In defense of hating ‘Avatar’

| Senior Cadenza Editor
MCT Campus

MCT Campus

James Cameron’s “Avatar” left the Golden Globes last Sunday as the show’s biggest winner, taking home the Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director awards. These accolades have propelled the sci-fi epic closer to Oscar gold than ever before. From this point on, a Best Picture loss would be seen as a massive upset.

And that makes me sick, because I cannot understand how “Avatar” is a quality movie.

I don’t think “Avatar” is a horrible movie—it’s decent. But with its big explosions, wincingly bad dialogue and a simple, underdeveloped story, why is this getting more praise than, say, “Fantastic Four”? Or “Transformers 2”? Or “Monsters vs. Aliens”?

Honestly, it feels like “Avatar” is receiving all of the compliments “The Dark Knight” should have received a year ago. Both films took venerable franchises (Batman and the Cult of James Cameron) and pumped up the commercial appeal. The only difference is that “Avatar” was released in December and “The Dark Knight” came out in the summer. During awards season, “The Dark Knight” had to fight to shed the “summer movie” stigma, a taint it would never fully lose. “Avatar” was anointed after its first weekend, despite the fact that, according to Rotten Tomatoes, more than 100 movies received better reviews this year.

Oh yeah, there is also the 3-D. The new technology that will transform films as we know them. Look, I know the technique Cameron used is groundbreaking, and I look forward to seeing the technology implemented in countless romantic comedies and documentaries about penguins. But while everyone I’ve talked to has praised “Avatar”’s visuals, I have not found a single person who actually enjoyed “Avatar.” They say the story was vanilla, and the action was formulaic and forced. But another trend emerges: Everyone agrees that the 3-D effect was simply amazing—which it was, but should that make it Best Picture material? Did “Slumdog Millionaire” win Best Picture because of its fantastic editing? Did “Shakespeare in Love” win for its elaborate costumes? Of course not. Those were distinctive qualities of two movies that contributed little to the films’ overall excellence, and moviegoers everywhere are saying the same thing about “Avatar”’s 3D.

That is, unless the viewers are the people who run the awards shows. For some reason, they love “Avatar.” It didn’t make sense to me until I remembered that every movie awards show is just a way for Hollywood to pat itself on the back while raking in high ratings, of course. In this sense, the Academy got incredibly lucky this year. It has stumbled onto the highest-grossing decent film to come out during the awards season since, well, “Titanic.” If “Avatar” wins Best Picture, the ratings for the ceremony will be the biggest they have been in years, and from a financial standpoint, it would be absolutely foolish for the Academy not to ride “Avatar” all the way to the bank.

But if the Oscars mean to represent film excellence, as they purport, then “Avatar” will not win Best Picture. Come on, guys. It already won the Golden Globe (and the broadcast’s ratings were way up this year, by the way).

  • TMW

    Thank you! I fully agree with everything you said. This movie was not a “motion picture” and does not deserve “best picture” in any sense of the word. It can take the special affects awards– it deserves them, but CGI and green screens should not get awards over the work that was done in The Hurt Locker.

    The movie was entertaining, yes, and good viewing, but it had so many flaws from a “film” standpoint that it shouldn’t even be compared to the other top films.

    If Avatar wins best picture this year, I will have lost all faith in film awards and will likely turn my back on them.

  • Trent Calloway

    “I don’t think “Avatar” is a horrible movie—it’s decent. But with its big explosions, wincingly bad dialogue and a simple, underdeveloped story, why is this getting more praise than, say, “Fantastic Four”? Or “Transformers 2”? Or “Monsters vs. Aliens”?”

    Transformers 2? That was a piece of shit Michael “more explosions” Bay movie. Not to mention the racism and bigotry in the movie. Monsters vs. Aliens is a kids movie. There was no Fantastic four movie in 2009 the last one came out in 07′ so that statement is ridiculous. Compare the score on IMDB.com Avatar has (8.6) to Transformers 2 (6.1) Fantastic Four:ROSS (5.8) and Monsters vs Aliens (6.8). Rotten Tomatoes gave it 86% and Metacritic.com gave an 84. So it seems the movie gets a high “B+” overall with mostly relatively positive reviews. Your B.S is not the consensus of the film community.

