5 Reasons Avatar Will Suck

5 Reasons Avatar Will Suck

As the biggest movie of the winter approaches, I think we all hear the whispers of prophesy. Avatar is going to suck.

Reason #3: Cats with human boobs suck

As some of you know, and as I’ve mentioned on the podcast, I play Magic: The Gathering. Here is a card that was printed in last year’s Shards of Alara set. Let’s see if you can figure out what’s wrong with it. Get out your #2 pencils.

wild-nacatl

A) Geez, that is way over the curve for just one green mana!
B) Geez, unless I had dual lands and fetches, supporting that would stretch my manabase!
C) Geez, that is a cat with human boobs!

While A and B are insightful, the correct answer is C. There’s no accounting for taste, and people’s sexual predilections are their own business, but somebody out there mistakenly thinks they have their finger on the pulse of the nerd mind and really have it somewhere else, because the cat with human boobs thing has gotten entirely out of hand.

I’m not talking about Aesop/Fantastic Mr. Fox allegorical use of animals to represent people. I’m not talking about Maple Town / Care Bears style “Let’s make our characters animals so they are furry and cute and make good toys” either. I’m talking about this Victoria’s Calico Secret, cheesecake made with a saucer of milk craziness.

See, the braids mean she's exotic.

The braids mean she's exotic.

Again, there’s no accounting for taste, and people’s sexual predilections are their own business. That notwithstanding, either my rough guesses of how many people are into anthropomorphic animal sexytime are way off, or certain people, incluing Jimmy Cameron, grossly overestimate the share of nerds who are furries (“furries” being the somewhat derogatory term for people who are totally into things like human boobs on cats, which, even though the Avatar alien cat people don’t appear to have pelts, seems an accurate enough classification).

It makes me think Cameron is trying to guess the best way to pander to his prayed-for audience rather than the best way to make a good movie. In either case, he’s way off the reservation (callback pun!). The indigenous-people-as-animals connection alone gives me a case of the Jar Jars.

We know from the legendary Brunching Shuttlecocks Geek Hierarchy that furries are the nut-low of nerddom. Perhaps unjustly, nobody respects them. They make even Magic players uncomfortable.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Maybe, MAYBE Cameron is a furry himself, and he’s finally coming clean after hiding it for decades (in the original Titanic sketchbook, Rose was a snow leopard). But this seems unlikely.

If Avatar is supposed to finally break the barrier of believability in the realization of a computer-generated race of people, if it’s supposed to do this unprecedented thing that is totally awesome, why is it doing it with cats with human boobs?

I’ll tell you why — it’s because Avatar is going to suck.

Reason #2: Sam Worthington sucks

Sam WorthingtonI’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why everybody who thinks the guy who played the stupid cyborg in the dumbest movie of the summer is this really great actor we should be excited to see in another much-anticipated action movie — very few people actually saw the movies Sam Worthington was in before Terminator Salvation; there is little evidence the guy can carry an action/sci-fi blockbuster and at least some evidence that he cannot.

Was it the one episode of JAG he did? Is that show still on the USA network every two hours or so?

After days of agonizing, I finally got it.

One of these guys sucks.

One of these guys sucks.

Somewhere along the line, people started confusing Sam Worthington and Tahmoh Penikett, also known as ‘Helo’ Agathon from Battlestar Galactica.

I understand why people would make the switch. Tahmoh Penikett is a hard name to remember. He’s part Eskimo, and you don’t run into all that many big-name Eskimo actors who look like white guys and play spaceship lieutenants. They were born about a year apart, both in Commonwealth nations (Canada and Australia, respectively). They play the same sort of wandering tough-guy characters in grimy sci-fi reboots, and their most famous characters were both heavily modified in development from the original scripts of their properties. They both are involved in fictional robot/human romances. They look quite similar, especially at first glance. They’re both right on the line between people who could qualify as actual stars and people who could end up on actual Stargate.

Lest we forget.

Lest we forget.

The one difference? Tahmoh Penikett is awesome, and Sam Worthington sucks.

