I finally saw Avatar. (I know, everyone else and their dog saw it weeks ago. Sue me.) Not that this is news, but: gorgeous visuals, terrible story. I mean seriously, Cameron was just phoning it in when he came up with, oh, the characters, storyline, and dialogue. (The only line NLLDH and I liked: "Don't play with that, you'll go blind.")
Which isn't to say that I wasn't entertained. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them; for the duration that the lights are out and the big screen is lit up, I'm transformed pretty much into the lowest common denominator of movie goers. Cliches? Love 'em! Hackneyed storylines? Bring 'em on.
But yeah, the story was pretty pathetic. I mean, even leaving aside the highly questionable racial politics of the white guy showing up, learning native culture in a matter of weeks well enough to be adopted as one of the indigenous folks, and then being the ONLY PERSON who can lead the natives to victory. It's more like, what Cameron thought was the whole story is only the beginning. No one seriously thinks the "Sky People" are going to leave the Na'vi in peace to rebuild their world, right?
The interesting part isn't that a so-called "more advanced" society comes into conflict with a "simpler" one, and oh my god! the technologically advanced people are evil! the "primitive" society is good! Colonialism is baaaaaad! The interesting part is what happens after Cameron shut his cameras off: what the hell does an indigenous society do after being introduced to an entirely new and different culture? Cameron says that the earthlings "have nothing the Na'vi want," but no society is monolithic. I bet a lot of the Na'vi might decide that figuring out how to build a few of those guns for themselves could be a good idea. I bet that some of the Na'vi clans who aren't doing so well in relation to the others might decide that cozying up to the Sky People could be a good idea. I bet a lot of much more interesting, complex issues about how an indigenous society resists, adapts, persists, transforms, and survives colonialism develop long after that admittedly exciting and horrifying big battle.
I mean, I'll grant that the movie's basic message -- "Don't bulldoze another peoples' home in the pursuit of money" -- isn't anything I can take issue with. But, really, can anyone take issue with that message? Is there anything to debate about it? Can't we all get behind that message by now without needing to see a lot of pretty blue people get blown up?
I'll also grant that the final battle is pretty effective. No matter how hackneyed the story, watching the gunships fly into the sacred mountains and beat the tar out of the Na'vi is horrifying. And the way the planet ultimately responded made me cheer. It's also probably not a coincidence that there's almost no dialogue throughout this segment.
As NLLDH said, I've certainly spent $10 on worse things. Pandora is beautiful; the animation is amazing; I especially liked the way Neytiri moves, and how cat-like she looks when she hisses and bares her fangs. And I think the movie benefits immensely from the fact that Sam Worthington somehow oozes sympathetic-ness. (Sympathy for Sam Worthington's character was the only thing that kept Terminator: Salvation from being an UTTER waste of time, rather than largely a waste of time. Though it would be interesting to see if he can play anything other than a man of action [rather than words/thought/science] put into an impossible situation. God knows the new Clash of the Titans looks AWFUL.)
But, wow. What a waste of a beautiful world.