  • Candace

    No offense to all you who have I’m sure, wonderful (ahem), movie taste, but this was one of the worst movies I have ever seen.
    “Like, OMGZ it was SOOO MINDBLOWING right?”
    Shut up. The visuals were fine, whatever. I felt like I was watching some little kid play a video game with cheesy and plenty underlining messages in it such as “save the environment” or “love can overpower brute stength” or something. I’m not neccessarily a huge fan of military type things, but I think the movie was almost offensive to the military. Like we go and kill people for fun or something. Wow, way to be an asshole James Cameron.
    Also, speaking of James Cameron, CONGRATS on winning Best Director and Best Motion Picture for the Golden Globes, you’re movie made me fall asleep! The Hurt Locker deserved both of those awards. In fact, every other movie deserved those awards, so congratulations on taking something from a deserving team, crew, and director.
    Oh but wait, I didn’t fall asleep in Avatar. It’s really hard to sleep when you want to vomit or punch someone for making something so ridiculous and dispicable. I mean, really? Great, it’s a kids movie, awesome. Goodygumdrops. Fantastic Mr. Fox was x10 better a kids movie. Where the Wild Things Are was a better childrens movie, and it wasn’t even a children-like movie. I really very offended and very disappointed that James Camerons movies are both the most watched movies in history? What? Well great. Isn’t that wonderful.
    Yay, more mainstream movies winning top spots and support because they send some sort of cliche universal message. Great. I can’t think of a worse movie I’ve ever seen. I mean, I would rather watch any other movie. It’s worse than this one movie I watched once when a Neo Nazi went back in time and fell in love with Anne Frank.

    Call me a cynic, I don’t care! But I fully support any article not for Avatar.
    Oh and. The best part about Avatar was the 3D glasses.

  • http://twitter.com/gregorzkurwa Gregorz Kurwa

    Avatar is nothing more than xeno propaganda.

  • Bobby

    Avatar is a glorified Hellboy II. Great article, Percy!

  • Skip

    I loved Avatar for a lot of reasons and thought even though some of the themes were cliche, they were worthy of being put to audiences again . What I still don’t get , is the adoration that you and so many others cast on The. Dark Knight. I thought it was overblown , overlong, and worst yet, implausible. (And that’s hard to do when you’re alredy buying into the superhero thing.) Mostly around the Joker – the whole hospital blow up thing just to get one guy- the abilty to have tons of explosives somewhere at the snap of a finger bla bla bla. And Batmans cell phone network 3D goggles ? Really? This movie was so overdone for the sake of overdoneness it’s actually bad. Not unlike Batman Begins which wasn’t content with a good villian caper, it had to go overboard ( of course!) to explain the orgins of all evil. And as for Heath Ledgers lispy goofy take on the character? Let’s just say that performance was viewed through the tragedy of his death, and cast as spectacular. Not so much, if you ask me.

  • clinton

    Avatar was bad ass, I have no clue ware you get this foolish hatter thoughts from.

  • http://www.yemaya-models.com Theknsy2k

    I think the movie was very creative and romantic, little pretatively but I enjoyed it, stop hating people it deserve every credit it got.

  • gpymd

    Obviously I’m spending way too much time on this thread. However I do want to say that this article and it’s subsequent comments…by ALL have been pretty cool for the most part. I don’t see a lot of random “trolling” going on here. Most comments have been somewhat specific in their observations about the film. Good thread.

  • gpymd

    @brian

    The word lazy is the issue here. In a movie where every second, even just a landscape with a rock on it…takes countless hours of work and teams to make..implies that nothing is lazy. I understand that showing the capture of turok would have been an interesting and cool choice, but dramatically it would have possibly taken away from the unveiling of the end result to the Na’vi in the following scene. Not hard to see that those choices would please everyone. Just find a better word than lazy. If your issue is quality, which it sounds like it is… then use that.

    The budget reference I maid would probably have been better replaced with the actual lists of staff writers, engineers, conceptual artists, programmers…… followed by a description of what they did in the making of this film which employed hundreds of people for several years.

    I guess I should have done that.. but I was being lazy. They weren’t.

    I agree with your sentiment about American Graffiti.

  • Brian

    @gpymd
    Wow, because they threw a lot of money at it that means it was obviously crafted with care. I did not disparage the wonderful visuals at all. Every cent of that budget is on the screen and it’s a revelation. I am saying that the writing and scripting was lazy. Writing is free. It just takes time and effort. Thus the laziness.
    Now to refute whatever argument you were making, as well. George Lucas made American Graffiti for $700,000. Ten percent of that went towards the music. Attack of the Clones was made for well more than 100 times that amount even considering inflation. Which of those pictures featured lazier film making.

  • gpymd

    @Brian

    Haha, lazy? Really, a 300 million plus production cost.. lazy doesn’t even enter into it. Yes, I’m sure the directorial choice didn’t make sense to you as some others also feel this way. Lazy? Please.

