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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Avatar is Overrated

After seeing Avatar in the theater, I couldn’t help but think of the importance of hype in the success or failure of a movie. As it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, the same forces are at work.

Before the viewing public ever saw the film, the powers that be had already determined that it was the best movie ever. Commercial after commercial made sure everyone knew that “fact,” and we all pretty much did what we were told and went to see it in record-breaking numbers. The film was marketed to children, which was completely off base as I remember the film, but the strategy worked in jacking up ticket sales. Laughably, Avatar was nominated for “Best Picture” at the Oscars.

As the owner of, I hope people buy and download this movie as the must-have we’re all being told it is. Just don’t blame me when you realize the movie is nowhere near great, toys with being just plain bad, and is way too long.

My interest in going to the see movie was predicated on the fact that it featured a character with a disability, especially one who was given the opportunity to experience being able-bodied after having incurred injuries paralyzing him from the waist down. Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) is a marine who has become a paraplegic while serving his country, and is recruited to replace his brother in the Avatar program because his DNA matches that of his brother, a scientist who had been killed. Part of the program is to transform people into Na’vi, inhabitants of Pandora. In a bit of a twisted story line in this sci-fi flick, Sully is promised that he will receive the operation he needs to have his spine repaired for his role in the program.

Apparently, if such an operation ever becomes reality, we wouldn’t want to simply give it to military personnel injured in the line of duty – or anyone else for that matter.

Besides a brief instant when Jake is first transformed into his Na’vi body and is a bit reckless in his jubilation over being able to run again, the emotion that would no doubt come with such a situation is ignored. This is especially appalling as the Jake actually goes back and forth between having and not having a disability as if it was nothing. Producer James Cameron should have been embarrassed, not lauded, by such shoddy storytelling.

The problems for the movie certainly didn’t stop there. First of all, whenever Sully needs to return to his normal existence, he simply goes to sleep in the world of Pandora. It was absurd. And of course it’s never a problem until the most critical point in the story. Plus, Sully was supposed to be infiltrating the civilization, yet Sigourney Weaver’s character – Dr. Grace Augustine, another fake Na’vi – was already embedded in their world.

Hello? The whole basis of the story is undercut, but the film is heralded as one of the best ever?

The worst part of the movie, besides the fact that it’s at least an hour longer than it needs to be, is that the premise for infiltrating the civilization on another planet is to take the natural resources from the ground they live on. Obviously, it was reminiscent of the American history of over running Indian tribes as colonists settled in what became North America. But the problem is that there’s no realization on the part of the Americans that they’re doing something horrific. Even the “heroes” who eventually help the Na’vi fight back do so for personal reasons as opposed to any sense that the plan they initially bought into was morally deplorable.

Be fascinated by the high-tech graphics if you must, but don’t believe the hype that says Avatar is a great movie.

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