trying with the script. The opening sequence is a rerun of the beginning of Aliens: space travelers awaken from cryogenic sleep, marines hustle around with all their hoorah chatter, and then off they go, with a few burdensome civilians on board, into hostile territory with a cocky young woman in the cockpit.

The story adapts the plot of Dances with Wolves to tall blue people living in a tree. The dialogue is cringingly clichéd. The characters are straight from the stock room. The outcome is predictable. And the music, well, you just keep waiting for Céline Dion to mercifully interrupt the drippy, recurring ballad in the soundtrack and break into a full-blown version of “My Heart Will Go On,” from Titanic.

The real message in this message-laden movie is that no volume of spectacle can make up for bad writing and a derivative story.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry you did not like the movie, but there is nothing wrong with retelling classic themes in new and different ways. This movie was fantastic, and yes, it definitely reminded me of Dances With Wolves, since I loved that movie too.