Friday, December 11, 2009

Avatar: Stunningly Bored?

Ohhh . . . it feels good to be a blowhard again.

From what I've read, the film is exactly like Titanic, a film of breath-taking garbage, fantastic drivel, beautiful twaddle. As something to get your mind around, Titanic fails on so many levels that you'd need more space than the end-credits to list them. The entire plot follows: Girl from a wealthy family finds love and human meaning by rejecting the ridiculous and barren social prejudices of her class with the help of a lower-class sort of fellow who truly knows about life and the ship sinks. James Cameron could have told the same story while filming the Great Chicago Fire, the Battle of the Bulge, or janitors at Wal-Mart (as to that last, check out Career Opportunities for something that's at least intermittently intelligent).

To find out just how bad Titanic is compare it with A Night to Remember, the 1958 classic that's available through the Criterion Collection. ANR is a bit dry and documentary by modern standards, but at least you know why all the action happens on the Titanic. Or compare the 1960 film The Last Voyage about a family trapped on a sinking ocean liner. (By the way, for all the hype about water tanks used to film Titanic, the director of The Last Voyage actually filmed the movie aboard a sinking ocean liner). Like Titanic, the story of The Last Voyage doesn't have to occur on any particular ship. In fact the same story could be set on one of those silly pontoon boats you see on the local man-made lake. But you care about the family, and the film asks a subtle, nagging question -- would you give up trying to save the life of your spouse?

Titanic's story isn't about anything to do with the Titanic, and not even $200 million can make the romance in Lady Chatterly's Lover (or Anna Karenina, The Wild One, Rebel Without a Cause, Breakfast Club, Twilight, every movie shown on the Lifetime Channel, or every book published by Harlequin) fresh or interesting again. It's all right to like the film because of the special effects. I personally loved the spectacle of the great ship. But the hackneyed romance and jejune social commentary eventually had me rooting for the iceberg.

From what I read, Avatar is no different. It's a blindingly insightful and surprising story about greedy men from a technologically-advanced society destroying beautiful habitats and native cultures. One of the soldiers who serves the greedy technologically-advanced society falls in love with one of the natives. He begins to appreciate the beauty and dignity of native culture and eventually takes the natives' side against the evil greedy men who are trying to destroy them. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Who could have imagined such a story? Everybody who saw The Return of a Man Called Horse, Superman, Dances With Wolves or The Last Samurai, that's who.

I'm sure the special effects are stunning. They'd have to be, wouldn't they. Chris Rock's career wouldn't last very long if all he did was tell chicken-crossing-the-road jokes. Nobody would watch the Superbowl if the teams agreed to use exactly the same plays in the same order as the last Superbowl. But $100 million in special effects can get us interested in a CGI-enhanced chicken or "wardrobe accident." There's just something weird about people eager to hail a barren exercise in story re-telling, like a kid being overjoyed to get the same present as last Christmas because the wrapping paper has more pizazz. Dark speculations about the future of our culture arise, but I won't make them. I'll just say that the Athenians had it better, and Athenian playwrites had it tougher, because there's just so much you can do with a hoist.

5 comments:

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Neil A said...

grow some balls and go see Avatar; there is no worse arsehole than the one who thinks he can critique a movie without actually watching it. Retard.

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