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James Cameron's epic sci-fi fantasy film released in 2009.

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Damned Dirty Humans

  • Feb 3, 2010

One of my English teachers and I got into it repeatedly regarding several of my writings during high school. It frustrated me because I felt that my stuff was genereally better than anything else submitted under the given conditions. As my time there came to a close, the instructor informed me that he was harder on me because he held me to a higher standard. That's how I feel about James Cameron.

Consider this list (Cameron wrote as well as directed): Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator II, True Lies, Titanic, and now Avatar. Since this is a review about Avatar, I'll simply say that's a pretty good list (True Lies notwithstanding) and if you don't understand why you probably don't want to speak too loudly in public about movies. Unlike other directors that are constantly up and down or do director-for-hire work, Cameron writes, directs, and edits in virtually every department. While usually "the director's vision" is a bunch of pretentious hooey, it actually has a lot of weight when referring to Cameron's work. He gets the credit; he gets the blame.

Contrary to several interviews that seemed to imply that Avatar was more complex than the trailers indicated, Avatar was exactly what the trailers indicated. Have you seen Dances With Wolves, District 9, or any number of other films or books that used this premise? Same deal, only with beautifully (no tongue, no cheek; the Na'vi look amazing) rendered blue aliens as the indigenous persons.

Within Avatar are a lot of great ideas, but most of them are obscured by the rows of carefully set dominos the size of mattresses; everything in Avatar is blatantly obvious and happens in a very obvious manner. On the positive side, as stated above, the Na'vi look amazing, as in life-like, as in so beautiful (and I'm sure this was the point) that whenever Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) returns to his human form, I was anxious for him to hop back to his blue girlfriend, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, easily the best thing about the movie), and the wondrous photosynthesis lightshow provided by the plant life of Pandora. The other major positive is the climactic battle, which is well executed, but does highlight some of the films weaknesses when you realize that you don't really give a damn about anyone outside Jake and Neytiri.

How positively anti-human you find yourself by film's end (YOU DAMN DIRTY HUMANS!) is not a good thing. That door gunner who gets his head bitten off by the giant pterodactyl doesn't give a shot glass full of urine about spiritual trees or unobtainium (sci-fi super-metal). If trends stay as they always have, he came from a poor background and joined the military because it was the best way for him to escape poverty and provide for his family. We are manipulated to weep for the poor, noble, nameless, faceless Na'vi, but who weeps for the nameless, faceless, human and his mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter?

The morally and ethically indefensible humans (YOU DAMN DIRTY HUMANS!) - those who do not side with the Na'vi - are represented by two characters, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and Parker Selfridge (Selfish, get it? Giovanni Ribisi). I read a review in which someone said they knew people in the military like Quaritch. If you do, run, don't walk, to a police station, or call a doctor or someone, or take one for the team and execute them with a bullet to the brainstem. Joseph Stalin would've counseled this tool to lighten up. He's not just following orders, he actually seems UPSET by the idea of a diplomatic solution, as if his job is not to move the Na'vi, but to wipe them out. Plus, he seems to have all the respect in the world for the dangers of the world of Pandora but none of that respect trickles to the Na'vi themselves. He's a cartoon character of EVIL, so of course when he dies, you pump your fist with hateful glee, the only sadness being that you wish he could've died sooner.

Parker is more believable as a jackass, being a corporate ass-lackey interested in - surprise, surprise - money. That he is devoid of humanity too is only annoying because there's no play between he and Quaritch; one could very likely be the avatar of the other since there is no disagreement betwixt them ever. My main gripe with Parker is that, evil though suit-wearers generally are, they usually lie to themselves and/or others about their intentions. No CEO says, "these layoffs are so I can get that fifth home and a new yacht." They make up some excuse about how it's best for the people they are laying off to start new lives and sh*t, but Parker more or less states, "The blue monkey people need to get off our scratch" and he says it to Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), the uber-liberal head of the science department.

I was pretty unforgiving of District 9 and Avatar has a lot in common with it. While Avatar is a far better technical achievement, it too suffers from a couple of convenient sweeps of the hand - "pay no attention to that man!" - particularly when Trudy Chacon (Michelle Rodriguez) openly disobeys orders yet is free to bust everyone out of the brig five minutes later.

I'm aware of the allegories, whether it's Native Americans, conflict diamonds, Vietnam, the Middle East, etc. That doesn't make the movie better; it just makes it smell more like propaganda.

What did you think of this review?

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June 11, 2010
DANCES WITH WOLVES on a steroid inflated budget.
January 20, 2011
I couldn't say it better myself. ;-) Thanks Queen!!
January 27, 2011
You're entirely welcome.
May 03, 2010
Great review man, this film is straight up Pocahontas, I can't help but think that.
January 20, 2011
I don't know. I just felt like I'd seen it all before so many times and felt like this was nothing more than warmed-up leftovers. It was beautiful for what it is but definitely over-hyped.
March 07, 2010
Great review. I too noticed that aside from Jake and Neytiri, none of the other characters were really developed. This film definitely wasn't perfect, and I'm glad that you included both the positives and negatives in your review.
January 20, 2011
Thank you! I was beginning to think that I was the only one who didn't absolutely fall heart an soul for Avatar.
February 26, 2010
{{{ I'm aware of the allegories, whether it's Native Americans, conflict diamonds, Vietnam, the Middle East, etc. That doesn't make the movie better; it just makes it smell more like propaganda. }}}

But there is TRUE propaganda and there is FALSE propaganda. Why did the door gunner come from a poor family? How much land on this planet is controlled by people of European descent? And why?