Oh, it’s not that Sam Worthington is some terrible actor. The fact that he’s at least a decent actor is part of why he sucks. Other than playing a robot in a steaming pile of crap, his main claim to fame is a super-artistic movie that won all sorts of awards, but that he worked on for seven years. He then followed it up with an embarrassment, and is rewarded with deal after deal for his trouble.

It's okay; Helo knows a little bit about how to deal with treasonous robots.

It's okay; Helo knows a little bit about how to deal with treasonous robots. Or at least he's hopefully figured it out by now.

In seven years, Sam Worthington made one movie. In seven years, Tahmoh Penikett made the entire run of Battlestar Galactica. He was so awesome in the pilot that audience acclaim brought back his character when he was supposed to be dead before the series started.

Sure, he got thrown on Dollhouse, and we all know how that turned out. But Dollhouse was hardly an embarrassment on the scale of Terminator Salvation. Where is Helo’s three-picture deal? Where is Helo’s cover of Esquire?

It’s been easy to accept Sam Worthington as a star because Tahmoh Penikett deserves to be a star. There’s a Penikett-shaped space in the zeitgeist, and Worthington fame-cuckolded him and squeezed right into it. Perhaps Penikett traded his birthright to his twin for a bowl of lentils. Sam Worthington is taking what belongs to Helo, because Sam Worthington sucks.

Of course, if Avatar sucks as badly as the indicators suggest, Helo will have been lucky to have been left on Caprica instead of brought on board.

And the #1 reason Avatar will suck . . .

43 Comments on “5 Reasons Avatar Will Suck”

  1. Redem #

    Heh while I don’t agree (I’m a salvation apologist), but anyway the the last part is quite the Jewel

    The article mention the fact that John Smith is a bit of an outcast in his own society. When you think about it this rather kill the whole “love know no boundary” theme its suppose to have
    because John Smith aspiration and value class with those of Europeans societies and therefore he can only fit with the natives hence why he so attracted to Pocahontas.

    Reply

  2. josh #

    What if the ending involved the be-boobed cat people winning the war and driving out the invaders permanently? Would that work to make it suck less?

    Would you be willing to admit that the bipedal mech-armor in District 9 didn’t suck? Cuz I dug that. Especially collecting the bullets in a magnetic field bit and the way they animated it when damaged to actually seem very wounded beasty.

    Have you considered the possibility that Tahmoh Penikett is himself a suit of bi-pedal armor? (maybe for a dwarf warrior of some sort) Something weird about the way that dude moves. Like his torso and hips are always aligned, usually with his jaw. Check it out next time. He kinda stalks around like a T-800. It’s odd. Or maybe its the way he seethes and juts his jaw out. I can’t put my finger on it.

    But yeah. Overall, you’re right. Blue boobed cat people cartoons leaping around CGI Eden. Looks like a steaming pile of fail.

    Bonus Cameron quote: Right from the beginning I said, “She’s got to have tits,” even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.

    Reply

  3. perich OTI Staff #

    Fenzel: I’ve always understood your “Paint with all the Colors of the Wind” references.

    Reply

  4. Simber #

    That’s a great piece on Pocahontas Fenzel, but strangely it lights a small candle of new hope for Avatar for me. (I had a feeling it would suck for a long time.) Because if there’s one constant in Cameron’s work it’s that identity is forged (and crushed) by powers individuals can’t fathom, let alone control. And the movie is not called ‘name of exotic planet’ or ‘name of exotic blueboobcat’, but ‘Avatar’, so the crux must lie there.

    So if Cameron has decided to make Avatar a romantic tragedy (like Titanic) instead of a romance, it just might be satisfactory. And I suspect this is the case because it’s not Sam Worthington/John Smith who appeals to Blueboobcat, but the disguise; a Cyrano theme. So inevitably there will be a third act confrontation between Sam Worthington *as human* with Blueboobcat – frought with irony until the treason is revealed. This is not romantic comedy treason, which is immature and easily forgiven (She’s really a maid! etc.), but hardcore peripety and in all probability tragic.

