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Avatar [Dec. 21st, 2009|10:31 am]
Certain people have reassured me that the "White Man Embraces the Culture and Then Saves It" aspect of Avatar was "only a small part of it."

That's true. If your definition of "only a small part" is "all the plot the movie had."

That's not to say that Avatar isn't pretty. It's staggeringly beautiful. I want to become a blue cat person and live on such a world. For the most part, I was able to forget that we were looking at a completely digital environment - perhaps that is why I was able to see that the clothes had no Emperor.

In addition to the stereotype-filled story, a bunch of other issues arose. What follows is a non-comprehensive list of the stuff that bugged the hell out of me about the movie.

1. During the 5 years that Jake Sully takes to arrive at Pandora, a road is being built through the jungle toward the richest unobtanium deposit on the planet. The EVIL CORPORATION is now three months away from Home Tree, putting the pressure on. Really? 5 years to get a track cut through the wilderness? Because when we see the 'dozers, they are moving at a right fine clip.

2. Also, why is open pit mining the only solution? They have all this technology; surely they could shaft mine.

3. Also also, how is it that the Na'vi, who can sense one stranded Marine staggering around in the woods like a wounded deer, who are so very connected to their world, are surprised by the 'dozers mowing down their sacred grove?

4. The air will kill a person is a minute or two. Yet touching or eating the plants has no ill effect. Got that one wrong - they were in their avatars when they touched such things.

5. Only 5 Na'vi have ever tamed the Turok whatever. Sully's solution is to get a drop on it. You're telling me that these folk, who hunt in the air regularly, can't figure that out for themselves?

6. If your Shock and Awe campaign consists of blowing up the natives most sacred site in order to scatter them, what the hell do you need ground troops for?

7. If you have lived all your life through stealth and tracking, why would you attack the ground troops and their guns - which you know they have - head on? C'mon, where are the Ewok-style traps and sneak attacks from above?

8. What are all those other avatars - the ones playing basketball and running obstacle courses, doing the rest of the time? They are introduced and then disappear.

9. The whole project is to mine unobtanium, which sells for a fortune. To who? What for? Is it something that we are mining to buy humans spots on inhabitable worlds? What's the point?

I'm not sure what it says about me or about the movie, but I was completely unmoved by tragic events befalling characters. I was, however, heartbroken by destruction wreaked on the planet. Perhaps all that says is that WETA Digital makes a better movie than James Cameron does.

EDIT: This is more negative than I really feel about the movie. I did enjoy looking at the pretty. I would go again if given the opportunity. And I can't wait for the DVD extras so I can see all the awesome WETA guys again.

[User Picture]From: aiela
2009-12-21 03:48 pm (UTC)
I, too, was way more upset when the tree fell and the forest burned than when any of the characters, human or Na'vi, died.

As for the mining, I got the impression they had been mining the ore from other places on the planet, but the main bit of it was under the tree, so they were grabbing what they could while they prepared to take the tree. So that's what I assumed they had been doing for the previous five years. I think they assumed from the start that with some diplomacy, they'd be able to move the Na'vi without the violence, but by the time Sully arrives it is becoming more and more apparent that diplomacy isn't going to work.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 03:54 pm (UTC)
Oh, I figured they were mining elsewhere, but there is a narrow track through the wilderness on their map with no side-tracks or areas of destruction/construction. So the evidence of the movie itself points to a large contingent of the paramilitary force working solely on the road project.

Oh, and I remembered one more thing that bugged me. Time to edit.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 04:09 pm (UTC)
I dismissed it as tongue-in-cheek, a little wink at the audience. That is the least of its faults.
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From: simulated_knave
2009-12-21 04:24 pm (UTC)
Notably, one European DID defect to the Maya, and became a successful war leader.


He ended up getting shot by an arquebus.

I've seen him presented before as being quite helpful in fighting off the Spanish.
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[User Picture]From: 28bytes
2009-12-21 04:28 pm (UTC)
4. The air will kill a person is a minute or two. Yet touching or eating the plants has no ill effect.

