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James Cameron’s Avatar…

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Is it possible to both love and loath a movie? If so, that is me and James Cameron’s Avatar.

Why I like it: Pandora and the Na’vi are thoroughly thought out and realized in-depth. The planet and its flora and fauna are gorgeous, inherently interesting creations. I’ve always been of the opinion that Pandora is a ‘created place’ and I do not mean in the sense of a production designer. Pandora seems to be a giant ‘organic computer‘. There’s a strong implication of this in the film, though I do not know if that was James Cameron‘s intention or not.

Why I Loathe It: The plot, which is basically Furn Gully ostensibly for adults. It also bears a strong resemblance to Battle for Terra, which came out the same year, right down to humans not being able to breath on the planet.

Though my dislike of the plot is not so much about these things, which in and of themselves I could overlook. Its when the film becomes suddenly political – Such as in the destruction of the Hometree, whose superstructure, bore more than a passing resemblance to that of the World Trade Center Towers.

This is also where Avatar’s message, such as it is begins to crumble. In one breath James Cameron seems to decry American retaliations for 9/11, while also flipping the theme and making the Na’vi perfectly justified for attacking their ‘human oppressors’. No really, at that point in the movie, the Na’vi are transmogrified into “Americans under Jihad” and the humans become the Jihadists. The best part, I am not even sure James Cameron notices this…

Yet even as I say all of the above. I still like this movie. Enough to spend birthday money, last year to buy the special longer deluxe edition DVD. Which by the way, has some awesome packaging.

There’s just something about blue-cat people…

  1. August 12, 2013 at 3:49 am

    I think you speak for many. Obviously lot of people liked this movie, but it is not beloved. I wonder there is enough interest to justify the three sequels that Cameron is about to make for over a billion dollars. Then again, if you’re 20th Century Fox, you say “No” to Cameron at your own peril.The guy is as close to a sure thing as they come.

    • August 12, 2013 at 5:34 am

      There’s no doubt it was a box office hit and there is, not unlike with Star Trek a bit of a cultish appeal to the whole thing. Fox is probably seeing dollar signs.

      I just hope the next films are bit less heavy handed…

      • August 12, 2013 at 9:05 am

        I just hope he has something else to say.

  2. August 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Did we watch the same movie?!

    1) Like everyone else I’ve read heretofore, I saw the analogy (right from the beginning and straight to the end) as that between Western and especially American exploiters who have an eye on profit and utility (with science and technology in the service of these save for the few heroic NF-temperament people who love nature and their allies in other temperaments that prefer Feeling to Thinking in decision-making), and the exploited indigenous peoples (very strongly Intuitive and Sensing Feelers) who have a closeness to the land and its ecology – the difference being that the latter’s religion has a basis in biological fact.

    2) Just to make sure my memory wasn’t deceiving me, I looked up the Home Tree on Google Images. The only resemblance between it and the Twin Towers is rather like folk singer Melanie’s joke about Freudian psychology: “Anything’s a phallic symbol if it’s longer than it’s wide.” :P Otherwise, there’s zero relevant resemblance that I can see.

    Oh, AVATAR is heavy-handed all right. But it doesn’t contradict itself. It’s a morality play about industrial colonialism and its effects on indigenous peoples and ecologies – and what would inevitably happen if we ruined our world by that philosophy, failed to repent of it and carried it to another world.

    • August 12, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      The super structure is explicitly setup up like the twin towers. A central pillar with four ‘stairways’. Listen to Jack Scully describe it to the Colonel and then go look up how the towers were supported and why they were able to be collapsed as they were.

      Even the Hometree debris resemble parts the twin towers after it has fallen.

      It does contradict itself, in as much, after the Hometree falls, the ‘natives’ switch roles and become Americans. And the Americans become terrorists. Since the colonials are clearly meant to be Americans.

      • August 12, 2013 at 5:04 pm

        I don’t think I can buy that argument. Closer to say that we come in on the side of the cowboys and are meant to start cheering for the Indians. Those horseback scenes (as it were) on the ground were obvious throwbacks to Westerns (the films). We are alternated as it were between the two so as to ask who are the “real” Americans: the technologically advanced latecomers, or the nature lovers who got there first. (And true to form, few asked whether there was an either-or fallacy in the question – whether there was a way both could live together in peace and mutual benefit.)

        Terrorism (as a general whose name I wish I could remember pointed out – he wrote a book engaging this topic fairly recently) is a tactic used by the weak against the strong. The humans weren’t planning terrorism; they were planning and then waging open and total war and they very nearly gained the upper hand.

        Again, as for the Twin Towers, I don’t trust my memory there, so I’ll have to go back if I can and see for myself. The horseback ride – that stuck in my memory. I did find it odd that the Hometree was displayed in such a schematic way, but could it be (as I thought at the time) that this was meant to illustrate how little connection the human villains had to the entity as a living thing and as a habitation? (Again, in ignorance I can only pose the question.)