    This just leaves the four other reasons why Avatar will suck, of which especially the cats with boobs thing pretty much convinces me.

    Reply

  5. stokes OTI Staff #

    This is pretty damning stuff. But I’m still trying to get excited about this movie, and here’s why: James Cameron’s narrative elements have always kind of sucked. I don’t have any interest in seeing a troubled youth teach his distant, threatening father-figure how to cry. And woman-in-prison movies right up there with catgirls on the “Wait, who thought this was sexy?” scale. But Terminator 2 still ruled.

    I also don’t really want to watch a tough-as-nails chick learn that all she ever really wanted was to be a mommy, even if her response to this knowledge is to just become tough-as-nails-ier. And Vietnam… IN SPACE!!! is not really as good an idea as filmmakers seem to keep thinking that it is. But Al|ens still ruled.

    Cameron’s strength is not in the stories he tells: it’s in the uniquely filmic way that he tells them. And from what I can tell, he spent most of the past decade teaching himself how to use 3D technology. So here’s what I’m hoping: I’m hoping that Avatar will be one of the first 3D movies where 3D stops being a gimmick and starts being part of the visual arsenal of filmmaking. That 3D will be for Avatar what cross-cutting is for, say, Birth of a Nation… another movie whose narrative aspects – lest we forget! – suuuuucked.

    But I dunno. After reading Fenzel’s post, hoping got a lot harder. Like I said, it’s pretty damning stuff. How hard would it have been to give the natives less revealing clothes? Or hell, just switch the gender dynamic: make the imperialist agent-provacateur a woman and the sexotic native a dude. That alone would probably be enough to throw the traditional Pocahontas narrative out of whack, and at least give the story a chance to stand on its own merits.

    Reply

  6. stokes OTI Staff #

    p.s. I think it goes without saying that most of the writing staff will see Avatar regardless. What would people think of a James Cameron theme week?

    Reply

  7. thinkwatchthink #

    This was great. Awesome. I am in awe. “Case of the Jars Jars” alone would make it worthwhile, but I loved your take on Pocahontas narratives. It is twisted that we keep going back and saying, “But see, they fell in love and that makes us totally taking over everything all okay.”

    And can I just register annoyance at the idea that putting something over the nipple makes the woman somehow not naked. There’s more to the boob than that one little spot. You’re not fooling anyone here.

    Reply

  8. Darin #

    Awesome post, read every word, gonna be late, worth it.

    Reply

  9. Diana #

    “The archetypical, fictional Pocahontas is a comfortable meeting place for discussions of “diversity,” but not a good one for actually talking about race. She lends historical legitimacy to the notion that people who are different from each other should try to get along, but she reaffirms prejudices rather than shedding light on them.” = FULL OF WIN.

    Also, thank you for finally saying something about the awfulness of cats with boobs. This is what happens when board rooms try to do “nerd-friendly female characters” — it’s worse than the manic pixie dream girl thing that happened when Hollywood discovered that indie rockers don’t like Pamela Anderson. The extent of the tone-deafness is embarrassing for everyone involved.

    Reply

  10. mlawski OTI Staff #

    Great article, Pete.

    @josh: If the magical Native Americans/boobed cat people do end up beating the humans for good, the movie will still be sucky and racist, just in a different way. I worried about this when I saw the Avatar trailer at the movies recently. It’s the Mighty Whitey tale all over again. The cat people are too dumb to know they need to fight the humans, and too weak to know how to fight them. Luckily, Mighty Whitey (Humaney?) Sam Worthington is there to show them the way. You need to fight, he says. Here’s how you fight my people, he says. Then he starts flying around on their computer-generated sky horses and kicking ass.

    I can see it already. Sam Worthington, who has been in the body of one of these cat people for maybe a week, is inconceivably the best damn blue cat warrior there has ever been in the whole history of blue cat warrior people. (He may suck at being a cat warrior for about seven minutes in a comic relief scene, but, don’t worry, a quick montage will help bring him up to speed as The Best Cat Warrior There Could Ever Be.) Only with his awesome help would the cat people have a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating the nasty humans. In short, humans (white people) suck, but only a human (white person) with his infinite intelligence and badassness can defeat them.

