Belated Thoughts on Avatar by James Cameron

Well, at first it was the annoying hype, then it was the fact that 3D makes me dizzy and slightly nauseous, plus it’s expensive, plus it’s generally shown in unpleasant cinemas, and then it was not being in the mood for a long movie featuring a couple of blue aliens. Eventually I took my time and rented Avatar by James Cameron.

It’s an entertaining movie, indeed.

Compared to the Star Trek era of aliens painted blue, blue aliens are now of a much deeper, more saturated blue hue. They’re nearly IKB. This is good, I like blue. As you may know, blue is the favourite colour of the majority of people on planet Earth. In addition, class M planetsĀ  are no longer interesting, as now we have the technology to show what life looks like on class L planets. Also Terraforming is no longer appealing, because now we have the technology to show more exotic, alienated alien environment. While it seems that clones, hybrids and mutants are no longer sentient, they are empty, functional shells. Androids do not exists anymore, and robots are again empty, functional shells. But the human body is still a post-modern problem, big time. And ethnic characters are still steering the ship, but Starfleet has involved into the marine corps and the outer space.
Nothing wrong with all this, but not exactly a great step for science fiction.

Eventually, I have opinions I can compare to those I heard so far.

Opinion n. 1 (heard in the office) – Avatar is a good way to get environmental ideas into the mainstream.
Blah. We’ve had environmental science-fiction for decades. But while during the Seventies environmental science fiction used to be unsettling and genuinely disturbing (think of Soylent Green), here the viewers can happily identify with very innocent Jake Sully, and forget they actually are mean Administrator Selfridges in their real life, if not evil Colonel Quaritch, and they will continue to be as soon as they get out of the cinema. I call this greenwashing.

Opinion n. 2 (heard at the canteen) – Avatar is visually amazing, it’s meant for relaxing and daydreaming and feeling free, don’t worry about the story, it’s just a childish tale
Avatar is visually amazing, roger that. The story may or may not be just a childish tale, but science fiction always is about you and your present, only in an alienated form, so this means that Avatar is visually about you. In fact, you may have forgotten that your planet Earth is visually amazing. You have forgotten that because you spend all your working time in an office without windows in an industrialized suburb and your free time at the mall and your holidays at the anthropized beach, and this explains why you need to spend all that money and wear 3D glasses to relax and daydream and feel free. But there are still other options, you know. For example I recommend:
– diving (or at least snorkeling, this will turn you blue)
– learning to ride a horse (this will take you a while)
– trying paragliding (especially if you suffer from vertigo like I do)
– trekking in the forest (possibly the primary forest, and don’t forget insects repellent)
– camping in the back-country (again insects repellent)
– reading a good novel (this we’ll bring little stars on your face)
– if you still miss the floating Hallelujah mountains try with Laputa by Miyazaki Hayao

– Opinion n. 3 (read in many reviews) Avatar’s story is not a childish tale, it’s archetypal
C’mon, we can safely say that the narrative structure here is plain Proppian, especially as regards the core Na’vi part, but I wouldn’t say Avatar‘s story is archetypal. It does contain a lot of American themes and topics, for example the innocent hero who refuses the (guilty) past and faces the wilderness to become one with it, the problem of the postmodern body, the obsession with Vietnam, the bland guilt about native Americans, but I wouldn’t use the word archetypal. All the rest, from the voiceover of the main character to the many references to the history of science fiction and fantasy, are just ordinary techniques. This is quite an ordinary movie after all.

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The Simpson’s Avatar couch-gag
Avarat by Leo Ortolani (1 and 2)

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