Anyone seen Avatar? Jim Emerson calls it “the first Cameron feature that’s a near-total failure” on the basis of being tied to a basically flawed 3d medium, though what I wonder is when CGI people will learn that perfection is not actually what we look for in visual effects; as this youtube clip nicely demonstrates, for example, “perfect” chords made by synthesizers actually sound less vibrant and less awesome than the “imperfect” ones we make with wood and metal, and I suspect the same is true of CGI visuals: if you want to make an empathic human, use crooked timbers.
I haven’t seen it yet, of course; I went to see the Fantastic Mr. Fox instead, which I found quite delightful, if only because, while terrible things mostly don’t happen, the entire movie is imbued with the kind of real dread that truly saturates childhood (most children’s movie do the reverse, that is, if they are honest enough to let anything bad happen at all). And the ending is fascinating, though I won’t spoil it. But I’m interested in Avatat far more, as you’ve no doubt guessed, because of the whole contact-with-aliens as metaphor for race. Annalee, for example, burns the whole thing to the ground as a white fantasy: “like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year [Avatar] is emphatically a fantasy about race…Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?” Remington asks us ” if we put a white man in the body of a genetically engineered black man, how well do you think that cracker in black face is going to be received?” And Scrimshander emails me to
“relish the self-evident contradiction of a stridently anti-corporate tract made on a quarter billion from the Fox coffers or a stridently environmentalist tract that probably doesn’t contain so much as a single real leaf. Also: in the moments when it’s not “Dances with Wolves in Space,” it aspires at least to be “Cheyenne Autumn” in space, featuring sentimentalized savages who achieve union with nature via fiber-optic weaves in their ethnically styled coif. The film implies, without actively stating, that the “Great Spirit” is a planetary AI that uses trees as synapses. It’s the best-orchestrated and formally tightest instance of total ideological meltdown I think we’re likely to see in this lifetime, with a villain who threatens non-metaphorically to bomb the racial memories of the natives.”
Oh, James Cameron.