  • Brian

    Ok so far everyone is speaking vaguely. Lets get specific. When Sam Worthington’s character tames the red dragon, a Toruk wikipedia tells me, the character has not earned any special distinction in the eyes of the viewers. It is simply a last ditch effort on his and the writers part, which is fine. But by not showing him capturing the beast he never does earn it. It’s a total deus ex machina in the worst way; it doesn’t even explain how or why he was able to do this thing that only 4 or 5 other Na’vi had ever done. What’s so special about him? Why is he able to tame the Toruk? We are never told because the film makers just don’t know. That’s laziness and sloppy film making.

  • mkauley

    One of the largest complaints I’ve heard about Avatar is that the plot was predictable and unoriginal. Do I agree with that statement? Absolutely. As the movie began, i watched and was easily able to predict the outcome of the film. I left the theater having loved the visuals and feeling content with the story that was told. Then I began to wonder why I enjoyed the story that was so predictable.

    Cameron could’ve easily veered off the usual path and done something different. Maybe killed off the main characters or heck, blown up the entire world of Pandora. They would have been unexpected endings but we wouldn’t have enjoyed them as much. Why? Because the story Cameron told has been told numerous times before (albeit in slightly different incarnations).

    Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey. Its a template that is used in stories and tales from cultures all over the world. Several stories follow the pattern to one degree or another including Lord of the Rings and Star Wars and we enjoyed those films/books too.

    There’s very little original stories anymore. But there is something to be said for how the story is told. With movies, stories are told through the visuals and the acting talent of those on screen. Remember that the majority of the “actors” in Avatar were CG construct yet we still complain about their . Visually, the movie was breathtaking and its probably doing so well in the theaters because people are going back multiple times for the visuals.

    So, yes, the story is unoriginal, but these days most are. It was a well told version of a story we’ve heard before. Just like enjoying a well done cover of a song that we’d already heard before.

    @gpymd: Don’t be knocking comic books. Loser. :-)

  • gpymd

    Hey Jarré Lyman, AWESOME essay.

    Seems like the more detailed and well written responses here are for avatar. You defenders of hating the movie need to work on your ability to express your thoughts in an analytical manner.

  • Ronald

    I couldn’t agree more. Avatar is an ok movie, but incredibly overrated by most people. To their credit most people I know who’s opinions I trust can see through the hype. It’s just a shame a great film like The Dark Knight, as well as other films won’t be remembered as award winners like Avatar will and 50 years from now Avatar won’t stand the test of time because all it has going for it really is the effects. I will never watch another Oscars telecast after what they did last year and they will pretty much put the final nail in that coffin if they even nominate Avatar for best picture. When will Chris Nolan finally get his due. He’s such a better film maker than James Cameron, it’s very very sad.

  • Roosevelt370

    Don’t feel bad for not going off a cliff (ha ha) for Avatar. It’s visually stunning, yes, but as a long-time fan of Cameron as a writer I was very disappointed in the pedestrian storyline, especially the third act cop-out I could see coming an hour away. If you want heart and emotion in the Cameron canon I suggest you check out The Abyss (1989), which features a (literally) heart-stopping moment in Act II that made audiences back in the day stand up and cheer in the theaters for Ed Harris. It literally stopped the show and had people weeping with joy–and not one special effect was involved! It too has its flaws but has so original a story you’ll find yourself forgiving them all. (And oddly the ‘alien’ creatures in the film are also colored in shades of blue…hmmm).

    Outside of Cameron’s directorial domain, there’s Solaris (2002) (produced by him, directed by Steven Soderbergh). Who would have thought George Clooney would perfectly capture the one sorrowful, pure note of grief in his character, in spite of the ‘aliens’ and its sci-fi setting? Heartbreaking and so, so true to its core, its heart. Keep with it, be patient, and let it breathe. The reward is worth it.

    One of the best things I’ve seen about Avatar is the conversation it’s started about great films. Keep exploring, you never know what beautiful things you’ll discover…

  • gpymd

    Oh yeah, all that praise you say Dark Knight deserves…pretty sure it got it. It isn’t as though that movie is perfect either. You think organized crime and vigilante justice is as simplistic as they portrayed? Of course it isn’t. It is a comic which is why we forgive it for it’s obvious over the top dramatic interpretation. So you are apparently ok with clowns and bats running around town deciding our fate… but the world of avatar, that’s just silly.

    …and I like the Dark Knight…

  • Jarré Lyman

    Well, I loved Avatar. Have you “found” me yet? You certainly have a point, but it’s no stronger than any point I’ve seen that defends Avatar’s other qualities of film-making.

    I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Hollywood has always been more about the storytelling than the stories. (Granted, many truly great stories have been invented and well told during the cinema’s relatively short life.) However, many of the films in the first half of this past century were simply adaptations of literature: books or plays. Oooh.

