Sunday, January 17, 2010


1. The 3-D. I saw it in a theater with RealD, and wore the glasses. First 3-D film I've seen since Captain Eo, and while this looked better than that, it felt just as gimmicky. Jim Emerson, who's pretty intemperate about Avatar, has a good rant on the subject of its 3-D. I didn't get the headaches, but I also didn't get the charm.

2. The CGI. Effective, but not epochal. Everybody who's raving about them as being a vast advance in the technology seems to be forgetting Lord of the Rings (and they are): the blue people look great, but are they any more impressive, or expressive, than Gollum?

3. The fantasy world, its visuals. Awesome. Almost completely ripped off from Roger Dean - everything from the floating mountains to the stone arches. But that's okay. I like Roger Dean.

4. The fantasy world, its presence. Fine. Luckily, though, I'm not insecure enough about my sex life to feel the need to reject imaginative fiction or film.

5. The politics. Sure, it's Dances With Wolves or Glory in space. James Horner's score even echoes his Glory theme. But the fact that it's in space makes some difference. David Edelstein writes that
It’s an attempt to rewrite (and reanimate) American history in the form of a barely disguised parable of Native Americans triumphing against white imperialists who would drive them from their ancestral lands — aided by a white imperialist (a Marine) who has Gone Native.
Well, sort of, except for the fact that it's not rewriting American history at all: it's imagining a future in which American history is in danger of repeating itself, and fantasizing that one of the Americans will try to to stop it. Does imagining this in any way change, obfuscate, or obscure American history? Quite the opposite: it depends for its effect on the audience knowing how the US treated native tribes.

That's the point. I'm not claiming that because it's fantasy it's inapplicable to history and politics, contemporary or past. Of course it's connected. David Brooks may even have a point about it being a White Messiah fantasy. Although, as is the conservative's wont, Brooks's idea in pointing this out seems to be to discredit any critique of American history or politics the film may harbor - and in true disingenuous Republican fashion, he's pretending to be outraged on behalf of non-whites to make his point. ...In this case the White Messiah fantasy seems to be fueled by an abject feeling of apology: the fantasy is not so much of a white guy leading non-whites as of an American for once choosing not to destroy the natives, but helping them resist destruction. There's something touching in this, so touching as to border on pathos, but if you laugh instead of cry at this, then we're on different sides.

6. The script. I've noticed before that James Cameron's filmmaking can be mechanical, his scripts uneloquent. The dialogue here is blunt, to say the least. But it's functional, and he's chosen a lead character whose background can excuse a lot of artlessness in the dialogue. Like Titanic, Avatar is made up of stock characters mouthing stock phrases in stock situations.
But here too it works.

7. Will it change film history? Who knows? I enjoyed the hell out of it, though.

1 comment:

RedMaigo said...

Avatar was a cliched, predictable remake/re-imagining of every white-man goes native story out there.

Dancing with Wolves, Little Big Man, A Man Called Horse back to the story of Pocahontas.

However, I still enjoyed the hell out of it for the simple reason that, in spite of its many flaws, it worked.

Or I should say it worked me. Like a fat man with a neckbone it did.

The movie was stunningly beautiful. A popcorn movie that almost attained serious cinema status.

And I mean almost.

And the Roger Dean comparisons...

Oh my God, I soo forgot about Robert Dean until you mentioned it! It really brings me back to those old Heavy Metal magazines that featured his art.

Not to mention the posters that used to adorn the walls of teenagers around the same time -- mid-to-late 70s.

And the album covers: Yes!

If a Hollywood director could bring back the style of other 70s artists like Bode, Druillet or Moebius it would be just like heaven.