The problem(s) with Avatar - Tree of Souls - An Avatar Community Forum
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Old 12-30-2012, 12:14 PM
Ketuwong
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Default The problem(s) with Avatar

I was very interested in a thread on AF about why some people hate Avatar, which was a bit one sided since it turns out that it`s very hard to get registered on the site. Since I was declared a potential spammer after trying to register I thought I`d come here and air my views, and find out what you have to say.

Like many people I went out and watched Avatar when it was released in 09 and have watched it once more on DVD. I liked the spectacle, the graphics and thought the actors were very good. Given that this site is what it is though I`ll skip the parts I like which everyone will agree with and go into the problems I had with it.

1: The movie is deeply moralizing. There`s nothing wrong with morality but when it`s forced on you without the proper context it can become a major annoyance to many people.
Specifically the themes of war, genocide, environmentalism and imperialism, which are real problems, can be exploited for political gain, just like anything else. When you go as a poor schmuck to the movies to get a break you usually don`t expect to get blamed for massacring native Americans, being a greedy corporate slime bag, starting wars for profit or destroying the environment when you can barely keep the lights on in the middle of a depression.
Rich people are doing these things, not normal people in my view. Yet in Avatar you get a real sense that all humans are evil, greedy monsters. Except scientists mind you, which might be a message all by itself.

2: As a result of 1: Avatar causes self loathing, depression and anti human sentiments to be formed in the audience, whether intended or not. What strikes me as alarming when I read through Avatar sites is how uniform the contempt for humanity is, in other words direct self contempt. By transcending into a virtual reality there is a notion that you can somehow be saved from your own degradation and no longer be human. When one can`t depression is the result.
But we have not destroyed the planet. Not yet. And if/when we do you can be sure it will be the handiwork of a small, unaccountable elite of genocidal freaks and fanatics whose last thought is ever listening to what the people actually want- That`s not how you become powerful after all- It will not be our fault when it happens.
We have also not personally committed genocide, invaded for example Iraq and Libya to steal oil, tortured and otherwise bothered millions of innocent people, or lied about it in the MSM afterwards.
To top it off there are multiple examples of political messages that are very explicitly added by Cameron. Guns are bad, money is bad and scientists are good. But guns are good if you need to defend yourself against someone with guns, money is only bad today because it`s a symbol of debt instead of production and scientists set up the 3rd Reich and the Soviet Union. Clearly there could have been room for some nuances here, instead of the bludgeon of political correctness Cameron seems to have been reduced to. I like to imagine how people would have received Avatar and how they would have viewed the Na`vi, if they had been busy cutting each other`s hearts out in rituals or if they`d been busy with inter tribal wars of genocide, like many native populations on Earth actually were when they were "discovered". Or for that matter if they had been ugly, fat, had two heads and one eye, looked like Klingons, jellyfish or insects. The Disney like psychology that went into the design of the Na`vi, combined with sexuality, is manipulation of such a base kind that it should make people insulted. Instead they love it, leading me to feel like an alien.

3: The story is too polarized. The bad guys are satirical bad guys, making Henry III look like a brooding, complex figure in comparison. Some of the dialogue written for Miles Quaritch is simply embarrassing. It`s not even that someone this primitive couldn`t exist somewhere in the US Army- an odious organization by any standards- but when he looks like an adult you sorta hope he`s gonna act like he`s an adult.
On the other hand the Na`vi are too blissfully perfect and noble. So called primitive peoples might be like them, sort of, but usually they`re not. The Aztecs sacrificed as many as 10 000 people pr week in Tenochtitlan when the Spanish arrived. More than 60% of central African tribes practised cannibalism in pre colonial times. North American Indians would expose the eldest member of a tribe when a baby was born, forcing them to die of thirst and hunger - a very unpleasant death I`m sure-. and reading about what went on while European cultures were "primitive" makes me wish we could all just go back and start over without all the insanity. If the Na`vi are based on any of this they are highly unrealistic.

3: Based on 2: The script therefore is primitive because the characters are stereotypes being used to sell a political message, to the extent they`re not Lassie like brand starters of fake innocence and beauty. You always know what each of the characters is going to do because that`s just how they are, and as a result there`s no real developmental arch for anybody. The exception I guess is Jake Sully, but then he wasn`t at all happy with his situation in the wheelchair to begin with. Like the depressed victims of Avatar he was rearing to go from the first scene without looking back. Script wise it would have been much better if Sully had been one of the evil taxpayers destroying trees before he was converted, instead of being very much an outsider from the start. Apart from this it`s all emotion, which might be all some people need in movies these days. I`m not judging that if it`s the case, just pointing out that some of us need the dialogue to be crisp, the characters to be interesting, as opposed to blue, emotional, half naked tribalists with prehensile tails/reproductive organs. Or for that matter drab know it alls remembering the 60s (Sig Weaver) or crazed genocide fetishists (S Lang).
I realize that in an allegory some sense of the archetypical is needed to communicate the subtextuality underneath the actual narrative. But when it`s this crass and full of political wedge issues it just gets too much. If you read Aristofanes` The Birds you`ll see a very clear example of something being told through an allegory, and although it was political too you never get the sense that the allegory was there to push a political agenda. Rather the allegory abstracted something that couldn`t be discussed in prose because it would get people all emotional. This is the purpose of allegories. Instead of staying in a general, wide, political allegory as for example Lord of the Rings, Cameron wades into every controversial theme he can find, from racism and imperialism to trans humanism and genocide.
If you`re gonna do that you need to camouflage it better than this. You might not need quite as much bio-luminescence then

