Felix Writes: What Nobody Ever Says About Avatar

DigitalThoughts / What Nobody Ever Says About Avatar

2013-01-19

I finally got around to seeing Avatar, but I'm not going to review it. Way too many words have been written about this movie as it is. Instead, I want to write about all the things nobody seems to have commented on in the four years since the movie came out. Believe me, I haven't exactly avoided spoilers. Yet the movie managed to surprise me, and not in a good way. Don't read below if you haven't seen it yet.

You may have heard about how heavy-handed and cliche is the story, but ever seen mentioned how all the characters are cardboard stereotypes? They only work at all because the actors did their best with the cards they were dealt, but that's not much. The villains are especially one-sided. Hint: people who never show doubt come across as psychotic. Also, if I'm going to see one more Flat Earth Atheist in a movie, I'm going to scream. Didn't Grace have any evidence for her claims? Science runs on hard evidence! Then again, this is Hollywood...

Conversely, you may have heard about the revolutionary special effects (which don't actually make such an impression, despite the quality), but nobody seems to have noticed the worldbuilding that went into Pandora's ecology. A biologist could probably point out flaws (people riding predators? come on), but for me the world really comes alive. Well, there are the floating rocks, pure fantasy intruding into mostly-hard sci-fi, but those get a pass for the coolness factor.

Ultimately, though, it's obvious that Mr. Cameron Just Didn't Care about anything except the visual effects. How else can you explain the fact that the precious mineral the bad guys want is literally called Unobtainium in the movie? The first few times, I thought my hearing was going bad. Worse, after the first confrontation I spent half the movie wondering how the Na'vi were going to fight the humans in the end... only to discover that their previously useless arrows can suddenly penetrate armored glass... which could take submachine gun bullets. I guess the white man's leadership can work literal magic!

There's also the fact that Jake's and Grace's Na'vi bodies are puppets, something that the natives know from the beginning, yet it only comes up three times in the entire movie. Well, there's also Jake's obvious desire to spend more time in his healthy fake body rather than the crippled real one, but you'd think the whole theme would be explored in more detail, seeing how it gives the movie its name. But I guess the tired old cowboys-versus-indians plot was more important. Meh.

Last but not least, I want to point out a failure of the many sci-fi fans who went to see this movie, yet don't seem to have noticed how much of it is reminiscent of Joe Haldeman's work. Mecha, power armor, remotely-piloted robot bodies... this is the stuff he wrote about all the time. Heck, the big duel at the end is a direct send-up to the one in Robot Jox. Am I the first to see this? Am I too old?

So yeah, I found Avatar to be... unimpressive. Doubly so for such an overhyped movie. And I write this as a viewer who hates snobbery and is perfectly happy to spend two hours and a half munching popcorn to the tune of mindless action. But it better grab my attention, and not insult my intelligence. Avatar simply failed at both. Perhaps if it hadn't taken itself so seriously, all that Disney-esque liveliness might have counted for something.

But I promised not to write a proper review. Oh well, until next time.

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