Avatar is one of those movies that you just have to see. In our thousand-channel, billion-webpage universe, sometimes we need to have a collective cultural experience. The CGI is amazing. I couldn’t tell whether it was through the use of clever editing or new software tools, but the live action blended seamlessly with the animation in way I’ve never seen before. The story strikes a fine balance, incorporating enough hard science fiction ideas to inspire the visuals, but enough mythological tropes to keep the audience involved. It’s cheesy, but not too cheesy.
It is by no means a perfect movie. I would’ve liked to know why the corporation was willing to go through with genocide to get at their unobtainium (I would’ve called in macguffinite myself). This is a movie more about spectacle than nuance. But as the success of District 9 has shown us, there is room for intellectual SF movies as well as the booming blockbusters. Avatar has been an easy target for internet snark ever since the first trailers came out, but I find I part ways with the critics when they start talking about the film’s racist/mysoginist/ableist overtones.
I’m not going to go into every political grievance against this film. Even anti-smokers are getting into the game. Yes, Avatar is essentially “Dances With Wolves” in space, but that doesn’t make it white supremacist literature. People respond to this story, especially in North America because it is, in essence, their story. Most societies on the Western Hemisphere are here because of political edicts of older, more entrenched societies in Eurasia. As time went on, we adapted to our new home and eventually broke free of our autocratic masters from across the ocean. A lot of people died or were subjugated over this period of history, but it does not change the fact that it is our story. Instead of simply decrying movies like this, we should learn why they resonate with us, and in turn learn a bit more about ourselves.