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Old March 5 2012, 09:39 PM   #336
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Re: Movies Seen in 2012

36. Avatar (B-)

Avatar: My girlfriend somehow missed this when it came out in 2009, and since I hadn't seen the nearly three hour cut produced for home video, I thought I'd give it a whirl. Most of my objections still remain, although my dislike for the film has been tempered somewhat. Visually, it's stunning, although the digital effects still aren't quite photo-realistic.

As far as the extended, three hour cut goes, I think it's mostly an improvement. It provides Grace with some more backstory and allows Jake's development with the Na'Vi to happen at a slightly slower, more believable pace. The time spent on Earth in the opening ten minutes drags, though. As fun as it is to see that world (mostly derivative of Blade Runner, visually) the opening of the theatrical version offers the same information in a fraction of the time, and is much more cinematic, overall.

As far as my objections go, they're still the same, albeit slightly tempered. For the most part, the movie is as subtle as a jack-hammer. It pounds its allegory at the audience repeatedly. The dialogue can be a little silly, too, and it is dreadfully expository in the first thirty minutes (which is probably why the actors -- even Sigourney Weaver -- deliver rather awkward performances in the first act). Sam Worthington is acceptable, but rarely great, in the leading role, possibly due to his attempt at an American accent, which is inconsistent at best. It doesn't help that he has to deliver so much voice over, which is mostly unnecessary. I suspect most, if not all, could be culled from the movie and only enhance it.

As has been observed elsewhere, the "Mighty Whitey" trope is in full force. As an outsider, Jake Sully possesses a certain usefulness in terms of explaining the world of Pandora to the audience, but his path from being a total outsider towards leading the Na'Vi (at least, the Tree People) in a matter of months is painfully reminiscent of colonial discourse. As an allegory for European colonialism in Africa, the film doesn't work (It's much more a fantasy of white guilt). Considering his utter betrayal of the Na'Vi after he mates with Neytiri, the fact that she quickly (even in the extended cut) takes him back and apologizes to him is a little hard to swallow.

I rather like that Neytiri, not Jake, defeats the villain at the end. It's a nice subversion of our expectations of the princess in peril. There are other nice moments as well; as I've observed before, I really like the exchange between Quaritch and Sully about their military service, which subtly alludes to oil wars in Nigeria and Venezuela without directly stating it.

Theatres: 15
Home Video: 19 +1
Computer: 2
"This begs explanation." - de Forest Research on Star Trek

My blog: Star Trek Fact Check.
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