    Avatar’s story is the same as…Pocahontas? Dances with Wolves? Ferngully? Okay, great! I think those are good stories. If I have a choice between all of them, though…hell, I’ll take Avatar any day. It’s a good story, but told in a way that I prefer and love. Is Avatar’s dialogue clunky? Yes. Does that stop it from being a bad film? Not necessarily. Sure, Avatar would have been even more incredible if its story and script was good, and one that we haven’t quite seen yet, but that’s what films like Inception are for. If you prefer any of the aforementioned films from which Avatar is grossly derivative, then go watch them instead and please stop (seemingly) endlessly complaining about Avatar’s apparent flaws.

    Although art-house films are conventionally regarded as better films than the rest, not every film that’s good is an art-house film. Does anyone here think that the original Star Wars films are good? Anyone? I do. How about their originality? Oh…right. George Lucas drew upon some of the oldest tricks in the book; the mythologies from which he quite heavily borrowed the story for Star Wars were creatively reinvented, and simply told again with a different storyteller. Do you like Star Wars for the story? Then, might I suggest, O cinema-friend, that you watch Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. It’s pretty good…but you’ll be disappointed. It’ll be familiar. Oh, no! …And besides, the Star Wars films’ stories are about as vanilla as you can get. Then again, vanilla seems to have been and continue to be the most popular flavor (in its respective context).

    Some of us actually like movies that are made to be nearly pure entertainment. And, arguably, there are different kinds of “pure entertainment.” Catch Me If You Can and The Blind Side are both intended to entertain, and both are good movies. The Twilight films are good for hours of perpetual laughter directed at the actors, dialogue, etc., but they are also very bad movies. From what I’ve read, heard, and seen, James Cameron simply wanted to make a technologically groundbreaking film that told a widely appealing and satisfying story…that also happened to bridge the commercial and artistic draw of said films. It just also so happens that Avatar was a perfect vehicle for groundbreaking visual effects due to the sci-fi nature/context of the story. He wanted to make an epic, swashbucklingly fun, emotionally and visually appealing, entertaining movie that seemed possible, perhaps, but didn’t take itself as seriously as ones more steeped in realism (e.g. Catch Me if You Can, The Blind Side). But the Twilight franchise might not be a fair comparison, as they were books before movies; they already undeniably suffer from incredibly bad source material.

    I think Cameron knew that to appeal to—and, by extension, entertain—a wider audience, a more heightened degree of escapism than one might experience when watching a “good” and “entertaining” movie was needed. You might note that, more frequently than not, the most popular films are the ones that are more devoted to entertainment by giving the movie-goers exactly what they collectively want. Tapping the occasional cliché or giving the audience a predictable plot or having pigeonhole-able characters or having a massive action-packed finale before a (more or less) happy ending is not always deplorable, nor does it necessarily make a bad movie…it usually makes a quality-fun one. To be honest, Avatar was a cinematic experience during which I had loads of genuine fun, and thought the movie was on the plus-side of decently good! Don’t be afraid to put the film critic away from time to time, or set aside pre-developed expectations when watching a highly anticipated film. What would be the point, other than to complain or be inevitably disappointed?

    I think this review-excerpt puts some of my thoughts regarding Avatar quite well:

    “There is much in Avatar that is broadly drawn, clichéd even – but it is also these very things which might just earn it the status of a classic. After all, in this respect is it so very different from Star Wars (1977)? Avatar is a SF adventure both engaging and beautiful to behold, sweeping the viewer to – and over – the very edge of cinematic imagination, so that we too get to swim, however fleetingly, in the waters of otherness.”

  • Natalie Villalon

    I hardly consider an underdeveloped story line, stolen straight from Pocahontas, an irrelevant detail. It was a gorgeous, flashy film with lots of pretty colors and a facile attempt at being “thought-provoking” . It was definitely entertaining; I enjoyed watching it. In that sense, it was well-crafted. However, populism should not dictate what constitutes quality art. Institutions such as the Golden Globe Awards are meant to grant award for artistic quality. I’m sure more people have read Twilight than just about any other recent novel. I hope no one is suggesting that that soul-sucking piece of literary tripe should garner a Pulitzer prize. Similarly, McDonald’s is not haute cuisine; I don’t care how many people eat it. The masses are asses.

