Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar - the Great American Guilt Trip

Am back here after a long time. And of all the things in life, it had to be a Hollywood movie that made me come back. Alas.... Yes, its Avatar.
Supposedly, the most expensive movie of all time. Surely one of the most disappointing of all time, according to me.
Firstly, what is all this about 'most expensive'? Is that supposed to make it attractive? Hardly. Its like that meaningless statistics that every subsequent Olympic/Asian/Commonwealth/ etc Games boast of. The BIGGEST games in history. Come on, pleeeeeeeez.
Anyway, back to the movie. It is a collection of all the things that America is adept at saying, but unfortunately never gets around to actually doing. So. What are they saying to the world (and to themselves, just in case you forgot)
1. We really should have treated the native Americans with a little more respect. But we killed most of them! Oops. Sorry, mate. But we couldn't help it, could we. They had bows and arrows, tomahawks, hatchets and what all! Can you imagine?? Savag.. Sorry. Wrong thing to say.
2. Vietnam was a big mistake. Kennedy died telling us so. But we weren't listening then. What could we have done? Let the Russians take over? NEVER. Here we come....
3. Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cub..(sorry, not Cuba, really. That man Castro. How we wish we had him then!) and so many mistakes later. We don't learn really, do we? Sorry again, chum. Next time. Promise.
4. We should never underestimate the strength of an ex-marine. After all, HE is the one who went and fought for a cause that was thrust upon him, got bullets riddled into his body and came back a broken man. No, but we won't learn. There's always the bully colonel who will push his way through. Never mind the fact that he will get blown up too. Who cares?
5. We want the minerals, ok? Yes! Well, EVERYONE wants them, right? So we wanted oil and uranium and this and that. Its just that in this movie we are calling it by a silly scientific-sounding name - Unobtainium. And to get that, we will blast away anything (or anybody, for that matter) who gets in our way.
6. Don't mess with the savag... sorry, the natives. Even if you have the most ultra-modern weapons, they are useless against their primitive bow and arrows. Because, damn, they know the terrain better than we do!
7. Its no use employing stupid gum-chewing managers to lead such sensitive projects. They will bulldoze their way using technology, but will get beaten sooner or later. Don't get carried away by his conviction. See how in the movie we show him asking rudely, "Jake, what do those blue monkeys want"?
I can list them endlessly, but will stop here.

Is it a 'bad' movie? Is it an entertainer? Ummm.... no and yes. Will kids love it? YES, SURELY.
But look at it closely, and it can just about compare with a B-grade Hindi thriller. Inane dialogues, sub-optimal use of technology and special effects (after spending all that money! That's the worst part!) and a very very predictable plot make it a dreary watch. And to top it all, it also matches very well with the Bollywoodean habit of stretching even the smallest story to almost THREE HOURS.
James Cameron gave us Titanic. Can't believe the same man could make such a disaster of a movie after that.
Last point. Even if one wants to admire the special effect, one can't. Star Wars (made decades ago) and Jurassic Park had a much better impact.
All in all, its an American-guilt-trip, and is a Sci-fi version of Pocahontas, with some bits of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars thrown in for special effects. The overall effect is really poor.
So much that at the last shot when Jake Sully's Avatar opens his eyes slowly, someone in the theater actually shouted, "Doctor saab. Mujhe kuchh dikhai nahi de raha. MUJHE KUCHH DIKHAI NAHI DETAAAAAAAA. Doctor SAAAAAB".
Psssst. That 'someone' was actually yours truly. My own way of getting back at the Americans. But are they listening? Nope.


Asif said...

Ha ha ha great read early in the morning. Really I missed your writing style and I'm happy to see you back.
These lines were perfect to bring in a big smile on any ones lips.
"Doctor saab. Mujhe kuchh dikhai nahi de raha. MUJHE KUCHH DIKHAI NAHI DETAAAAAAAA. Doctor SAAAAAB".
Yes that must be ours truly..yes truly "SIR JI" ;)

Vinay said...

Rambo re-packaged! Corporate greed vs. local heritage. Cameroon has packaged the same message of Rambo in a different form.

But I think it is necessary. Only such repeated hammerings can (probably) bring about a welcome change. Keeping the message in the limelight is essential. Avatar just does that.

As for the 3-D experience, I loved it!

Amol Naik said...

Hi Pushkaraj! I disagree here with you.

Avatar isn't that grand script. But "sub-optimal use of technology" that's too lame.

First, James Cameron waited for 10 years for the right kind of technology to aid his vision. Imagine somebody who has so much of faith in his vision to last that long. I mean, a Bollywood director would have by then made 20 mmovies with sub-standard movies.

Second, James knew that the technology would be available in future. That shows man's anticipation with clear sense of development.

Third, the technology I am talking about is James's new camera that captures human facial expression and trasfers in real-time to animated characters. It requires high-end processors and tones of data storage.

So, movies are surely for entertainment. But Avatar isn't! For rational people, its what a man's vision can achieve...

Pushkaraj said...

@ Vinay - Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate your frank opinion.
@ Amol Naik - I am not a techie at all and don't understand its nuances. I was just expressing my opinion at the impact that the final outcome has on a viewer. So it may not be 'sub-optimal use of technology' as I have said, but it is sub-optimal final output surely. Compare the final climax battle with the one in Star Wars or Return of the Jedi. They delivered a punch impact that is absent in Avatar.
My comment is probably also coming from the fact that before the movie, they screened the promo of a forthcoming 3D animation movie (sorry I forget the name). The 3D effects in that 5-min promo were much better than the 3-hour long Avatar!

Mary & Rémi said...

Hello! I just found your blog randomly as I was searching for blogs in Pune, India.

Question, did you see the movie in India? Because sadly that makes a difference in the visuals. I agree that the plot was completely predictable but I don't expect much from the man who made Titanic (also extremely long and boring predictable plot). I loved this movie NOT for the plot but for what it did for movies in general.

You have to give props for the visuals. Perhaps I understand what they achieved and appreciate it more due to my friends in the industry. That movie set a president which cannot be denied. Every so often a bar gets set and this is one of those examples. I was sad when I came back from my xmas in the U.S. where I'd seen Avatar and saw it again in Pune theaters with friends. It was not the same experience, a lot of the movie was cut, the 3d glasses were thin plastic lenses which distorted the screen, I had trouble focusing on the details which was why I wanted to see it a second time in the first place!

Pushkaraj said...

@ Mary &Amp; Remi - Now, you have brought around a completely different perspective. Thanks so much for making this topic interesting.
Yes, of course I saw the movie in India (City Pride, Kothrud, Pune - to be precise). I hated the 3D glasses too. So that means the Indian viewers are actually robbed of the 'real' experience, which all makes this rather unfortunate (and unfair to Cameron.)
Be that as it may, it doesn't take anything away from my opinion about the plot and hence the movie on the whole. For me, the CONTENT always comes first and DELIVERY comes next. If the basic storyline is flimsy, no amount of polished delivery can make it good for a cynic like me.
Once again, thanks for the comment. I hope you will continue to visit my blog, if you are interested in Pune.