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It's so weird that ever review I've read of Avatar has mentioned Paul Reiser.

I liked Mad About You.

I can't nap, it's this weird genetic thing about me. I have a lot of trouble sleeping. But Avatar? I was out after the first hour. It was just *soooooo* boring. I honestly have no recollection of Paul Reiser being in the movie, but then again, I didn't wake up until that part where the military was blowing up that tree, and even that was boring.

Damn, I didn't even consider the tree destruction as a 9/11 reference, since it makes no sense whatsoever. It's like the people who tried to say that the Cylon genocide in Battlestar Galactica was about 9/11. It was a terrible tragedy, but it wasn't the near-extinction of our country. Not every fictional threat can be mapped onto what you're scared of in real life. Or something.

it was very easy for me to look at that scene as UN 9 11 related. so many movies (and stories in general) travel under the same pretext...so to relate it with that event in specific is hard for me. in the perspective of things...95 percent of movies want to be avatar....so i cant fault avatar for being avatar...especially since it was pretty well made and thought out for what it was. movies are a very capitalist thing...and in capitalism people only think about things as far as the money will let them. its not just james cameron thats to blame here for the movies inherent shallowness.

Mad About You was a great show, and I can defend that position in overwhelming detail. But I won't. Today. What follows will be long enough ...

Avatar was indeed a flawed and simplistic story deliciously smothered in action/effects glory.

1. I didn't take the whole planet goddess thing as a comment on religion, but on environmentalism. You're right that religion is talking to a god who doesn't talk back. Soon as god talks back, it's science. But the point I took was a computer-networking metaphor to really sell the idea of interconnectedness in an ecosystem. Not saying there's no religious theme, too, but I think that's secondary (and not thought through by Cameron).

2. "Fighting terror with terror" may be such an obviously inappropriate line on purpose -- the idea that we demonize our enemy using jingoistic and falsely moralistic rhetoric to justify ourselves. I think Cameron knows his character is full of shit there. May even have been thinking about Bush's "took part in 9/11" excuses for going into Iraq.

3. The whole 9/11 overlay. [Mercifully truncated to agree with above posters -- didn't particularly trip that wire for me, either]

4. Overall, yeah, he married corporate greed to White Man Vs. Noble Indians and produced cardboard, one-motivation bad guys and cardboard, no-bad-habits good guys, and that's weak. Weaker than Star Wars? No, but Star Wars wasn't trying to tell me how to vote, I guess ...

I think all James Cameron wanted to do was send the simple message that corporate greed is out of control, and loving nature is a good, good thing. By denying the story of any complexity, he undercuts himself a lot. I wonder also whether, given how dazzling the presentation is, he deliberately kept the plot simple to keep the audience on board. Doesn't excuse shallow themes or the failure to see that even what he put in wouldn't be read in just the flat way he intended. He should've said, "Shit, yeah, how will this look post-9/11, and how will that look while we're in wars that are, at the least, a little less simplistic than this setpiece?"

I have it on good authority, though, that obsessive sci-fi geeks sometimes fail to pay enough attention to the real world.

The whole Tree=9/11 thing, I would assume, is meant to say, "Hey look - WE HAVE BECOME THE TERRORISTS!"

Likewise, I'm with Guy Smiley's take on the "Fight terror with terror" quote. The USA Exec. branch did EXACTLY this when trying to drum up vigor for war on Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, so therefore this analogy works, right?

I didn't see Avatar yet, tho, so my ideas may all have poo on their shirts.

There's some weird 9/11 stuff in G.I. Joe, too, which also completely fails to map in any ideological way. There I felt like it was just, "eh, what the hell; this was a dramatic apocalyptic event, we need a dramatic apocalyptic event; why look further afield?" Stupidity and laziness rather than stupidity and craziness, in that case at least.

I think expecting idiot entertainment to map onto any kind of coherent ideological spectrum above that of making certain sequences of shiny lights match in a vaguely analogous way with similar sequences of shiny lights plucked from our collective cultural memory in order to win unearned rhetorical familiarity is - well, you're being too generous by half to the kind of people who make these films.

" Weaker than Star Wars? No, but Star Wars wasn't trying to tell me how to vote, I guess ..."

Credit where credit is due, however, there acutally *was* a coherent and fairly convincing political allegory at the heart of the prequel trilogy.

Kenny: Been a while since you watched Aliens, I'm guessing. Reiser's the T-800 model for the sniveling evil corporate character whose shoes Giovanni Ribisi fails to fill in Avatar.