  • Rich Forber

    I’ll admit that Avatar did have a few flaws here and there, but one thing I consistently notice with many so called “film critics,” is that they forget that film making is an opinion-based art. They discard the fact that so many people enjoyed the movie and instead hone in on the small irrelevant defects (like Avatar’s dialogue or story line) so they can claim the film a failure. There are many independent films out there that are excellent and deserve praise, but you can’t deny that Avatar deserves praise as well. It’s stupid to compare the story line of a movie like “a single man,” to Avatar, just like it would make no sense to compare the groundbreaking 3-D CGI effects of the two films. It would be like comparing the writings of Dostoevsky and J.K. Rowling. Both are classics and ultimately, it’s up to the audience to decide favor.

    So sit in your leather chair, smoking your pipe with your tweed jacket on and continue to bash Avatar for not being a pristine movie, but just know that any movie that can rack up $1.64 billion and capture the minds of millions of people is every bit as deserving for an oscar as a movie like “up in the air,” and stop complaining just because so many people are enjoying something that you don’t understand.

  • David

    Pop culture exists pragmatically. It’s there to allow otherwise uninteresting people to talk for an appropriate amount of time to construct a personality. In doing so, they create groups of friends who help them find sex buddies.

    The themes in this movie are perceivable by anyone who saw Pocahontas. Not to insult readily apparent themes but…c’mon. If it’s already been said in a Disney movie, it doesn’t need to be said again. Also, even if a story has been told before, it needs to be told well. We already saw the shit-storm that was the Star Wars prequels…I would think James Cameron would try to avoid that.

    Finally, I would much rather have an elitist douchebag like Percy insult Avatar than have a self-proclaimed movie expert call it “genius” because they finally understood the “point” of a movie.

  • Jordan

    Also, in response to the people here making jokes about ‘unobtanium’, it is ridiculous until you find out why it is called that. The materiel in the movie is a super-conductor that maintains it’s magnetic properties at extreme temperatures. There is no element like that on Earth, so scientists (jokingly) refer to an element with those properties as ‘unobtanium’.
    Yes, I admit it is ridiculous (I thought WTF at first), but if that is one of your big complaints about the movie then I honestly believe you have some kind of neurological problem.

  • Jordan

    I have heard so many complaints about the dialogue being horrible. Why? Because it isn’t Shakespearean? Do you honestly expect that a former Marine grunt and Natives speaking in a second language are going to sound like Macbeth or Coriolanus? I have seen Avatar 8 times, and every time I am completely immersed in the story. Not because of the effects (although they are incredible), but because it is a good story, with good acting and BELIEVABLE dialogue. For your complaints that the story isn’t original, name one fictional movie that is completely 100% original. You can’t, because most story archetypes are taken from stories like the Iliad or the Odyssey. James Cameron’s film is a masterpiece in every sense of the word, and I honestly believe that you and other critics like you are just complaining because you don’t want to blend in with the vast majority of the media and the populace.
    In conclusion, I would like to say that if you weren’t able to enjoy Avatar as a beautifully orchestrated movie going experience, then you are a joyless, pitiful person, and I sincerely hope you realize that and do something to change it.
    Good day.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000310569484 Robin Rubinstein

    Percy, you are my new hero. It’s great that you have not been afraid to come out and say this. So what if the 3D is amazing? Give Avatar the Oscar for Best Special Effects! The Best Picture Oscar should go to a much more deserving flm like The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds or Up in the Air.

  • DaveW

    Google is a threat to any government that attempts to control people by controlling information. Is there anyone that is retarded enough on the internet to not see that? I hadn’t realized there was anyone who is capable of logging onto the internet that hasn’t noticed that free access to all information is a threat to any agency that tries to control information. Wow.

    Anyway, I hated Titanic with a passion when it came out, I was in the US navy shore duty in Japan, and Japanese girls were obsessed with the movie and drove me crazy. Kind of liked aliens, terminator, those other cameron movies as well, but had no idea they were done by the same person when I saw avatar, didn’t even know the name cameron. So I exclude myself from that group.

    I goddamm loved avatar however, the story I mean. I’m a bit of a dirty tree-hugger, and cameron’s expression of our connection to our environment and all life was exceptionally done and exceptionally beautiful. The Na’vi as a hindu avatar representing our higher, aspirational (not currently existent) selves was beautiful to a person who believes that life is in large part about making ourselves greater than we are.

    I see the movie as passing on the vision – “Let rest originality, for sake of passing it around.” Doing it very well, and in a way which is accessible to all audiences.

    Awesomeness.

  • Vince

    Dear Percy,

    Avatar is a film not a mooowie.
    So yes, it is a crappy mowwie considering your moowiee standards, but it is considered a great film in the world outside your special kids high school(obviously more than compliant with ADA).

    I hope that after graduating you’ll take some classes in a community college so as to get some basic cultural background.

    Cheers!

