Avatar (2009)

Avatar
Directed and written by James Cameron
(number 145)

I remember when I first saw this movie… there was so much hype around it, so much talk. I managed to avoid spoilers, went to see it at the Reading Courtenay Central 3D cinema and I was blown away by how beautiful it was and how well the 3D is used. I remember being quite disconcerted coming out of it that I could walk on the ground and it didn’t light up in beautiful colours. I also remember a few of the people I saw it with were complaining about headaches and eyestrain. It was a divisive movie, mostly I think of it as Fern Gully in space. The Pocahontas parallels are very clear as well, with the ‘native girl’ showing the ‘white saviour’ what nature is about and how it’s all interconnected, etc.

Unsure why this is so high up on the list… I mean, it is beautiful and groundbreaking in terms of visuals, effects and integration of 3D but there is so much missing in the film. Like… heart. It’s pretending to have heart, but I don’t feel it when I watch it. I see the beauty no problem at all.

One thing that really stood out as something that bugged me on this watch through was that the Na’vi are a patriarchal society. There’s really no supportable reason to have them organised that way. The feminine Na’vi are clearly as strong and vicious as the masculine ones, so you can’t argue like with humans that the men are the better hunters therefore the protectors. (Which isn’t even a particularly true or good reason but still.)

They don’t have a reason to be patriarchal, except for lazy writing so that we as viewers can go ‘oh they’re just like primitive us’ and feel sympathy. Show me a truly alien society, like the ones which morph from mammal-ish to trees in Speaker of the Dead*, or just… have a society where gender isn’t an issue at all, or where there is no gender to the aliens or… just freaking anything aside from another patriarchal society where the man gets to choose the woman once he’s proved himself worthy. (Vomit)

In fact with the importance of the Gaia substitute/ World tree /Earth mother goddess you’d think it’d make logical sense for it to be a matriarchal society.

I find the first half of the movie fine, a bit stupid but watchable, interesting enough. The world building makes engaging watching and getting to know the characters. Once the movie becomes one big war of guns vs alien creatures I find it harder to pay attention or to care particularly. I’m well aware of how little patience I have for action sequences now, and it makes me leery of a lot of the movies still to go on the list…

I’m also getting pretty weary of man- centric movies, where all the characters who matter are men – where the story is about his experiences with the world and women are an afterthought. I think it’s a real flaw with this top 500 list actually, that it’s so heavily weighted towards men’s stories – it’s a predictable flaw, given the magazine I got the list from and let’s face it, movie making in general.

Does it make me love the people? Eh. I guess yeah, I care about the scientists – Grace and Norm, and Trudy’s cool even though I’m generally pretty afraid of Michelle Rodriguez. Sam Worthington does a pretty okay job as Jake, he’s likeable enough… but I get so bugged by the ‘white saviour’ storyline, it’s so been done before and is no longer interesting to me.

Bechdel test: We have Ney’tiri, Grace and the excellent Trudy but they only talk to Jake or to other men, never to each other.

Best line:

Neytiri: Don’t thank. You don’t thank for this! This is sad. Very sad only.
Jake Sully: Okay, okay. I’m sorry. Whatever I did, I’m sorry.
Neytiri: All this is your fault. They did not need to die.
Jake Sully: My fault? They attacked me! How am I the bad guy?
Neytiri: Your fault! Your fault.
Jake Sully: Easy. Easy…
Neytiri: You are like a baby. Making noise, don’t know what to do.

State of Mind: Thank goodness that’s over.

Watched movie count

*Excellent book by Orson Scott Card, sequel to Ender’s Game

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