Our son was here over the holidays and he and his fiancee went to see Avatar, the new 3D Sf flick that is all the rage these days. Already it’s grossed over a billion dollars worldwide and is expected to exceed the amount its director made with Titannic, which is so far the highest grossing film ever.
I read a few initial reviews, saw the trailer and decided I probably wouldn’t see it because I didn’t expect to like it. As I emailed to a friend, “Since the story’s supposed to be like Disney’s Pochahontas and I didn’t like what I read of their rendition — evil white European Christian males attempt to invade, despoil and exploit the good, pure, nice native cultures but the lovely female native saves the day — I don’t expect to like (Avatar).” Not only that but it really looked like it was very anti-military, anti-business, pro-environmentalist and typical Hollywood.
My son and I discussed it before he saw the film and afterward he said my assessment was correct in that those elements were definitely part of the story. He enjoyed it, primarily because of the world, which was apparently very well done, not only in the quality of the technology but in the wondrous way it was presented. It was just fun to be in, he said. Because it was so different from anything we have here — which has long been a staple of science fiction and fantasy, ie., the attempt to create worlds of wonder that will fascinate and live on in reader’s minds. Lord of the Rings was exactly that. I guess Avatar’s Pandora is too…
In fact, so compelling is it that, according to an article on Drudge thousands of fans are depressed and suffering from withdrawal from Pandora after seeing it. Some of them talk of suicide. The real earth is just so dull and dreary. We have destroyed it! Ruined it! They are banding together on forums to console each other and try to find their way back to purpose in life. (And the accompanying picture of all those blue-tinted, glasses-wearing, enrapt audience members is really kinda creepy)
Another article reports on the opinions of a Chicago alderman who is also a war veteran. He charges the movie with making “marines look like lunatics,” and is not pleased.
My favorite, though, was the review from The Weekly Standard’s movie critic John Podhoretz, who said the film was “blitheringly stupid” and “among the dumbest movies” he’d ever seen.
Avatar is an undigested mass of clichés nearly three hours in length taken directly from the revisionist westerns of the 1960s-the ones in which the Indians became the good guys and the Americans the bad guys. Only here the West is a planet called Pandora, the time is the 22nd century rather than the 19th, and the Indians have blue skin and tails, and are 10 feet tall.
…the natives are wonderful in every possible way. They are so green it’s too bad their skin has to be blue. They’re hunters and they kill animals, but after they do so, they cry and say it’s sad. Which only demonstrates their superiority..”
It’s a very funny review, one that pretty much confirms everything I’d concluded about the movie. In fact, I was struck by Podhoretz’s reference above to the revisionist westerns because I’d already thought that it seemed kind of like a sci fi version of Dances With Wolves…
According to him Avatar unquestionably promotes a green/environ-theistic religion while eventually asking its audience to root for the destruction of American soldiers at the hands of a native insurgency… even so, he doesn’t think it’s a big political statement, just the result of such values being so entrenched in Hollywood that writers think nothing of putting them forward in their quest to please as many people as they can. The question Podhoretz raises is, would the movie be anywhere near as interesting without the snazzy special effects? My question as well.