Saturday, December 26, 2009

Avatar

First of all, there is something stereotypical and disturbing to me about going to a movie on Christmas, but apparently that is what people do now. You open presents, eat a lot, lie around, get bored looking at the lame TV offerings and at your family, and look in the paper to see what's playing at the local -plex. My brother and his family were visiting from Maryland (they have now gone on to New Orleans for their cruise!) and my son and nephew (same age) wanted to go to a movie. So we ended up paying $12.00 a piece to see 3-D Avatar at 7:50, missing our original choice of 2-D at 7:25. The place was packed (but not our particular theater for that particular showing).

My comments on the movie:
1. Why do I have to pay $3.00 extra for a 3-D movie? I did this two weeks ago for Christmas Carol. I can keep the glasses and save the money. I won't be going to any more and probably not to any more movies for a while.
2. The movie is worth seeing (but not worth $12.00--sorry, I'm a real cheapskate about these things). I would recommend it as a matinee. It is spectacularly beautiful, and if one erases from his/her mind any political or religious convictions, the story is enjoyable and exciting. The CGI and "real people" are almost seamless, and if I had not been looking so hard for that, I wouldn't have seen any flaws at all. I was not bored for the first two hours, not at all. And I particularly found myself confused, in a good way, about which world I was in. I could experience the main character's unsettling conflation of the two worlds, as he tells his log, "I don't know who I am anymore." I had to remind myself this was not The Matrix, but two real world.
3. All that said, the political and religious message is so heavy-handed that I don't think anybody would be swayed by it. If it is meant to idolize the native American culture, show me one that really has that kind of spiritual connection to the universe without being just as ethnocentric and jingoistic as any other culture. I don't know what hacked me off more when I walked out of the theater--the implication that all military people, especially Americans, commit and want to commit genocide, or that pagan spirituality actually makes for a better world for all people. Yes, I get it, we exploit the earth. Yes, I get it, Americans shouldn't have taken all that land from the Indians. Yes, I get it, we shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the way we did. Ho, hum. But the messenger is tainted, as he enjoys the benefits of this exploitation he preaches against.
4. The movie is too long, as is often true these days. When I watch old movies, I am often surprised by how truncated they seem, but movies of the last 15 years just seem to go on and on, especially with battle scenes. Villains nowadays are just harder to kill, I suppose--their DNA has evolved to where one bullet just won't do it, there have to be twenty. There is a difference between length and pacing for character development (which Avatar does well) and length that just comes from showoffy battle scenes.
So, it's superb, if you take the story for what it is, and not as allegory.

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