More thoughts on Avatar

January 1, 2010

Many friends have said to me things like, “I agree with everything you say, but I liked it.” Many have claimed that the film’s special effects redeem the film’s derelict script and ramshackle construction. The question to be addressed is: why do we go to movies in the first place? There are plenty of valid answers, and your answer, I think, is directly related to how you should feel about seeing a film that is visually beautiful, but whose contents are downright fatuous. The BIG problem with Avatar, which makes it a kind of an exception, I think, is the film’s horrific hypocrisy. Consider David Denby’s comments in The New Yorker:

Nor is there much point in lingering over the irony that this anti-technology message is delivered by an example of advanced technology that cost nearly two hundred and fifty million dollars to produce; or that this anti-imperialist spectacle will invade every available theatre in the world.

Here, I have to disagree with Denby. Avatar was so good visually that the fact that the movie’s contents are so awful is incredibly sad. If it wasn’t so preachy, I probably would have liked it. But the point is exactly that the movie’s message runs directly contrary to its construction and its dissemination, and I don’t think we should praise a movie that decries technology because it is a great technological achievement.

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