  • Brian

    I liked Avatar seemingly a little more than Percy did, but he’s 100% right. It’s hard for me to even admit liking the movie at all anymore simply because so many people are over valuing it.
    Anyone who thinks Avatar is worthy of great adulation should remember two movies that had the same story as Avatar way before Avatar: Dances with Wolves and Lawrence of Arabia.
    And I limited myself to picking from previous Best Picture winners which should emphasize how many times this story has been done much better.

  • gpymd

    Hey True Lies, yeah good arguments..but they don’t really negate my point. Not really. Of course the vatican and the chinese govt overreact. Trust me, I agree 100% with you on that. I’m not suggesting that they are a good measuring stick…just that they react to threat. Yes, true, POPULARITY is a factor… but that isn’t what is driving this phenomenon of Avatar. Harry Potter is insanely popular, and the world is not reacting to those movies this way. People are going back for repeat showings for multiple reasons..the visual spectical..the simplistic message.. all of it. The point is that it has a message. The other critics here..not you obviously, make it sound like Avatar is the same as “Aliens vs Predator” with better graphics. That is just obtuse. What I’m saying is overall that the criticism I’m hearing is as shallow in its depth as they accuse the movie of being. i’m not saying Avatar is the best movie of all time. I did enjoy it and it probably is one of my favorite movie experiences in memory.

    Frankly your response is the type I’d rather see. A little more though put into it then these other ones.

    The tone the other’s take is that you are basically an ignorant moron who is distracted by shiny objects if you like this movie. The very premise of this article..the need to defend hating it… is just stupid.

    Funny sidenote…True Lies is the only cameron film I didn’t like. I don’t have a great reason…I just didn’t. y’know..whatev.

    Last thing: Hurt Locker is friggin awesome.

  • ceti

    Wow things have gotten so ridiculous that people have to write columns defending themselves against the backlash to the backlash. Well, if you dish out the snark, then expect the snark to come bite you back!

    Cameron spent years working on this film, so in ways deserves some accolades for actually having the creative balls to get this thing done. In comparison, most films gestate for a couple of years before filming over a couple of months at the most. As an oeuvre, Avatar is still on par with Lord of the Rings (and that was based on preexisting literature and film) in terms of the breadth and depth of its world building, despite what one might think of its actual characterizations or plot.

    So really take it easy, unless haterade is your thing.

  • mcl

    For those that say the plot is dull, rehashed, etc., think about this — would a plot that is so bad cause such a great level of public debate and thought about issues that are so much larger than the film, as Avatar has? Read this NYT article and see if it changes your thoughts at all.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/movies/20avatar.html

  • http://www.acrosstheforest.com matthew capuano

    “Both films took venerable franchises (Batman and the Cult of James Cameron)”

    you make some good points but the above quote just pisses me off. “the cult of james cameron”?? who are they, people over 35 that like sci-fi action movies? there is no cult of james cameron. you may have not liked the film but at least say that it is the first mega budget film not based on any source material except the screenplay written specifically for the film. people like his films because he wraps the latest technology (that he usually invents for each film) with a joseph campbell ‘hero of a thousand faces’ style story telling that is so ingrained in the human consciousness that it appeals to almost everyone. like star wars did.

  • True Lies was a GOOD cameron movie

    “Apparently the vatican and the Chinese government found enough “message” and content to attack this movie outright. ”

    Okay, so first things first: if you look at the track record for both of these groups (the chinese government and the vatican) they are famous for overreacting to mundane things. the chinese government blocks google, a fundamental key to unlocking the potential of the internet for many people. the vatican, meanwhile, sat idle by during the holocaust and was responsible for the crusades which killed thousands. both of these groups are notorious for attacking things that actually do not need to be attacked and doing so in a manner that the rest of the modern world disagrees with.

    the true reason both of these groups are worried is because of the avatar’s POPULARITY. yes it has messages of free will and kindness and protecting nature, but the only reason it is getting their attention is because every joe and jane on the block went to see it. you know what other movie everyone went to see? spiderman, and we all know that was a true masterpiece just because of the ticket sales.

  • gpymd

    Interesting as well that comment about this being “visual” masturbation and this statement, “Fortunately, many people miss Camerons message in a wash of explosions and action/adventure led by a caucasian savior sent to protect the helpless natives. In short, Avatars use of “romantic natives” lacks modern understanding of these people as, well , people, not gods”. Well bully for you, aren’t you the smart one. Of course life is more complicated than a 3 hour movie. Maybe someday, Tom Hanks will do a band of brothers treatment on this story and we’ll have a 25 hour epic to examine these issues…but that doesn’t make this movie uncool.

