Author Topic: James Cameron's Avatar  (Read 22524 times)

Offline Redjack

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #15 on: December 19, 2009, 06:22:03 pm »
You will remember this year as the year the game changed.

While the plot was somewhat standard, it was also nowhere near the point. Cameron's people have achieved with AVATAR what no one, not ILM, not PIXAR, not DREAMWORKS or SONY or any of the others have managed, a TRULY photorealistic reality that is 100% computer generated. This is not one more incremental step forward. It is a quantum leap.

And the tropes Jenn cites are sort of present but nowhere near as cut and dried as she makes out. Not all films, hell not even most films, are meant to be challenging. We all love a story with a happy end. That isn't the point either. It's getting there. That is the point. How you get there and what you see and feel on the way.

This is a MUST SEE film.

MUST.

If you wait for dvd you will not be seeing this film. Not even close.
Soon you will come to know. When the bullet hits the bone.

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #16 on: December 19, 2009, 09:49:14 pm »

Offline Emperorjones

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #17 on: December 20, 2009, 03:13:49 am »
Really good article. I didn't even realize all that was going on. And I never thought to put Dune in that category, but looking back, yeah, I guess it does fit.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #18 on: December 20, 2009, 08:03:31 am »
Really good article.


Co-sign. Thanks for posting it, Jenn.

A quote from the article:
Quote
Afro-Canadian scifi writer Nalo Hopkinson recently told the Boston Globe:
"In the US, to talk about race is to be seen as racist. You become the problem because you bring up the problem. So you find people who are hesitant to talk about it."

She adds that the main mythic story you find in science fiction, generally written by whites, "is going to a foreign culture and colonizing it."

Sure, Avatar goes a little bit beyond the basic colonizing story. We are told in no uncertain terms that it's wrong to colonize the lands of native people. Our hero chooses to join the Na'vi rather than abide the racist culture of his own people. But it is nevertheless a story that revisits the same old tropes of colonization. Whites still get to be leaders of the natives - just in a kinder, gentler way than they would have in an old Flash Gordon flick or in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
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Offline KIP LEWIS

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #19 on: December 20, 2009, 05:45:54 pm »

Offline Redjack

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #20 on: December 20, 2009, 06:17:59 pm »
here's the comment i posted there.


It's difficult to refute this article as it relates to AVATAR without  spoiling the end of the film which I will never do.

However, there is a fundamental fallacy at work in the criticism of this specific film that allows the author and interviewee to link it to those others. I'm sorry to say it is the result of extremely shallow thinking.

This is not DANCES WITH WOLVES. It is not JOHN CARTER, WARLORD OF MARS. To describe AVATAR that way reveals not only the lens through the film was viewed but also the complete misunderstanding of what makes AVATAR very much not those other works or, in fact cut from their cloth.

Because this is a SCIFI film, the "White Hero" has an opportunity to do something NONE of the others on the walk of shame did. That primary, fundamental difference, at the end of the film, is what sets this film and its hero apart from those others.

The "Great White Savior" myth and the Hollywood Trope it spawned depends entirely on the notion that all the "races" are distinct from each other with the white "race" standing solidly at the apex of the hierarchical tree. Thus, whenever said GWS shows up in a savage, native, low tech environment it is, of course, incumbent  upon him (always him) to teach the savages a better way.

But that is NOT the theme that binds AVATAR. Indeed there's no pretense of subtlety that the film's message is about the interconnectedness of all forms.  The hero's final act is not one that follows the trope of either "noble savage" or "great white savior" but rather the very easily discerned, "Hey. Idiots. We're all in this together. Figure it out."

"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together," as the poet sang. It's such an obvious metaphor I'm flabbergasted that ANYONE, much less another writer, missed it so completely.

In my opinion anyone who did manage to miss that message  when watching this film, considering the hammer Mr. Cameron used to get the point across, is being obtuse. Perhaps willfully.

All this talk about the old movie and cultural tropes is fine and, as far as it goes, perfectly accurate. That has been the pattern of Western fiction pretty much since there has been Western fiction. But, if you're going to criticize the pattern, you have to applaud when someone breaks it.

In my opinion AVATAR does that.

Go and watch it again and see if you don't change your mind.

This time pay attention to the hero's journey and how it changes him.

Soon you will come to know. When the bullet hits the bone.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #21 on: December 20, 2009, 07:10:24 pm »
I'm looking forward to seeing Avatar. Mostly because of the comments in this thread.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2009, 07:34:28 pm by Curtis Metcalf »
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
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Offline KIP LEWIS

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2009, 07:32:04 pm »
Avatar--special effects alone are worth it.  3D,  I noticed it in beginning, but by the heart of story, I didn't really notice it. I don't know if that was because they were seemless, I was really into the story or both.

The story was cliche or predictable, but I still liked it.  Though I did find it weird cheering for the humans to be crushed underfoot.

Offline The Dark Wright

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2009, 10:46:36 pm »
I'm looking forward to seeing Avatar. Mostly because of the comments in this thread.

As do I.

Jenn

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2009, 10:55:19 pm »
here's the comment i posted there.

All of that to basically say "you're stupid and wrong, neener-neener-neener"? Simplify, SIMPLIFY!

Offline Redjack

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #25 on: December 21, 2009, 12:56:59 am »
No.

I took the initial comments seriously enough to give them a serious response. And, yes, they did miss the point which seems odd considering how completely glaringly obvious that point was.

Almost as if they went in with preconceived notions about how they would interpret the film before knowing what it was actually about.

But that couldn't be, could it?

