Avatar (2009)

Call it Dances With Six-Legged Alien Horse-Things. Or Blue Big Man. Many parallels with other films and media have been spotted by other critics of Avatar, but those two are, I think, the key ones: Arthur Penn’s film for its use of genre to critique the contemporary geopolitical situation, and Kevin Costner’s film for, frankly, telling pretty much the same story of a white man going native. Avatar is one of those films that isn’t a film as such but an event you attend (even “attending” it on DVD); it’s critic-proof, because umpty billion people will go and see it irrespective of its actual quality just so they don’t feel left out of some larger cultural conversation. I am increasingly resistant to this sort of thing, and to be honest I’ve only belatedly seen it tonight cos 1) I couldn’t be bothered leaving the house, 2) I’ve got it on DVD and 3) I’m taking part in this challenge at ICheckMovies, so while I would’ve got to Avatar eventually this challenge thing has spurred me to finally clear it from my ever-expanding backlog. I’ve been in no great hurry to see it, obviously, and I only have it cos when it came out at first JB Hifi were doing a deal where you got Avatar free if you spent $100 on other DVDs… so I bought $100 worth of stuff I would’ve bought anyway and got this thing as a freebie, and I finally watched it tonight, and it pretty much met my limited expectations, i.e. that it would prove to be an overlong effects extravaganza and not much else… and for all the money thrown at it, the CGI still has trouble not looking fake (it really doesn’t do fast movement well), although for the most part I’ll concede the visual rendering of Pandora is impressive (if you like video games especially) and some sort of thought seems to have been put into it as a whole alien world and ecosystem, but when it comes to the crunch what the film seems less interested in seriously exploring that than in telling an old cowboys-and-Indians story whose political overtones are about as cack-handed as Titanic‘s observations on the class struggle. I’m not as actively offended by it as Chris from Silent Volume was, but I can’t help feeling something more interesting could’ve been made of this world. And somehow I’m not confident that the planned sequels will do that… not when James Cameron still seems more excited by the technological prospects for the new films, as witness his apparent claim that he wants to shoot them at 48fps for “a heightened sense of reality”. Because that’s what you REALLY get from a film that’s 90% or more CGI anyway, James…

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