    This is definitely going to happen in Avatar. Even if the cat people ultimately lose in some faux-tragic ending, this is definitely going to happen.

    Reply

  11. Jesse #

    Heey, wait. Why isn’t there a single-page or print-view option? As a longtime podcast fan, I’m disappointed in you.

    Reply

    • Matthew Wrather #

      Just installed a print option. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

      Reply

  12. M Chan #

    Maybe it will be more like Dances With Wolves, where the romance between Male Outsider and Sexy Boobed Tribal Representative is merely a sideplot, and the main thrust of the film is the misunderstanding between peoples that goes far beyond mere linguistics.

    Or maybe it will be mostly about CGI and Mecha suits. And boobed catpeople.

    Reply

  13. A man of science #

    Great post, Fenzel! The Pocahontas story — even the mythical, idealistic version — has never sat right with me, but I could never quite put my finger on why before now.

    I agree with you about the power armor legs. They’re a vulnerability (cf. “The Empire Strikes Back”, naturally), they’re slow, and it would have to be a tremendous waste of energy to lift those huge legs and put them down again, over and over.

    But let me play devil’s advocate: how do you respond to the typical rationalization that legs let the machine “walk” on any kind of terrain, where wheels cannot go? A sufficiently nimble walker could pick its way over a rocky mountainside, through a swamp, or over the uneven ground of a jungle. Okay, even those examples suck — any large vehicle would simply be blocked by the trees in any forest or jungle setting, whether it’s on wheels, treads, or legs. And the tremendous pressure on the feet (think of stiletto heels versus a flat sole) would send the legs sinking straight down into a swamp (or snow — I’m looking in your direction, General Veers). Also, none of this justifies using legs to the exclusion of wheels/treads; everyone knows that multi-mode robots are the coolest anyway. But the “rocky mountainside” example still sort of holds, and the terrain excuse is the number-one reason trotted out to defend those giant walking impracticalities we can’t help but love. It seems to have escaped mention in your post, Fenzel, so I’d be interested in your response to it.

    Also, “Magic: The Gathering” rocks! Wild Nacatl is good in Extended if you have any of the dual lands from “Ravnica” at hand, and a little duct tape covers the cat boobs nicely.

    Reply

  14. KevinR #

    Y’know, if this thing isn’t a huge boxoffice success (which will probably be the case even if it does make fuckloads of cash), maybe Fox won’t be able to afford further development on their proposed Fantastic Four reboot, and will have to sell it (and maybe Daredevil too) back to Marvel. So, maybe some good will come out of this either way.

    Reply

  15. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Fenzel –

    I haven’t seen The New World, so I can’t really argue with your assessment. But let me ask you, have you seen any OTHER Terrence Malick movies? The guy is somewhat notorious for making gorgeous, plotless movies. Days of Heaven is really breathtaking… while also being dull as hell. So I guess I’m saying that if The New World is completely boring, it’s not necessarily the subject material that’s the problem. That’s just the way Terrence rolls.

    Reply

  16. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @mlawski –

    I bet there is another young cat-man, who is a rival for the cat-girl’s love. And when Sam Worthington wants to take over the tribe, the cat-man challenges him to some sort of cat-duel. Anyone want to bet a dollar?

    The sad part is, this totally happened in Stomp the Yard.

    Reply

  17. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    @Fenzel –

    I’ll add a sixth reason: these special effects don’t look that impressive. They look like a videogame. A GREAT videogame, but still – they look fake. I may very well be eating my words, but I’m not buying the “This is the most technically-advanced thing ever created” line.

    Reply

  18. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    And YES, I’m going for the rare QUAD-QUAD-QUAD-QUADRUPLE comment, because no one has yet mentioned the “Dances With Smurfs” episode of South Park from last month. The episode is mostly a takedown of Glenn Beck, with Cartman using the morning announcements to rip into Wendy for no reason. He eventually tells an elaborate story about how she murdered all the Smurfs.
    http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/255337
    And at the end of the episode, the punchline is that James Cameron makes a movie about it. “How many smurfberries is the life of one Smurf worth?!”