Nah.  That would be unfair.
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Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #26 on: December 21, 2009, 02:26:01 am »
Hmmm, I didn't find that conclusion the paradigm buster that you did, Red.

Offline Vic Vega

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2009, 07:26:56 am »
I read the article. But I havenít seen the film yet.

Iím guessing that the sticking point for the filmís detractors is that in Avatar, the hero is granted all the benefits of ďgoing nativeĒ and little of the drawbacks(note: having to fight in a war in this kind of movie isnít a drawback-its how the hero proves his worth).

This would be different from the situation of the poor mope who is the hero of District 9. There is no upside for him-he spends the entire movie wanting to go back to his status quo.

Thing is you canít really compare the two movies. Wikus is forced into his situation and never sees anything of value in the Alien culture he gets thrown in. He didnít ďgo nativeĒ. Heís a victim of an industrial accident.

The earth guy in Avatar IS a native as far as that planet is concerned. This isnít like James Calvellís Shogun where the white guy gets in good with the guys in charge. Technically the Avatar guy is not white anymore.

It may be a minor distinction but itís there.

Jenn

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #28 on: December 21, 2009, 07:35:42 am »
Hmmm, I didn't find that conclusion the paradigm buster that you did, Red.

Well, that's because you're stupid and unenlightened. It's so OBVIOUS, and you'd know that if you weren't so OBTUSE. If you blah blah blah blah blah, you wouldn't MISS THE POINT. Because it's not like you could have gotten the point and just...I don't know...disagreed.

Offline Redjack

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Re: James Cameron's Avatar
« Reply #29 on: December 21, 2009, 08:31:06 am »
Hmmm, I didn't find that conclusion the paradigm buster that you did, Red.



SPOILERS BELOW






In all the other films, in the books like John Carter, the hero "goes native" either successfully or unsuccessfully but, regardless of outward trappings, he remains his original self. You're never going to confuse him for one of "the people" because, on a  very basic physical level he can never be one of them. In each of the old cases, the now native Great White Hero, subtly or dramatically changes the "savages" with his new ways and new ideas so there's a sense that he's improving them by joining them. This is invariable. It happens every time. In AVATAR it doesn't. The hero does NOT change Na'Vi society. He doesn't alter their beliefs or in any way move them toward his way of thinking. He is transformed by contact with them. Completely. He starts the film PARALYZED. How's that for a metaphor?

In the terms of the original article, this isn't a white person acting like a brown person. This is a white person, literally, becoming one, by choice. And not with a secret get-out-of-jail-free card. For real. Forever.

In this case the hero not only embraces the interconnectedness of things on an intellectual "spiritual" level, adopting the "faith" and customs of the "noble savages "  but he PHYSICALLY BECOMES one of them, leaving his old body behind. Not because he must. Not because he's dying and it's the only way to save him (he's not and it's not) but because he has had such a complete "spiritual" change that he risks death, by free choice, in order to achieve the matching physical change. IOW: Death is preferable to him than spending one more day in his old frame of reference. He COMPLETELY rejects everything about being human in favor of the Pandoran life.

It's not subtle.

The "aliens" are those who despoil Nature, who take themselves outside the very literal circle of Life presented on Pandora. In fact Cameron, via Sigourney Weaver's character "Grace," takes pains the point out that the Na'Vi beliefs are NOT "spiritual" mumbo jumbo but a real, measurable, PHYSICAL, interconnectedness with their planet. Science. It's something human beings, as human beings, do NOT experience and, in fact, can't.  Only by becoming a Pandoran (any living creature on Pandora) can a human being understand the Pandoran experience. It's not a difference of religious faith or techno-superiority. It is literally throwing off everything you once were to become part of the circle. Their dead aren't ghosts or whisked off to some fictional Paradise. Their minds, and what is a soul but a mind without a body, are preserved, PHYSICALLY, in the plantlife of the planet. Not metaphorically. Actually. Etc.

What is the lesson here? The Na'Vi way is the right way. The audience member is meant to take the message of the film and apply it to their life as best they can. Embrace the circle. Throw off the old, COMPLETELY. Become the new thing which means, no matter who you are, you're part of the circle. And not that bullsh*t Disney circle with the talking lions and the singing. The circle that keeps us from killing ourselves off. Shift your paradigm or die. And it's not subtle. Not even close to subtle. Just like it's not subtle that "Grace" gets to meet "god" but DOESN'T get to be Na'Vi. Why? Because she wasn't actually embracing them, only agreeing with them. She stayed human right to the end. She couldn't cross over because she couldn't cross over. LIke I said, James Cameron is not a a surgeon; he's a blacksmith. He uses blunt tools, hammers primarily, to get his story points across. So, if people miss those points, it makes me wonder why.

I don't think I have to justify this position by reminding people where I come down on most matters having to do with "race." It's usually me pointing out the MANY ugly things that Hollywood does to reinforce the old crap views. This movie breaks those old rules and pretty bluntly. I'd hate to see it get slapped with the same label as all those others when it's so clearly not part of that pack.

EDIT:

The writers of the article did NOT get the point. They didn't get it and disagree with it. They saw a film through a lens of "race" and made a faulty analysis of it due to their preconceived prejudices.  The critique is not legitimate because it creates a false impression of the actual film. It's perfectly fine not to like anything an artist presents but you have to accurately describe it when making a critique. That was not done in this case and so the ensuing conclusions and the opinion that came from them are false and unjustified.

This is why I advise seeing it again with a sober mind and simply watching the hero's journey.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2009, 12:13:54 pm by Redjack »
Soon you will come to know. When the bullet hits the bone.