Along with the rest of the world, I shrugged my shoulders recently at the new trailer for the forthcoming Avatar sequel. I always thought this was the dumbest of all the dumb action movies, a film that seemed to exist only so that people could talk about how much it all cost.
It being mid-week, and because I’m paying for Disney+ (still! Can I cancel it yet, kids?), I thought I’d rewatch the original last week. I did so over two nights, partly to see if it was as stupid as I remembered it being. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a kind of fascinated horror at what has become of popular film. Can it really be this bad?
Yes, it can. I don’t have much to say about Avatar, and I’m sure none of my thoughts are original, but it really is truly, shockingly, stupid and bad—to the point where my mind boggles that there was any momentum for a sequel.
Item: hanging in the sky over the planet of Pandora, is (among other orbiting bodies) a gas giant. Now, I’m no scientist, but I imagine that an orbiting gas giant would generate massive tidal forces (think daily earthquakes and volcanic eruptions) as well as massive amounts of radiation. Basically, everybody would be living underground, if at all.
Sure. I know “Pandora” is a metaphor or something and the whole film is a metaphor and it’s the plot of Pocahontas etc., but still: dumb. Looks cool, but still dumb.
Item: unobtanium. Yeah, yeah, metaphorical maguffin, but fucksake: dumb.
Item: it’s a cartoon. There’s a line you cross when there’s more CGI than live action, and this film crossed it a million miles back. And like all CGI, no matter how “great” it is at the time of release, it looks shite after a few years. Avatar is a very expensive and very very stupid Saturday morning cartoon for a generation raised on such rubbish.
One of the reasons the idea of an Avatar sequel gives me the heebs is the memory of those 3D glasses. I think it was the first and last film I tried to see wearing glasses-over-my-glasses, and I swore never again. What a horrible, isolating experience. We already know I’m turned off by IMAX, and I’m doubly turned off by 3D.
I sometimes think about those people who bought a 3D television set. Do they still have them? Do they ever use the glasses that came with it? How many of them ended up in landfill? That kind of thing.
I think of Avatar as a landfill movie. So chock-full of really stupid ideas, cartoon violence, destruction, and howlingly bad dialogue that it needs to be buried in a really deep hole. In the end, although the blue people “win”, the amount of destruction visited upon their planet was so great that you can’t imagine they’d have much of a life. (Still, they would have been used to destruction from all the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by the gas giant in the sky.) Avatar leaves us with the uncomfortable message that perhaps there would have been less damage, less suffering, fewer deaths, more to live for, if the blue people had just surrendered everything the humans wanted. You win, you lose.
All of which makes it seem like a foreshadowing of what is happening to the “yellow and blue” people as they fight off the invasion force from the Country to the East. You might fight them to a standstill, but you’re left with wrecked cities, a ruined economy, a traumatised population, and food shortages. Like Britain in 1945, and look where we ended up: with a government of cartoon villains.