    Trey and Matt are right – Avatar is “Dances With Smurfs.”

    Reply

  19. fenzel #

    Thanks for reading the post everybody!

    @josh — The District 9 armor was supposed to suck — it was leftover, kind of half-operational armor in a refugee camp. So the fact that it was ugly and moved awkwardly was okay. The aliens were supposed to be really off their game, but still really advanced, so I think the inherent suckiness of that armor helped.

    Also, much of BSG already posed the question of whether or not Helo was a robot, as it did for its entire cast. If he turned out to be one, or perhaps a suit of bipedal armor with a smaller half-Eskimo driving it, it would still be better than the series finale of BSG.

    @stokes — I am hoping the movie is good, too. Its main hope is 3D; the 3D might just be so awesome that the rest doesn’t matter. Like, I’m a big fan of Captain Eo, but I wouldn’t expound on a great many redeeming qualities.

    I’d be up for a Cameron theme week.

    @shana — love your take on the cats-win-because-of-white-dude scenario. It’s spot-on.

    @Jesse — Sorry you’re disappointed. We’re working on a redesign now, but it’ll take a while. I’m hoping the eventual redesign has a “view as a full page” option. I split this into pages because it was just way too frickin’ long with too many images for the default to be one giant pageload.

    @man of science — Yeah, but two legs are still not very stable. Four legs would be better for traversing rough terrain, or many legs like a spider. But it’s not like the usefulness is why they make it bipedal — Volton is bipedal and spends a lot of his time flying around outer space. They make it bipedal to look like a robo-super-person, to be an extension of the human body. It has a tiny bit of promise, but it’s overdone, and it still sucks for reasons mentioned earlier.

    Also, man of science, if you like Magic and want to read more stuff written by me, I have a bunch of humor articles at another site, http://www.goodgamery.com, under the name GyantSpyder. It’s a fun place.

    http://goodgamery.com/index.php/tag/gyantspyder/

    The jokes are pretty obscure for non Magic players, but I’ve enjoyed it.

    I mostly play online, and mostly limited these days, but yeah, Nacatl is great in extended, of course, but it’s also good to see it in play in standard again in the naya lightsaber decks. I’m wondering whether Worldwake will have additional manafixing that will make it really firmly playable again — or will at least give some tools to let somebody put a decent UG aggro-control deck together to fight the other midrange decks. Too much Jund! TOO MUCH JUND!!

    @Blinks

    I CHALLENGE FOR LEADERSHIP OF THE CLAN!! The Kevin Costner parallels continue! They really should have made him the lead of this movie — he would have been amazing.

    Never have seen other Mallick movies, but it makes sense then that he would pick The New World if he likes this kind of thing. Just so freaking boring.

    As for the Avatar special effects, yeah, a lot of it is going to rest on the 3D and whether it is too exhausting to watch or integrated into the rest of the moviemaking well enough. I’ve seen a few 2D stills with interesting composition that lead me to believe there are going to be some really impressive 3D images in this movie — but it still doesn’t look like it will transcend novelty.

    To be fair, it’s entirely possible that some of the images in this article are actually _from_ the video game. The pictures have kind of gotten jumbled on the ‘Net. They’d have to be FMVs, though. They’re too fancy to be in-game.

    And yeah, thanks again to everybody who liked it! Hopefully, the movie will be awesome, embarrassing me, but giving me solid enjoyment, and prompting a “Five Reasons Avatar Didn’t Suck” post. But I’m not holding my breath.

    Reply

  20. Mike M. #

    How is it that mech armor has entered the discussion, yet neither article nor comments has a single mention of “Iron Man?” I hereby submit that film as the exception that proves (i.e., challenges) your rule. The entire film is basically Robert Downey Jr. building his own mech armor, and it’s all pretty awesome.

    Also: James Cameron Week is an awesome idea. I’m surprised you haven’t done it yet.

