My photo
Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Unlikeliest Underdog

I didn't want to like Avatar.

As a matter of fact, I didn't even want to see Avatar. I saw the lifeless trailer of tall blue humanoids shooting heavy machine guns and decided "not for me." I heard about the nearly $300 million budget, the supposedly revolutionary technology and was disgusted. I love cinema, god damn it, not overpriced video games on celluloid!

I didn't want to see Avatar, didn't want to like it, didn't want to read about it and didn't want to write about it.

So obviously I saw it. And I liked it. Then I read about it some more. Now I'm writing about it.

James Cameron made me eat shit in the most spectacular way possible. Avatar-hate consumed my being so much than when I had to write a short essay on the history of the film industry for Film 201, I wrote how "big-budget" movies would start to die out and make way for leaner, cheaper fare like District 9 (excellent film in its own right) and even predicted that Avatar would be the first casualty of the New New Wave of cheap cinema.

Somehow, I thought the man with the highest grossing movie of all-time, to go along with several Sci-fi classics would fall on his face. Somehow, I assumed James Cameron didn't know the American movie-going audience as well as I did. Somehow, I was unbelievably naive.

Don't look now but Avatar is currently the second highest grossing movie of all-time.

Not of the weekend...not of the Winter...not of the year....not of the decade. It is the second highest grossing movie OF. ALL. TIME.

But this doesn't necessarily blow my mind. High grosses sometimes happen even when a movie is not a cultural phenomenon. Transformers 2 somehow drained $402,000,000 from American consumers but I cannot recall someone talking about it once other than to say "it sucked."

Avatar, however, has already been brought up as an example for something in three of my five classes...and it's only been the first week. My English professor uses it at least once a class period as an allegory for the White settlement of Native American lands. My Info Gathering professor used it as an example of casual knowledge in context to sources (i.e he has a casual knowledge of the technology used in the movie and not a technical knowledge). My Women and Gender Studies professor used it as an example of Eco-feminism (apparently such a thing exists).

I, myself, have even spent more time and brainwaves than I ever anticipated I would re-imagining the rich world of Pandora.

James Cameron clearly has the master key to the Western collective unconscious and I owe him an 11 bucks to see Avatar again in 3D.


baileythebookworm said...

The movie has zero plot -or, rather, it's the same plot from every movie we go to see: evil, militaristic, greedy consumers come in with their big guns and superior technologies to take whatever they can get from the locals, who have bows and arrows and little else with which they can fight. However, John Smith/Zak (Fern Gully)/Jake comes in and falls for one of the natives, learns their ways and assimilates to the point where he turns his back on his initial greedy, evil, militaristic ways and helps to save the day.

We all knew that was coming -I don't think anyone was surprised by the bad plot (although a few of the obvious flubs surprised me, the patriarchal mating system being one of them, given their interconnectedness and female deity).

Visually, though, Avatar is just incredible. And that made it worth it to me to see. The plot was a snooze-fest, but the visuals left me gleeful and eager to watch the movie again (when I can buy it used for like $5). :)

A.G.B said...

You say it has no plot like that's a bad thing.

Part of the joy of going to the movies (or partaking in any cultural event for that matter) is knowing what's coming and appreciating it being told in a new exciting way anyway.

I will say, however, that it is bizarre that a planet a million miles away resembles Native American culture so much...

A.G.B said...

Quick update:

I thought of addressing this claim in my post but decided against it.

I wouldn't call Avatar outright racist, per se but I do think the fact tat the Na'vi are played almost exclusively by African-Americans and Native-Americans to be worth discussing.