Because of all of the poor door gunners over the last 500 years?

Do you know that double-entry accounting is 700 years old? What does that have to do with anything you say? How hard can it be if it is 700 years old especially with all of the cheap computers we have these days? But have you ever heard an economist suggest that accounting be mandatory in the schools? But we have all this blather about education. So why do we have so much poverty with so much great technology and so many expensive schools?

Sometimes propaganda is relevant because so many people have not cashed their reality check.

February 10, 2010
We can discuss this movie later, right now, I like your title...are you referring to us...you, me and Christy? we are sickos not dirty LMAO.
February 11, 2010
I was referring to us actually as the unholy trinity of damned dirty humans. lol Hey, it's cool. I understand man.I didn't know you were moving but congrats! How is that working out for you? I'm just returning to work after a sick leave. I just received some movies lately that I'll be watching soon & reviewing such as Philosophy Of A Knife, Cannibal Ferox, & one serial killer film entitled Scrapbook. A sicko like myself must always uphold his reputation.
February 05, 2010
You've earned your Top 50 rating, man. Wonderful analysis!
February 06, 2010
Thank you! I'm delighted & flatered that you enjoyed the review. Your comments are greatly appreciated.
February 05, 2010
I enjoyed the review! I have yet to tackle it in my own review. I want to see it again, and not in 3D, before I write something up. I'm probably leaning toward a 3 or a 4 myself. There are a ton of aspects to consider in regards to a write-up! BTW: Love the title!
February 06, 2010
I've yet to see it in 3-D and probability suggests I won't. I went to see it once with a close friend who insisted this was the only thing at the box office he could watch. Everything else was too depressing, too horrific, etc. I'm delighted you enjoyed my write-up. Hopefully, I'll be able to write up something else soon that you will enjoy. Thanks again!
February 03, 2010
Aside from the fact that I love "True Lies" I can totally agree with your review. James Cameron is a genius and we expect better things from him. To me this film is the equivilent of Kubrick directing that terrible live action "Grinch Who Stole Christmas," it's just wrong. I gave the movie a much worse rating in my own review and have received a dirth of "Yeah that movie sucked!" and "You're a fool that's the best movie ever," but it's much more complicated than that. From some first timer or some studio hack this movie would have been a very impressive step, but from the man behind some of the most important (stylistically and conceptually) sci-fi and action of the last twenty years it's a huge letdown.
February 05, 2010
Thanks! Yeah, this wasn't one of my favorite pcitures of the year although money talks. I didn't think this a horrible film but I one would've expected better with all the hype surrounding it. Then again, I don't usually gravitate towards films with a great deal of popularity. *Cough* Paranormal Activity?
February 03, 2010
Wow, you've brought up points that I've never even thought about before. I've analyzed it a bit, and saw the political undertones, but never thought about the anti-human aspect of it. Interesting... thanks for sharing, Brian!
February 05, 2010
Thanks Devora! I expected a ton of hate mail & your angry lunchers but so far people are taking the review pretty well or as well as could be expected. I saw a lot of parallels here as far political undertones go or the whole anti-human aspect but I still ride the fence on the film for the most part. I don't love it but I couldn't go so far as to say I hate it either. Glad that you took the time to read my review and leave valuable feedback. Thanks Deb!! ;-)
February 05, 2010
My pleasure! Fortunately, mostly Lunchers are very respectful of other people's differences :)
February 03, 2010
I liked it a lot, enough to give it a 4, but the film is being way too over-hyped and the prospect of two sequels is just so annoyingly predictable.
February 05, 2010
I wouldn't even bother with the sequels if they ever see the light of day. I've had my fill with this one I'm afraid. I didn't hate it but it's truly overrated & the hype surrounding it is enough to suffocate the rats. Then again, Cenobite doesn't usually gravitate to this kind of film per se. Not implying that it's out of my element but I felt like I'd seen it all somewhere else before.
February 05, 2010
Yeah, almost all of the characters and story elements were either archetypal or stereotypes, but I think what I appreciated most about the film was the direction. Cameron may not be able to tell a very original or well-written story, but he sure knows how to direct the hell out of one. Considering that I knew pretty much exactly how the film was going to unfold in the first ten minutes, it still managed to move me because of his direction as well as some strong performances (including the CGI characters).
February 05, 2010
Actually, it goes back even futher than that. In LotR, Tolkien has Wringwraiths riding what he simply refers to as fell beasts, but they're clearly dragons and in mythology there were characters who sometimes rode dragons, though most were evil.
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Brian ()
Ranked #28
I've spent years trying to make others happy & not really focusing on what's most important in my own life. Having said that, my own health & security are paramount so now I'm more … more
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About this movie


Avatar is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na'vi—a sentient humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi and human hybrid bodies used by several human characters to interact with the natives of Pandora.

Development on Avatar began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, for a planned release in 1999, but according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film. Work on the language for the film's extraterrestrial beings began in summer 2005, and Cameron began developing the screenplay and fictional universe in early 2006.

Avatar was officially budgeted at US$237 million. Other estimates put the cost between $280 million and $310 million for production, and at $150 million for promotion. The film was released for traditional two-dimensional projectors, as well as in 3-D, using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, and also in ...

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Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: December 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: James Cameron
Runtime: 162 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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