    Reply

  21. fenzel #

    @mike m

    An observant question! I actually originally included a discussion of the difference between “mecha” and “power armor” in the piece, but I cut it because, well, it was confusing and not fun to read.

    Note the use of the word “giant” in the heading for reason 4.

    It’s generally acknowledged in fictional-robot-related geek circles that large piloted armor is different from human-sized “worn” armor, and that “mecha” only apllies to the former. Thus, the Iron Man suit is not mecha. stuff the size of the rig in aliens or the armor in district 9 is borderline, but feels more like a vehicle than a set of clothes with special powers. “Worn” armor that is only slightly larger than its user is much less stupid, because you can understand why it has legs and it usually is built in such a way as to protect the user as opposed to deliberately not protect him or her while focusing on durability everywhere else.

    This is discussed in the Wikipedia article for Mecha:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/mecha

    The irony is that I cut this discussion out of the post because I didn’t want to get into too much depth on it, because it’s a tricky distinction that doesn’t much reward figuring it out and has lots of exceptions.

    Good question, though!

    Reply

  22. josh #

    I realize it’s petty and small, but I want it to suck. Or rather, I want it to fail mostly because I’m 95% convinced it will suck. Although I’m pretty sure it’s too big to fail.

    I mean, the guy has unlimited resources at his command and he makes a reactionary Dances with Smurfs cartoon? And we still can’t get a watchable Terminator sequel?

    I don’t want to live in a world where that’s rewarded! (gestures dramatically, jumps into abyss)

    Reply

  23. Gab #

    Small IMDB-ish fact before the meat: Christian Bale also did the voice of Thomas in _Pocahontas_. If the narrative itself is a recipe for disaster, he probably won’t ever redeem himself by participating in a *good* Pocahontas story- 0 for 2 forever.

    I hadn’t thought of it before, but you’re quite onto something about how the failure of the Pocahontas narrative led to the failure of Disney. Their next film, _The Hunchback of Notre Dame_ didn’t do so well, and it was also a rather messed-up transfiguration of a previously known narrative that has parallels to the Pocahontas one (Pheobus and Esmeralda). Same with _Atlantis_ (much more blatantly, too). Then they did _Treasure Planet_ (I didn’t see it) and _Home on the Range_ (the only movie about which I have ever not known answers to in Disney “Scene It!”). But since I miss the Good Old Days in which I grew up, I’m hoping they succeed in this _Princess and the Frog_ coming out. While it probably could have a “5 Reasons it will Suck” article of its own, I’m holding out for it the same way I (and it seems you and most of the other commenters here) am for Avatar. (And on a related note, I am also praying Shymalan’s movie will be good because the cartoon it’s based on is amazing. Seriously, Fenzel, if you haven’t seen it, this is something you need to fix.)

    Re: Dances with Wolves. First, Kevin Costner is awful. If he *had* been cast in this one, he would have been good because he was so damned bad. But whenever the narrative fails, too, then the “good” part is really hard to get to. I know I’m probably alone in this, but he’s an actor I can’t stand watching; and his movies are examples of the rare ones that I dislike enough to choose turning off the TV over watching when they’re on “just because” or something- if those are the “best” things on HBO, I’d rather go do something else. If I do like the movie, it’s always because it has a plot based more around an ensemble cast, and there is usually at least one person that totally outshines him in some way, compensating for his vast amounts of not-awesome; and even then, I’m sort of uncomfortable during his scenes.

    Okay, now that that’s off my chest… His character didn’t fall in love with a Genuinely Real Sparkly Native. She was a white woman that had been adopted by the Sioux leader Kicking Bird. That’s a gigantic loophole I have been bothered by since I was old enough to understand it (I saw it when I was way too young because it was filmed basically in my grandpa’s backyard and I’m related to a bunch of the Lakota extras). There are lots of ways to pick the relationship between Dunbar and Stands With A Fist apart (hmmmmmm), but the fact remains he couldn’t build the bridge between himself and the tribe on his own and needed her to dredge up her memories of English to really make any progress. And, further, the success of *their* relationship is based on that language link- I really don’t think it would have worked out if she hadn’t tried to remember English in order to talk to him (and had been able to as much as she had). She was curious about him, but that would have been the end of it (if her character was still in the story at all)- *everybody* in the tribe was curious about him in some way, after all.

    The fetishism of the Pocahontas narrative seems to be one of the biggest problems with it, right? Even if the colonist Goes Native, it’s presented as some big, noble sacrifice instead of what it really comes down to: his eros taking over. It gets made out to look like he’s Doing the Right Thing by sticking around. So he’s always with the Token Sparkly Native Woman. It’s like roleplaying (not the DnD kind) made into “reality”- its foundation is an erotic fascination/fixation on an other, someone typically not encountered and untouched, someone typically taboo or off-limits.

    MORE MAGIC POSTS!!!! I actually seriously, seriously thought something very similar to A: “Wow, that could get really overpowering REALLY fast.” Stuff like that is why artifact lands are banned from tournament play.

    Reply

  24. Darin #

    Check out Fenzel’s awesomeness…

    [via io9 via Telegraph]
    James Cameron gave his overview of the story, straight from the six-legged horse’s mouth:

    “We’re telling the story of what happens when a technologically superior culture comes into a place with a technologically inferior indigenous culture and there are resources there that they want,” said Cameron. “It never ends well.

    “It’s also a love story about an awakening of perception through the other person. That person must teach him something and there has to be a greater reason for him to be in love with her other than she’s a hot blue alien chick.”

    Superior culture, resources, indigenous culture, love story, and the money shot “hot blue alien chick”.

    I was wavering on seeing it, then was a ‘yes’ after I saw a certain promo, and now am definitely in the DVD category.

    Honestly, thank you for saving me ~$15.- First round is one me.

    Reply

  25. Matthew Belinkie OTI Staff #

    I always think it’s a little disappointing when aliens are portrayed as being basically human, but a tiny bit weird-looking. This happens really, really often. But CAMERON, in Aliens and The Abyss, actually did manage to depict aliens that seemed ALIEN. That’s another reason why it’s disappointing that his aliens are basically people, but blue and furry.

    Reply

  26. stokes #

    You can’t give him credit for AL|ENS, though… that was Scott and (mostly) Giger all the way, Cameron just took the baton they passed him.

    Reply

  27. Valatan #

    @Gab:

    The parallel with Hunchback is interesting, because Victor Hugo actually kind of got THAT narrative right: Phoebus is a colossal, immature jerk, Quasimodo is a caring outcast living in Claude Frollo’s evil world, and Esmerelda is a sort of immature, alluring girl from the wrong side of the tracks. And all of this leads to ruin for everyone but Phoebus. Hugo’s resolution is that the bad guys win, and it sucks royally. Hunchback is a compelling tragedy. Of course, the ending to The Hunchback of Notre Dame would have left 80% of America’s under-9 set crying approximately 10x more than during Bambi, so this had to get changed.

    Disney then tried to turn it into a semi-comedic adventure story with a super-happy “Three cheers for quasimodo” ending. This required turning Phoebus into some sort of heroic figure, so that him ending up with Esmerelda wasn’t completely insane. Disney turned a story about the tragedy of power and misunderstanding INTO a Pocohontas story.

    Reply

  28. Lisa #

    This article didn’t mention another reason, just from the trailers, that the movie seems likely to fail. Sam Worthington is in a wheelchair at the beginning, but being an avatar (or however the technical lingo defines it) means he can walk again? He’s not really a person unless he can walk, of course. Because that’s just how things are. Yet he is only allowed to walk if he takes on an alien image, because by being careless enough to become paralyzed but not get himself killed, he has abdicated all rights to being a human. (Oh, and yet if he proves himself, somehow he’ll be let back into humanity by getting his legs back?)

    I mean, maybe not. But indications are not good here.

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  29. fenzel #

    @Lisa

    Yes, you are definitely on to something. The whole thing seems to come from a huge sense of entitlement – that, if you are a heroic, good person, then the universe will give you opportunities to take what you want from it, and damn the costs to everybody else.

