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avatar armed alien.jpg

Just Because There Has to Be an Avatar Backlash

By Miscellaneous | Miscellaneous | December 22, 2009 |

By Miscellaneous | Miscellaneous | December 22, 2009 |

The Monday following the opening of a highly anticipated and hugely popular blockbuster is traditionally a time for backlash. The funny thing about the Avatar backlash, though, as opposed to, say, the one for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, is that it only exists because it’s obligatory. Most of the people writing seemingly negative features about the minor flaws of the film are still big fans. But no movie geek can stand by and not comment on the goofs, holes and other imperfection of an acclaimed pop culture phenomenon.

As one of the guilty parties involved in the preliminary and very premature attacks on the film back when the trailer first appeared, I am certainly not complaining. But I’ll admit that that was in good fun, while after awhile all the “it looks like Dances with Wolves in space” remarks got a little annoying because they seemed genuinely yet ignorantly contemptuous. This is why my first action after coming out of the IMAX 3D screening I took in over the weekend was to ironically Tweet, “it’s like Can’t Buy Me Love in a black light painting.” Again, obviously in good fun.

And I guess that’s what this pseudo backlash is all about, because ripping on a movie, even one we love and respect, is a game we all like and have a need to play. So let’s enjoy these playful jabs and not worry that the second coming of Star Wars (or Jurassic Park or however you view this thing) is being disrespected.

I’ve given the backlash an extra day in order to collect the best of the bunch. Add to the collection, either with your own gripes or one from another site, below:

  • Mack Rawden at Cinema Blend:
    In fifty years, Avatar will be fucking hilarious. Of course, by then, James Cameron will have died thinking he upgraded Ben-Hur and the majority of his dweeb brood won’t be able to admit they’re wrong because those geezers will be too old to figure out the new-fangled ways people’ll be using to communicate. If there’s any justice in the hereafter, Mystery Science Theater 3000 will unexpectedly return to mock and verbally humiliate this ill-conceived, beautiful piece of excrement shit out of technology’s pixel hole.
  • Mark Lisanti at Movieline:
    Is “unobtanium” the most groan-inducing name possible for the precious element found on Pandora?
    We also would have accepted “onthenoseium,” “macguffinite,” or “plotadvancium” as substitutes.
  • Kyle Buchanan at Movieline:
    One thing I was surprised to find when I saw Avatar, then, is a lack of big money lines (and what few could have been are garbled by lead Sam Worthington). Worse, though, is the preponderance of truly dated slang that rings such a discordant note in the otherwise persuasively imagined future. I can believe James Cameron when he says this film took so many years to make, because I’m pretty sure he hasn’t touched the screenplay since he wrote it while listening to Spin Doctors in the mall in 1995.
  • Emma Rosenblum at Vulture:
    James Cameron is renowned and heralded for filling his movies with strong female characters (Ripley, Sarah Connor, Titanic’s Rose). […] But it seems suspect that in Avatar’s female-empowerment universe (Zoe Saldana’s Na’vi character, Neytiri, is the true hero of the story), that Augustine emerges as an alien who’s 40 years younger. Is Cameron hinting that in their most idealized versions, women want to have the wisdom of a long life, but the body of a 20-year-old? We’d like to think that’s a genderless issue. And for the record: We wouldn’t go running around in a belly tee, no matter what world we were living in.
  • Vince Mancini at FilmDrunk:
    Right, the story.  It’s so cheesey in so many ways that you’ll find yourself actually rooting against it at times.  We know Jake’s going to fall for one of the native broads, fine — you can’t blame him, lanky topless chicks with sensual tails and ears that move like a cat?  Hawt. — but then all you’re thinking is “Oh God, just don’t let his girl be the Chief’s daughter.”  Sorry.  Not only is she the chief’s daughter, the chief is that guy who played Geronimo.
  • Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects (a somewhat backlash to the backlash with more pseudo backlash):
    Now that the achievement is being lost in the forest while critics and fans search for the trees, it’s got me thinking about what James Cameron really should have done with that new brilliance.
    He should have made a movie set in modern time, set in a normal American town, with zero science fiction or supernatural elements.
    Actually, what he should have done is a more elaborate, three-part plan:
    1. Veil his project in secrecy (much like, you know, he actually did). Explain that he’s developing a new technology to create it. Ramp up the hype machine exactly as he did with Avatar, except with the added bonus of a huge cattle casting call for actors and actresses.
    2. Release a film from a great screenwriter that features a few known entities and mostly up-and-coming talent living in a world very similar to our own. A world devoid of special effects. The mood of exiting audiences would be a mixture of surprise and massive disappointment, especially the fan boys. We waited years for a character study with no flash?
    3. Reveal to the world that the entire film was made on computers through CGI and that the lead actor doesn’t exist in real life. Watch as heads explode.

Of course, not all the backlash belongs to those having fun. Here are some examples of the more serious complaints, which also shouldn’t take away from your ability to enjoy the pretty movie:

  • Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly:
    I don’t feel as if I need to defend Titanic (you either love the movie or you don’t), but I will say this: As an act of storytelling, with two wondrously sympathetic and expressive young matinee idols enacting a stormy reverie of youthful love that catastrophe renders timeless, it is Shakespeare compared to Avatar. Or is Avatar now the new Shakespeare?
  • Devin Faraci at
    To me this emperor is wearing a wife beater and boxer shorts. He isn’t naked, but he is not dressed in the resplendent finery so many think he has on. What kind of irks me about it is that Cameron walks on and gets all the credit when his movie is really just the latest stage in a long-running process of visual FX evolution.
  • Annalee Newitz at io9:
    Whites need to stop remaking the white guilt story, which is a sneaky way of turning every story about people of color into a story about being white. Speaking as a white person, I don’t need to hear more about my own racial experience. I’d like to watch some movies about people of color (ahem, aliens), from the perspective of that group, without injecting a random white (erm, human) character to explain everything to me. Science fiction is exciting because it promises to show the world and the universe from perspectives radically unlike what we’ve seen before. But until white people stop making movies like Avatar, I fear that I’m doomed to see the same old story again and again.
  • Kurt Schlichter at Big Hollywood:
    We can leverage our collective power to support that kid coming out of Avatar somewhere in Missouri who thought the movie looked kinda cool, but can’t help thinking that seeing all those American soldiers getting slaughtered was not something people should be cheering about.  He can’t really put into words an explanation why he feels that way to his gushing friends.  Now we can give him the tools to put his finger on the nagging feeling that so much of popular culture leaves him with, and we help him to articulate his response so that the next time he can say, “Wait, I’m not buying that, James Cameron.”  And so he can tell his friends.  And they’ll likely agree.

Pajiba After Dark 12/22/09 | The Christmas List by Richard Paul Evans