Considering all this it is impossible for me personally to enjoy Avatar or appreciate anything about it other than the visual effects. On my initial viewing I was more immersed and didn`t notice everything until mulling it over on my way home. But watching it again on DVD with my antennae out was dreadful. It`s a shame though, since with all the work that was thrown into it you`d think they could have found the time and money to splash on a decent script and dialogue. Since they didn`t I`ll go back to Sunshine, Moon and District 9. Three of the only proper sci fis (as opposed to trans-humanist propaganda films) to come out over the last few years.

Please be gentle

Last edited by SKull; 12-30-2012 at 01:06 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-30-2012, 02:23 PM
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(Also, while the OP is not the most charitable of interpretations, I'm willing to bet that the responses are going to be even less frriendly. )
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Last edited by Clarke; 12-30-2012 at 02:29 PM.
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Old 12-30-2012, 03:25 PM
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^ Mind passing the popcorn....though eating it in a flame retardant suit might be difficult.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:47 PM
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Meh. It's hard to get too excited about this topic after three years, to be honest. Some people don't like the movie, some people do -- kind of like how some people enjoy watching professional sports, and others (like me) just can't imagine what anybody gets out of doing that. I mean, if I'm going to root for a blood-sucking corporation, I'll root for the one that *pays me*, not the other way around! Sheesh. </rant>

As with any other movie, it's possible to fixate on certain things about Avatar that aren't perfect, or are even "bad" by some measures. Sure, there are some groaner lines, some similarities between the storyline and other movies' storylines, and some stereotypical characters. Still, for some of us, the whole is simply greater than the sum of the parts. Is it "Dances With Wolves in Space?" I don't know. Maybe! But if it is, well... I like the Space version a lot better.

For me, Avatar is mostly just a great "escape" to another world. For others, it was more about the messages of environmental stewardship, embracing our differences, etc. (Not that those messages were lost on me, by the way!) For still others, it was none of these things, or even nothing in particular. We're all different. I can't get too upset about that!
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:36 PM
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tl:dr

All three of these problems have been designed and applied into the film. I think we all agree none of them can come by an accident.

You say that "with all the work that was thrown into it you`d think they could have found the time and money to splash on a decent script and dialogue", but they didn't even try. I'm absolutely sure they didn't choose to do that. With the slap on the face attitude Avatar was able to draw people to the theater again and again. They wanted it to bring in money and it sure did that.

I think you'd enjoy the story in The original Avatar scriptment, which is arguably better than the one in the movie

EDIT: Just adding my opinion here as well:
These problem's don't bother me because I the world is doomed and I generally agree with the movies message. Great visuals, great action, and a story that hits me. I like

Last edited by Fosus; 12-30-2012 at 09:52 PM.
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  #6  
Old 12-31-2012, 06:37 PM
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**** Avatar-Forum.
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O vos ómnes qui transítis per víam, atténdite et vidéte
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  #7  
Old 01-01-2013, 02:26 AM
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Read the book Original Wisdom and you may conclude that the Sng'oi people were every bit as innocent and noble as the Na'vi.
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  #8  
Old 01-02-2013, 10:38 AM
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Well, every person has priorities. The problems that the OP finds in the movie are not problems for me.

My enthusiasm for Avatar has wained. And since then there have been a couple of movies that have equalled Avatar in terms of their impact on me. But I will always remember Avatar as one of the movies that had the most impact on me. I will never forget that magical feeling I felt after watching Avatar for the first time. A feeling that lasted several months.

Avatar appeals to me on a spiritual level in a way that no other movie does. So the apparent flaws are completely out-weighed by the things I like. In the end others will have other priorities, and that is fine.

The key for me in determining my top movie is answering one question: Would I enthusiastically watch the movie several times over time? The answer to the question is yes for me with regards to Avatar, as long with handful of other movies.

In the end, I like Avatar and these movies because they appeal to me. No argument will persuade me that the movies are bad, in the sakes way that no fan of Apocalypse Now will persuade me that the movie is good.

Last edited by neytirifanboy; 01-02-2013 at 10:42 AM.
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