    You know there is such a thing as intellectual masturbation too…which is what I often find avatar haters doing. What are you looking for, memento in space? Some of the best stories in history are simplistic. Fairy tales have lasted for a reason. They resonate with the deepest core meanings we need to learn. You shouldn’t have to have a PhD to watch a movie.

    That said, I know transfomers 2 is crap.

  • dleonard686

    Ok, let’s clear a few things up here…

    ” From this point on, a Best Picture loss would be seen as a massive upset.”

    This is so far from the truth its not even funny. You obviously have not done much research on the Oscars. The Golden Globes actually have very little in common with the Oscars when it comes to choosing a Best Picture winner. “Crash” wasn’t even nominated for Best Pic at the Globes. What is by FAR the best way to predict who will get nominated and has the best chance at winner are the dozens of precursor awards that each city hands out, and in that race The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air are simply destroying Avatar. For example, 12 circuits have chosen Hurt Locker as best pic, and 12 have chosen Up in the Air as well. Inglorious Basterds has won 3. Counting the Globe, Avatar has 2. So Avatar winning, I assure you, would be an upset. Globes love big stars and big money movies and that surely gave Avatar the edge. That win means little. This chart should help you out: http://awardsbreach.com/old/precursor10.html

    And for the record, I absolutely loved Avatar. The story was good but I see how people could have problems with it for lack of true originality. But a story has surely never been told in this manner and with such breathtaking beautiful and mysticism.
    Sorry Percy, your article is pretty weak

  • gpymd

    Apparently the vatican and the Chinese government found enough “message” and content to attack this movie outright. Funny that governments are taking this movie seriously because of the threat it poses to them. I’m not sure your characterization of this as a shallow cg fest would change the vatican or chinese positions.

  • Miker

    <—- ken is mad at percy hating avatar.

    just kidding. avatar was pure spectacle, but enjoyable nonetheless.

  • rosie

    Percy Olsen was spot on.
    though visually Avatar was interesting, it DID NOT meet any
    other high quality cinema requirements
    Simple, elementary, mundane and blue

  • EK

    Had Avatar come out during summer blockbuster season, it would not have garnered as much box office or faux award season praise. It has very little competition and inflated ticket prices. Golden Globes wins aside (a popularity contest), it will not win Oscars for best director or best picture. Guaranteed. The Dark Knight raised the bar for its particular superhero genre by playing like a gritty crime drama. Avatar didn’t do anything for the sci-fi/fantasy genre that better pictures like LOTR trilogy hadn’t already done years ago. 3D is a gimmick and not a necessary storytelling tool and Avatar has not made it so. CGI continuously improves year to year so any perceived strides in that department will be dated come next year. Avatar is not the best picture of all time and anyone who thinks that is simply delusional.

  • Jon

    I am surprised at all the naysayers present here in the comments section…

    As an avid moviegoer and friend of the cinema I captured avatar into my mind with the same lens through which I capture all other movies, and when Avatar was over and my film developed in my mind I simply did not like what I saw.
    Avatar was a visual masterpiece in the very same way titanic or lord of the rings were, but it simply lacked the coherent dialogue and tightly constructed plot structure that both of those films had.

    I find myself critiquing the Mise-en-scène of Avatar, and I am realizing more and more that while it was visually beautiful, the motifs and imagery presented were not presented in a particularly unique manner. Crazy alien worlds yes, but the dark shadows of hate and memories cast Casablanca or the frightening stage presence of Jack Nicholson and the power of the complex script in the Departed make Avatar look like child’s play.

    Frankly, of all that has happened surrounding Avatar, there is only one thing I have heard that I liked, and that was director James Cameron proclaiming at his golden globes acceptance speech that he expected the award to go to his ex wife Kathryn Bigelow.

    Kathryn Bigelow’s psychological Iraq thriller The Hurt Locker was masterfully directed. For a true cinema lover it was a joy to watch in the best possible way. Like a good direction job, I not once turned away from the screen to make a joke to my friends about “Unobtainium” or how ridiculous a character or the entire plot line seemed preposterous. I was on the edge of my seat captivated by the events that were unfolding. In Avatar I simply wished I could have had my iPod playing to ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ for the duration of the film.

  • Perconymous

    “Why don’t you suggest the movie(s) that should win?”
    Inglourious Basterds, Up, Up in the Air, The Hurt Locker, An Education, The Maid, Star Trek, Precious, Drag Me To Hell, In the Loop, Crazy Heart, A Serious Man….

