Sunday, June 6, 2010

An untimely reaction to Avatar

"Out there, everything that walks, crawls or squats in the mud wants to kill you and eat your eyes for jujubees." Yes, folks, it's the Industrial Revolution, and civilized Man finds nature to be occasionally lovely but intrinsically repulsive. We believe that Man is greatest among God's creations, and Manifest Destiny has replaced the Divine Right of Kings. (I won't bother with a plot summary, click here if you've managed to avoid seeing the film.)

James Cameron has it down. With "Avatar," he manages to encapsulate everything wrong with the history of Western Civilization. His answer to the unbearable vastness of our sin is a utopian vision that comes straight out of that West-of-the-Rockies spirituality, a Native American New Age Unitarian revisionism. The thing that sucks about "Avatar" is that the entire plot is dependent upon boomer cliches and stock characters, on every save-the-whales movie produced (sci fi or otherwise) since the genre was born.

"It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult," gushed Roger Ebert. He compares the film to "Star Wars," certainly worth mentioning since several scenes seem to be lifted almost frame for frame from the Lucas repertoire. But that's apples to apples; what about "Little Big Man," "Dances With Wolves," "Medicine Man." It's Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax"! it has the Deep Forest soundtrack! It's the classic commercial with the crying Indian and it is every generation of sci fi and effects advances since 1979 all rolled into one big $300 million dollar CGI masterpiece of brilliant effects and overripe neo-Environmentalist jargon with an afterthought of a script (written by Cameron without any help at all).

Poor Sigourney Weaver! Squandered in "Avatar" as a thin reprise of Ellen Ripley and the film's only big name.

Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to look at, this film. But to someone who started watching movies in 1970, it is difficult not to get distracted by its utter predictability. OK, let's be completely fair: Cameron actually directed "Aliens," "Titanic"and "The Abyss," so I'm griping about a seminal director doing what he does very well. But try to find a bad review of this flick! Fortunately the Academy wasn't lulled by the soft neon glow of exotic megafauna and big money, merely recognizing the movie for Art Direction, Cinematography and Visual Effects. ("The Hurt Locker," directed by Cameron's ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, took the Best Picture award.)

It's fun to watch, if you can ignore the rampant white guilt of it all. Interestingly, while there are lots and lots of blue people in the film, blacks are in short supply. There is a token Latina, who sacrifices herself for the sake of The People -- "I didn't sign up for this shit!" -- after rejecting the brutal aggression of the boys' club in their pursuit of oil, er, I mean, mineral wealth. While she does have a braid, she isn't fetched-up like an Indian princess until her final scenes. She sprays war paint on her helicopter that matches the marks on her face, before the big battle. Her last words are "I'm sorry Jake." All the bad guys are lily white in this movie.

It's fun to watch, because the beauty of the film distracts one from the fact that one is being whalloped upside the head again and AGAIN by the deafening native drumbeat of the film's MESSAGE. I like a good message, don't get me wrong. It's just that this one's been done, and there's nothing subtle about it here.

No comments: