I already offered my problems with Avatar when I reviewed it two weeks ago. While I don’t want to repeat myself, that review was written shortly after the film’s opening, before the popular opinion of it had a chance to congeal. In general, opinions of the film haven’t been totally different—though they have been much more positive—from my own: The consensus seems to be that Avatar is visually impressive, if not all that original in terms of story and character.
What has been surprising, though, is how critics and audiences alike do not seem to care about the film’s weaknesses. Almost every review I’ve read, whether from an established critic like Roger Ebert or simply someone’s Twitter feed, has acknowledged the film’s simplicity and derivativeness, and then completely ignored them. In fact, some people have gone even further, saying that the smallness of the story and the characters actually makes the movie better. Sam Adams at The A.V. Club wrote that it’s the film’s political message—and not its visual inventiveness—that is so revolutionary.
Adams’ argument is that the simplicity and obviousness of the film’s message enhances its role as a political invective:
[T]he movie can—and, I think, ought to—be seen as a polemic, which makes criticism of its obviousness beside the point. Having Lang’s colonel refer to his plan to bomb the Na’vi into submission with the words “shock and awe” is not subtle, but it’s not meant to be. Cameron means to be confrontational, and to be sure, audiences looking for a diverting night out are not allowed to overlook the parallels. Continue reading »