    …in fact, there’s a convenient list at http://www.rottentomatoes.com/top/bestofrt_year.php?year=2009

  • Me

    Visual masterbation with waivering creativity. Most people I’ve spoken to about Avatar loved the film. I personally think, as Percy argues, that Avatar is less than well rounded. Overly simple motifs underwrite an action thriller that blatently borrows from indigenous cultures and their traditions. Cameron’s message that big corporations are evil and unrelenting, destroying the lives and habitats of mystical creatures (allusion to Native Americans) is ignorant, offensive, and builds on romantic ideas of these global native cultures. Fortunately, many people miss Camerons message in a wash of explosions and action/adventure led by a caucasian savior sent to protect the helpless natives. In short, Avatars use of “romantic natives” lacks modern understanding of these people as, well , people, not gods. Avatars story belongs in mid-century western mindset, not to the 21st century. Oh yea, and the 3D was awesome.

  • Ammo

    Brilliant article. I completely agree with most of your views on the movie but you do have to realize that last year the Dark knight was overshadowed by dozens of decent dramas vying for Oscar gold. This year Avatar stands out purely because of what its running against.

  • Lauren

    Edit – Inglourious Basterds was the best movie I saw this year!

  • Lauren

    I agree with you. I was not impressed by this movie! Yea, it was cool visually but I found it as predictable as a romantic comedy. And I usually love these types of action/drama movies. I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t have won best picture because I didn’t really see any super amazing movies this year.

    But Slumdog Millionaire was way better.

  • Sauce

    “I have not met one person who actually enjoyed avatar”.

    Do you know a lot of people, or just one or two you see outside your house everyday? A movie does not make one and a half billion dollars because of hype, something some people do not seem to be able to grasp. People are watching this film over and over and over again because they can’t get enough of it.

    The themes are relevant in today’s society, the immersion is unprecedented and the visual effects are stunning. How you can compare this to the CGI pile of crap Transformers 2 was is mind-blowing.

    Maybe you should research something before writing an article.

  • Marshall

    Why don’t you suggest the movie(s) that should win?

  • Mike

    Oh, and wait, it also has caught the attention of social and political scientists because of the hidden messages in the movie. Read http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/20/movies/20avatar.html

  • Mike

    While ‘Avatar’ is primarily a showcase of technology, it never loses its emotional center.

    Yes, the elements are familiar: here are the corporations who value profit over life, the very strong women, the strange aliens and the hero’s romance. The environmental message is hardly new. But one of James Cameron’s strengths as a filmmaker is that even at his corniest he is always compelling. And who will forge the way if not the self-proclaimed “king of the world”?

    So screw the modest and timid.

  • Able Lawrence

    It seems Percy is both blind and deaf!
    Since when did cinema become a visual media! I thought that good movies should be enjoyable to the blind in Braille (no offence meant to the blind)

    I did not know that movies are meant to be assessed by those who dont “see” the moview (ie the blind). Author seems to disparage the fact that awards are given by “viewers”!!!

    It is an absolutely original confession to make that awards should be given by “non-viewers”

    At least the reviews should be written by viewers and not armchair critics with political agendas (and blind). If they cant do that, at least confess if they have not seen the movie . [How come most of the criticism came before the movie was released].

    At least the audience is honest and vote with their wallets.

  • Gpymd

    Ok come on… Comparing avatar to the fanastic 4 or transformers 2 is ridiculous. You aren’t even trying to be serious about this assessment when you make comparisons like that. Of course slumdog and Shakespeare are good films, but your comparison of avatar to these other action films seems pretty shallow and a bit close minded.

  • k dog

    haha, in a rush, plz excuse typos…ex your = you’re

  • k dog

    your an idiot. yes dialogue isn’t strong, story isn’t either since we have seen it before…but what story have we not seen? but it focuses on strong themes that are more relevant today then ever. and i must say avatar’s competition isn’t that strong cuz this year hasn’t been a close to a monumental year in film

  • TOM

    Avatar is the greatest film ever made.. regardless of whether it is 3D…or not and story is great that s why it creates so many questions.. go again and see it with an open mind then u will realize the greatness.

  • Goobie

    Oh…My…God, Mr Percy Olsen, are you deaf dumb and blind? AVATAR was stunningly wonderful in every way.

    I bet you are an open toe sandal wearing all CG hating, sci fi, hating, pop culture hating, old film lover who drives a Volvo wearing a silly little hat at 5 miles an hour.

    Wake up and smell what you are shovelling…because the world is amazed by what James Cameron has given them. And no film critic can reduce this film to just mediocre.

    Oh, and for the record, Slumdog was one of the worst films I have ever spent my time watching…I want my money back!

    Sincerely

    Goobie

  • Tbora

    Yeah..

    Avatar was (and is) made of win, was a great film.

    You my good sir, are an idiot.