Well, oceans and lakes kind of work that way too. No breathable air down there, but eating the fish won't kill you.

When they have mountains floating in the middle of the air, I tend to take that as a cue that rigorous adherence to the laws of physics is not a priority of the filmmaker.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 04:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I messed that one up - see retraction.
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[User Picture]From: shezan
2009-12-21 05:27 pm (UTC)

Where is Basya when you need her??????

You mean they are less strategically-savvy than EWOKS????

Woe, woe, woe.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 05:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Where is Basya when you need her??????

Yup. Amazing but true.
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[User Picture]From: therrin
2009-12-21 06:04 pm (UTC)
I agree with most of these, and number 5 in particular. I feel like the movie would have been a lot more defensible (and not just "the human is just smarter!") if #5 hadn't been in the movie.
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[User Picture]From: lady_guenievre
2009-12-21 08:40 pm (UTC)
I agree, but my (internal) rationalization was that it was stated over and over that the smaller gliders, and by analogy the Turok-whatever, had to *choose* their rider. So I figured that the turoc could have flipped the guy off in about 2 seconds if the nature goddess hadn't approved - the "getting a drop on it" strategy was just a... test, as it were, to see if the guy could get near enough.

I don't know if that makes it better or not, but it helps a bit to me.
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[User Picture]From: roaming
2009-12-21 09:11 pm (UTC)
Maybe Cameron ws playing to the lowest common denominator in the audience? The ones who wouldn't notice or ask these questions* but would come away from one viewing with a clear message that

1) Nature is worth saving
2) Destroying Nature for profit is EVIL (anagram: VILE)
3) Just because a people/species aren't "Like Us" doesn't mean they're "less than human" and can be obliterated by Military Testosterone Poisoning
4) Military Testosterone Poisoning is EVIL: Understanding, Respect, Cooperation is GOOD

And I see your earlier post point about being icked by the theme of the White Guy Saving the Native Peoples. But the Na'vi did a damn good job of fighting for themselves. Sully just had an advantage in that he knew the military players, their mindset, training, and weapons capability: so he was in a position to think ahead of them and use their own against them.

Instead of "racefail" one could also see it as "Don't be such an arrogant superior arse, White Dude: other cultures can actually be better than yours. And hey: stop comparing -- it's ALL good. 'Because Allah loves variety.'" (My fav Morgan Freeman quote from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.)

(BTW, I didn't get to see the end of the movie: just at the climatic battle scene the screen started stuttering, and they couldn't fix it. So will have to go elsewhere to see what the hell happens in the end.)

*(I didn't while watching, I was too distracted by the oooooh shinnnney! But now that you mention them, they're pretty damn obvious! :-) )

Edited at 2009-12-21 09:15 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 11:31 pm (UTC)
But that is always the point of these tales. If the Noble Savage was easily eradicated, there would never be a reason for the White Man to come among them - no one makes movies about a plague that wipes out 90% of the native populous. It's the combination of Noble Savage Wisdom (and overconfidence, since the Noble Savage does not understand the Overwhelming Forces they are up against) and the White Man Savvy that *all* these movies fetishize.

Say what you will about the Ewoks, at least they were the ones saving whitey's butt in Return of the Jedi.
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[User Picture]From: docstrange
2009-12-21 09:59 pm (UTC)
With you 100%.

(Unobtainium's supposed value is in what they say it is: room temp superconductor... so there's its no-need-to-mention-it value.)

Anyhow, a story about a drive for a resource so valuable, the story essentially reduces it to allegory ... and a plot so hackneyed it could use Hamburger Helper to lend interest. Yeah.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-21 11:36 pm (UTC)
But doggone, weren't it purty?

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[User Picture]From: lishablog
2009-12-22 11:37 pm (UTC)
OK, so I hear all of your criticisms about this movie, but I have a very different take on the story.


For those that aren't my friends here, I put it up at http://www.alwayssababa.com/avatar-race-and-immigration too.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2009-12-23 06:34 pm (UTC)
It's another way of looking at it, yes.
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