      • August 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm

        The film and Cameron are not shy about showing the humans as ‘invaders’. For the most part even, they are depicted as pretty flat.

        Here’s what Cameron said about 9/11. Now he sort of acts shocked there is a resemblance. But I think he’s just being coy.

        {

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_Tree

        Cameron acknowledges that Avatar implicitly criticizes the United States’ role in the Iraq War and the impersonal nature of mechanized warfare in general. In reference to the use of the term shock and awe in the film, Cameron said, “We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America.”[81] He said in later interviews, “… I think it’s very patriotic to question a system that needs to be corralled …”[82] and, “The film is definitely not anti-American.”[83] A scene in the film portrays the violent destruction of the towering Na’vi Hometree, which collapses in flames after a missile attack, coating the landscape with ash and floating embers. Asked about the scene’s resemblance to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Cameron said he had been “surprised at how much it did look like September 11″.[81] }

        Part of it is of course those images probably lingered in everyone head. But when I filmmaker admits he is making a film to be critical of American adventures abroad I have to take his surprise with a block of salt that one of his visual touchstones (and turning points in the movie) just sort of happened all by itself without intent to draw a parallel.

      • August 12, 2013 at 5:43 pm

        Here again, I’m not so sure I can take that statement with a block of salt – although please understand my desire to be open-minded on the matter. :) This whole description by Mr. Cameron sounds like the sort of logical spin (in the service of personal values, mind) that a fellow ENFP would do. Not everybody would. An ESFP like my late mother maybe, but I can’t imagine someone like you (who seems much more focused on the here and the now and/or on history and on logical ordering and frameworks than I am) doing such a thing subconsciously. You plan your steps too well. If this showed up in your work, it would be because you WANTED it to show up in your work.

        Not so with me. The fun(?) part for me is seeing what weird logical flip-flops I can find in my work after the fact. I couldn’t plan those if I tried.

        Later, fellow word warrior… :)

      • August 12, 2013 at 5:54 pm

        HA! John. You do provided me insight to myself. :) Yes. I tend to make my artistic choices with intent.

        Its probably why my brain gets all hooked into unlocking mysteries of plots and following breadcrumbs.

    • August 12, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Its the scene with the holograpic depiction of the Hometree. The ‘bones’ of the tree are spot on for the Twin Tower superstructure.

      By the way: This is the only movie I have seen which actually was worth seeing in 3d (aside from Beowulf) most others simply did not need to be in 2d.

      Even Star Trek Into Darkness, That movie totally did not need to be done in 3d.

      • August 12, 2013 at 4:55 pm

        I will have to look that up then, if possible. Still an extremely strange mixed metaphor, if true.

  3. August 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    ReasonableCritic :
    I just hope he has something else to say.

    Whether by Cameron or not, I suspect a series would be a grave mistake, unless something really different can be said. AVATAR stands alone and IMHO should be left to do so.

    Of course there’s the matter of the Earthers not being able to leave the star system and its minerals alone… one thing about human beings, they don’t give up easily…

    • August 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      The sequels are already greenlit…

    • August 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm
      • August 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        I do indeed. Its sheer mass prevents me from reading every word, but it is exceedingly well done. But I still don’t understand why anyone would be reminded of 9/11. It is as if the WTC were standing in, say, Beautiful Downtown Kabul rather than in Manhattan. And besides, if you blow up something wooden that big with the ammunition used, wouldn’t smoke automatically be a factor?

        I was reminded rather of countless war movies and photos in which the Third Worlders get theirs for no good reason except that the First Worlders would have it so (or so the spin on such productions often goes). And yes indeed, smoke gets in everybody’s eyes in such cases. Is this a case of a mixed metaphor? Did Mr. Cameron actually say he intended to remind people of 9/11 in such a strange way? I’m not clear on the concept there.

        Otherwise, a smashing review by someone who obviously knows his trade exceptionally well.

      • August 12, 2013 at 5:02 pm

        When I saw the movie, even the manner parts of the Hometree curved looked after the attack to my eye like twisted metal and such.

        Yes, its an epic long review!

    • August 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Apparently the sequels will not all take place on Pandora. They will explore the other planets in Pandora’s solar system.
      I read an interview where Cameron said he would be happy to make only Avatar films for the rest of his career. Given that he is so invested in this universe, and given that 20th Century Fox is so invested (reportedly to the tune of a billion dollars), I think we all have to get used to the Avatar movies being around for a long, long time.
      I agree with you, though. It’s a bad idea. The first film speaks for itself.

  4. August 12, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    You know, I have the same reaction to Avatar – I love it and hate it, but I see in it also, the struggle of the Native Americans and their closeness to Mother Earth being destroyed by the invading white people, and that’s why I didn’t like it – it’s been done many times. It is, however, a most beautiful world.

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