Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Important Avatar Addendum

Concerning Avatar, my previous comments failed to touch on an important point, broached here by Annalee Newitz:

Pandora is clearly supposed to be the rich, beautiful land America could still be if white people hadn't paved it over with concrete and strip malls. In Avatar, our white hero Jake Sully (sully - get it?) explains that Earth is basically a war-torn wasteland with no greenery or natural resources left. The humans started to colonize Pandora in order to mine a mineral called unobtainium that can serve as a mega-energy source. But a few of these humans don't want to crush the natives ...
Yea, yea, whatever -- among its wish-fulfillments, Avatar gives European Americans the chance to undo some of the callousness and brutality that put us where we are today. The point is, did everyone catch that the precious resource on planet Pandora is called "unobtainium"?

"Unobtainium." Un. Obtain. Ium.

There in the theater during Avatar, some time in the second hour or so (I lost count), I heard a character call it "unobtainium" for the first time, and I told myself that the movie's length and my bladder urgency were playing tricks on my cognition. Soon enough, the word came up again -- "unobtainium" -- and then once again. By several hours in (honestly, I lost track), it had become undeniable and inescapable -- un. deny. able. and in. escape. able. -- that Jim "king of the world!" Cameron, together with his creative team of advanced cameras, fabulous computers, and millions of monkeys chained to typewriters had crapped the name "unobtainium" into their waiting hands, wadded it into a ball, and hurled it onto the final version of the screenplay. Un. Edit. Ed.

There is probably someone or something more egregiously half-assedly named in the annals of film -- perhaps "The Dark Side" from George Lucas's typewriter-bound monkey troupe, as if the oppressors of the universe go around labeling themselves as "dark" rather than light, good, fair, and balanced; or ever concede they're a "side" of anything rather than its whole.

If you find just one reason not to see Avatar this year or next, make it "unobtainium." Or, if you like, avoid it because it is (over. long.), predictable (predict. able), and dumb (dumb).


larryniven said...

Agreed - my buddies told me about that and it literally left me at a loss for words. Saturday morning cartoons are brainier than that.

Also, though, let the facebook stalking commence!

(Captcha, by the way? "Allism." Sounds like a decent -ism to follow, actually.)

Reuben said...

Do you reserve particular contempt for the film out of its inverse popularity, or its inherent qualities? I mean, a LOT of bad films are being consistently farted out by Hollywood, and that without your comment (not that I'm expecting it).

Dale said...

Reuben, basically, yes. You have inspired a fresh new post trashing Avatar while explaining my reasons for trashing Avatar.

I know you're itching to read it.

Megan said...

We finally saw it last night. I was prepared for the lack of plot/dialogue/interest so it wasn't horrible. For us it was CGI porn--who cares about the plot?

Dale said...

Megan, that's exactly the way to see it -- chicken soup for the soul of visual effects geeks. Beyond that, the less you pay attention, the better it will seem.