The following is part of the The Great Movie Debate Blogathon taking place September 13 & 14th, hosted by Aurora at Citizen Screenings and Tim at The Cinematic Packrat . For this blogathon, we film bloggers were assigned with an interesting concept: choose a film and argue for or against it with another blogger taking the other side of the argument.
Okay, so maybe I have yet to coerce a partner in crime to take the opposing side of my argument. But I did know it would be interesting for me to pick a film to oppose. After all, I tend to mostly write about the films I enthusiastically support in a positive tone. So what a nice change of pace to pick a film I loathe. In that spirit, I humbly offer you, AVATAR (2009).
James Cameron’s AVATAR (2009) is one of those films that created a great deal of buzz when it was released. At a whopping budget of $237,000,000, this film turned out to be a record-breaker and became the highest grossing film in history, surpassing 2.5 billion dollars. Realizing that, there’s a distinct possibility I will be in the minority on this but I’m willing to stick my neck out anyway.
I’d say my first beef with AVATAR (2009) lies in how deja vu it all is. Does this story seem familiar to you? It should. Besides being such an obvious formula film, it doesn’t even try to enhance a tired out plot used before. Some say it’s a repeat of POCAHONTAS (1995), or FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST (1992) or DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990). Yes, yes, and yes. You know… it’s where the main character is a guy (generally a caucasian male) who is part of a larger group of people (aka invaders) trying to destroy or harm the living space or way of life of an indigenous group’s community and the main guy falls for an indigenous female, in the midst of his people trying to destroy her people.
Some how the end is supposed to be a message of “why can’t we all just get along” or “because I can suddenly see this indigenous gal as ‘normal as me,’ why can’t the rest of us and I guess we shouldn’t destroy her home and society” or something along those lines. Despite this beloved plot, that has been repeated countless times over, history proves that our behavior in real life seems to reject this notion of better understanding. Racism and imperialistic attitudes continue on. But I digress.
Secondly, the fact that James Cameron took such time and painstaking care of what he deemed his masterpiece- his self-claimed game changer in filming, yet it was only impressive in technology, it frankly disappointed. Yes, the CGI effects were cool. But for me, it was only ‘cool’ because we were told by the filmmakers how much work was involved behind the scenes in this new process. I realize it’s naive for me to see the end product and think, “meh, that’s nice but would I have been just as impressed by the standard level of computer animation or the old-fashioned kind if the characters were developed more- or it had a better twist on this tired old plot?”
When they over-CGI a film, I feel a disconnect to the film. That is unless the filmmaker takes the time to pay as much attention to the plot and the characters. [Example of CGI executed better (to me): Peter Jackson’s KING KONG (2005) worked well because Naomi Watts characterization made me believe this beast was worth the emotional investment and the storytelling was done right with constant nail-biting, adventurous plot details, despite already loving the 1933 version so much.] Otherwise, it feels like the kid who has the coolest gadget in the neighborhood but refuses to let anyone else play with it. We become uninterested because we don’t feel like we’re involved. Great filmmaking still makes an emotional connection through authentic characters and great storytelling.