Andre: Yeah, it's been on my mind since you mentioned that, the idea that Avatar's anti-profit message deserves some credit for simply being better than awful--i don't think I agree, mostly for the reason that it's so poorly delivered that it becomes a non-message, or maybe even that it's so poorly delivered that it brings about an actual recoil. I'm not in favor of the way gigantic corporations dehumanize people and abuse their power, but my taste did end up going in the same direction as someone else I spoke to about the movie, which is that the message was so bungled and dumb that I sort of rooted for the humans to win. Corporations that uproot life and land are never actually run by bloodthirsty psychopaths, but that's all Avatar provides, fake bad guys with genocidal motives. For the message to have any resonance with me, it's going to need to hew a little closer to reality. (Again, why not have the Na'vi be a little tougher, a little more savage? The drum circles, the unquestioning reliance on a mommy & daddy chief system--indigenous groups may not be civilized, but that doesn't make them wide-eyed infants.) And while there's a nice optimism to praising Cameron's intent, I'm pretty sure that he's fifty years late (at least) to the "use corporate money to wave fingers at blind capitalism" party. Revolutionary chic was already the property of advertising years before Naomi Klein wrote No Code, and it's something we ingest on a daily basis anyway. Besides--it isn't like any of Avatar's profit is going towards some actual environmental good. There's no actual positive impact of Avatar's message, or success, at all--at least slasher flicks or nihilistic action pieces are up front about how much money they want to make. I suppose one could make the argument that Avatar might give the environmental movement a psychological boost, but even that is probably undercut by the amount of actual damage caused by the construction of new technology merely for the purpose of showing the film. (Worth figuring out: how much plastic refuse was created to manufacture those free 3D glasses? That's how much Avatar's psychological boost is going to have to accomplish before it can talk about the film's environmental benefits.)

Guy: You're right about the environmentalism, but I sort of view nu-environmentalism as a religion unto itself at this point anyway. Faith, practice, social and peer group benefits--Rachel Carson and her ilk initially inspired a movement towards scientific knowledge (which is hard work), but that's become less and less popular than the hobby/practice based stuff (online protesting, debates among extremists), to say nothing of the way that it's become an incredibly successful portion of industry. (Organic bullshit, fictionally "green" products, etc.) If anything, Cameron's environmental message is just a lazy spiritual message--everybody's tied to the environment because they're physically tied to the environment by the usb connectors in their hair. Again, it's the same problem: environmental action requires knowledge (as difficult to attain as faith-without-evidence), bonding with friends to fight with other people doesn't. That might be an apt, if overly cynical view of the environmental/religious movement, but it doesn't make either one of them very smart. And the end of the movie just uproots the discussion entirely--how much help does a planet need from it's inhabitants if it's a sentient being capable of protection? On top of that, is the planet as stupid as Sam Worthington, doesn't it realize how easily our space marine humans could nuke the fucker from orbit? They've spent all that money making transformer suits and cryo-sleep spaceships, you've got to figure they have some totally hideous bombs.

On the terror with terror--yeah, that needs some more thought put into it. It's a stupid line in the movie, it was stupid in real life. It just seems like it would've worked better if the humans could point to something, some kind of motivating force for violence. (Why'd they shut the schools down and bail out? Did something happen?) Not that it would make it okay--it wasn't when the US did it either--but that it would make it at least conceivable as a brute force motivator, something that grunts can more easily get behind. I can buy lying to people, no problem. But you've got to cross more of the t's.

On the 9/11 thing--i don't know, i don't think it could be more blatant. The billowing smoke, the faces of the fleeing survivors, the slow collapse, the crazed hunger for companionship, the sounds of the survivors crying, the way that the collapse and eventual refugee camp is shot with the same broad, downward shots that most of CNN's footage ended up being. High special effects films are deliberately, specifically built over months and years. Things don't look similar by accident when you're building a shot out of polygons and digital code over the course of months.

Tim: well, that goes without saying, i would imagine.


Initially I think I thought that Avatar looked too much like a video game, but I think I thought that because I got it confused with that last Tim Burton movie. Just the same, the prejudice is ingrained and consequently I cannot bring myself to give any portion of a fuck about that movie.


There is also, evidently, that.

Tucker, it's been at least 10 years since I last saw Aliens, but I really like that movie, so I should watch it again. But with Avatar, I feel asleep through half of it, so Paul Reiser could have been in there riding a naked Jessica Biel and I wouldn't know.

All this discussion on exactly why Avatar is stupid is interesting. My thought was the movie is an isolated liberal douchebag's view on what the Bush regime was doing by invading Iraq. Bush and his cronies were talking about essentially forcing American democracy onto other countries. It was like - we offered you our schools, our political structures, etc, and all we want is to destroy your land and take your oil.

Yeah, there's some truth in that, but it was never that black and white. For instance, I don't think the people in our military are bloodthirsty fiends who just want to destroy Iraqis. But Avatar paints them that way. Avatar paints our military as being the same as al Queda terrorists, which is just insane for reasons I think covered by Tucker.

The full extent of the Iraq War could never be presented in a big budget special effects extravaganza, so Cameron should never have tried. Instead of presenting an anti-Bush movie 7 years too late, he made an absolutely insultingly stupid movie that even its most ardent defenders only talk about how pretty it was.

I'm not sure which was the worse movie, Avatar or Transformers 2. Transformers 2 literally didn't make sense as a story, but Avatar did. Avatar is pretentious as Hell, though, whereas Transformers 2 never presents itself as something more than Megan Fox in CGI Land.

I guess I'm going to be the one to do it. The picture you've got is Avatar The Last Airbender, which is a "children's" television series. By "children's", by the way, I mean a series with a real spiritual undertone, realistic character development, gorgeous animation, and the kind of narrative complexity Cameron can't dream of.
As for Avatar (Cameron) it's irritating in other ways to me as well. Basically, Avatar functions as Baby's First Book of Subtext. It wears its entire subtext on its sleeve for people to find, with a huge neon sign pointing to it. Its pretty apalling.

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