The critics love it. The fannies are sitting in the movie seats. It cost half a billion dollars. So what’s wrong with me? (Don’t answer, please.) The day it opened, I purchased a ticket to “Avatar.” But I’m just not buying it.
It has its moments. So much about the blockbuster movie is derivative. The dreaming blue creature in soy sauce recall the precogs of “Minority Report.” The space ship battles are a cross between “Star Wars” and Custer’s last stand — big blue Commanches shooting arrows against White Eyes Colonialists. Even the sound track is derivative — director James Cameron quotes his “Titanic” score.
New Yorker critic David Denby joined the others in critic Jonestown in drinking the Kool-Aid. The most beautiful movie he ever saw. A NY Times critic gushed that “Avatar” was the future of movie making. I don’t think so. I think it’s more like the past. It’s rather retro, actually. Those 3 D glasses. What else? Mike Todd’s Smell-o-vision?
Where “WALL-E” is utterly lovely and movingly romantic, idealistic and even profound in its story, simplicity and silent movie-like silence, “Avatar” is preachy, obvious, corny and heavy-handed. The big bad villain is a egregiously written character — and light years from the cool black breathy majesterial iconic brilliance of Darth Vader. The big blue ingenue love interest is much too skinny to inspire lust; she’s a kind of quasi-Native American cum rainforest Hiawatha, full of sententious self-righteousness. The good/evil dynamic is supremely uncompelling.
Besides all that, the movie’s premise — invading, rapacious, materialistic, heartless, clueless Americans up against an innocent, spiritual, indigenous people — struck me as Hollywood’s narrative of American history.
I have a feeling that Rush Limbaugh & the right wing noise machine is going to be unhappy wit a movie about how a wheelchair-bound Marine is propagandized by our nation’s enemy and sells out to become a kind of Taliban sympathizer, fighting on the side of the insurgents.
Frank Rich’s op ed in the Sunday NY Times advanced the very reasonable, if Swiftian argument that instead of Ben Bernanke being Time’s Man of the Year, the real man of the year should have been Tiger Woods. That’s because after a decade of humongous phoniness worthy of Mark Twain’s Duke and Dauphin — Enron, Bernie Madoff, “reality” TV — the sheer ballsy moxie of Mr. Woods social construction as a family man counts as kind of fabulous hole in one.
Sure, I could be sadly mistaken. “Avatar” is a masterpiece, as the critics declare. This is my minority report. (I was wrong about “Bonnie and Clyde,” which is surely a masterpiece.) But “Avatar?”
Uh-uh. I’m not buying it.