Avatar Backlash and What Cameron Should Do Next

10 Feb

As you may remember, back in December I reviewed this new big movie called Avatar. After raving about everything (except some of the characters and the general storyline), I wrote, “the journey of Avatar is far from over. I’m afraid that the almost unanimously positive reviews partnered with a historical box office debut could lead to the same strong backlash that James Cameron experienced with Titanic. Who knows, the movie that is currently being adored could be next year’s biggest joke.” When I said it, however, I didn’t really imagine that the “next year” I spoke of would be in the first two months of 2010. Yet here it is.

From AvatarSucks.com (not that I necessarily recommend visiting and boosting the view count): a page of unorganized pictures and rants.

Complaints and mockeries of Avatar are becoming more and more prevalent, despite the fact that it continues to hold strong at the box office (dethroned from the top spot only this last weekend, after seven weeks). I recently watched a two-part video describing what made Avatar so terrible. Now, I was very open to this review because the person who made it, Mike Stoklasa of Red Letter Media, also made very insightful criticisms in a 50-minute review of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace that I hadn’t previously heard or thought of myself. Despite the cleverness of his previous reflections and the fact that there is probably a lot to say about Avatar, the videos generally fail at doing either successfully. At first some fair points are brought up, but as the review goes on the focus turns to how James Cameron was able to make a movie that audiences like. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that as a flaw.

Comparing the movie to District 9, Stoklasa says that Cameron “took the easy route with character design for the Na’vi,” making them “a little too perfect” by giving them “Disney Eyes,” “animal elements,” and “sexualization.” To me this doesn’t sound like things Cameron got wrong, but things he got right. He was able to make bizarre and beautiful looking characters that we can sympathize with in a way that wasn’t meant to surprise us as in the case with District 9. In fact, when asked to compare the two films in an interview on Slashfilm, Cameron said, “it’s a real triumph [for District 9], because the aliens are so unsympathetic looking… It’s almost the opposite choice that I made on Avatar. I didn’t feel I was doing truly a science fiction film, I think of it more as a fantasy… And for me, it was important that my so-called alien people be completely relatable, because they’re my main characters. You’re not having a continuous human viewpoint to interpret them through. You go live with them and you essentially become one of them, and they have to make sense to you emotionally. So that was a choice that was made very early on.” So there you go! Not only does everyone else realize that Cameron created more attractive characters, he completely admits to it. If you’re going to criticize the movie, at least do it well, and maybe point out something that people hadn’t previously considered.

James Cameron and Sam Worthington

Now, I’ve defended Avatar a lot, and that’s because I think it is a solid fantasy film that is both stunning and revolutionary. However, it is not a brilliant movie. We all know that. The script is mediocre, the characters are clichés, and the plot is predictable. And that’s okay because it makes for a popular film that all sorts of people who generally wouldn’t like fantasy can get behind and follow. While I’m happy that Avatar is doing as well as it is, I, along with many others, was not so keen on it winning Best Picture at the Golden Globes. Looking around the room at all of the actors and directors and writers and producers, almost none of them seem very happy with the result. In fact, when Cameron tells them all to give themselves a round of applause for having “the best job in the world,” there is an awkward smattering of applause. Not only are the people who were slighted by the award pick despondent, as is to be expected, but almost every other person in the room looks as though they’ve just had the award stolen from them. I found myself realizing that the film didn’t deserve as high a position as I had given it on my Top Ten of 2009 list, for I wanted Inglourious Basterds to win all the more. And going past my favoritism I would have much preferred The Hurt Locker or Up in the Air to win Best Picture, because they were BETTER PICTURES.

James Cameron and Avatar Cast at Golden Globes

So what can be the best thing for Avatar now? For it to lose both Best Director and Best Picture at the Academy Awards. If Cameron wants it to remain a film that people love and want to see sequels to, he should be praying right now that he doesn’t win the Oscar for either category. That way the hostile responses will be lessened, he can make a sequel that will do well at the box office, and he can also work on a better script that could potentially win Best Picture in the future.

Still want him to make me a Navi Avatar,

Lara

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One Response to “Avatar Backlash and What Cameron Should Do Next”

  1. breadtobeeaten February 13, 2010 at 3:59 am #

    Preach.

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