    And if you’re handicapped, and you’re good, then you’ll get a chance to walk again. And damn all the people who have to stay handicapped.

    It’s classic Hollywood Happy Ending stuff, but it really seems woven into this story in a way that is kind of perverse.

    But, of course, I haven’t seen it yet, so this is all just a guess.

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  30. fenzel #

    @Valatan

    Yeah, Pocahontas sucked because Disney bought into the mythology and told the messed-up story with all its problems.

    And Hunchback sucked because Disney didn’t buy into the mythology and tried to take out the stuff its audience couldn’t handle.

    I think they were both just bad choices for stories to do. At some point the people overthought (heh) what they needed to choose for a story. They got too obsessed with being the Next Big Thing — almost all the really good Disney animated movies are based on stories that have only a very weak claim on the zeitgeist — the characters captivate, but the stories are kind of half-remembered, and if they change, it isn’t a big deal, which gives the animation studio a lot of opportunity to flesh out the story and make it interesting.

    Nobody cared that the Little Mermaid totally departed from the original story in immense ways, because the story wasn’t really why people like the original Little Mermaid.

    Like, Aladdin is a good example — to an American audience, the actual story of Aladdin doesn’t matter. All that matters is that he rubs a lamp and a genie comes out to give him three wishes.

    But if you pick a story that itself has this really dominating, really intense angle that is important to people – where they don’t have this comfort with the characters that makes them forgiving about whatever you choose to do with them, that’s a problem. Something like Pocahontas, where the stakes are the fairly recent historical genocide of a bunch of real people, or like Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the characters aren’t really beloved, the tragic tone and ending are well-known, and you don’t have this etherial mindspace to play in where the story is still the story, that’s not the raw material you want to use to make your cartoon.

    Mulan is an example of them getting it right. The “girl who dresses up like a soldier to fight” story is right where it needs to be. It’ll be familiar to anybody in any country who sits down to watch it. The actual source material doesn’t matter to anybody.

    Of course, by taking that strong political stance with the choice of movie, they do take a somewhat alienating tone that hurts them at the box office (ooh, aren’t Chinese people exotic! It doesn’t exactly play well with Chinese people or with anybody else.), but it alone doesn’t doom their movie, just the marketing.

    Reply

  31. Gab #

    Lisa: I didn’t want to get on a disability high-horse (again…), but I noticed that, too. The implication I got is that you can’t be whole or happy if you have a disability.

    Fenzel: Did _Mulan_ to poorly? I had forgotten it earlier, but now you mention it, I thought it did well. And I don’t know anybody that saw it and didn’t like it. In fact, it feels like an exception to the rule of “_Pocahantas_ killed Disney,” so I guess that’s because they did it right, like you said?

    By the way, I watched a special on the new one last night, and some of the interviews made it sound like they’re doing what you said works, Fenzel, meaning going for the story everybody relates to and making it work for their purposes. So maybe there *is* hope for it.

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  32. Rosiepigs #

    Reason #7: Michelle Rodriguez is unwatchable. I feel bad for every halfway-talented Latina actress out there who should be getting parts given to Michelle every-line-read-wrong Rodriguez. In Fast and the Furious She was worse than Will.i.am in Wolverine, and he redefined awkward. She was bad in Resident Evil. I cheered when she died in Lost. And she’s not even hot! Please let her part in this disaster be minimal–I’d rather the ickiness of being aroused by a bluboobed cat than have to watch Michelle Rodriguez for more than 1 second at a time.

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  33. Chloe ellis #

    IT DID NOT SUCK SO SHUT THE HELL UP!!!! ITS THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. THE GRAPHICS ARE SOOO GOOD, YOU ARE JSUT A LOSER FOR MAKING ASUMPTIONS!!! :@ :@

    Reply

  34. crazydave #

    Well, I have read your opinion and I have seen the movie and I must report most enthusiastically that the movie didn’t suck! In fact it was incredible, one of the best movies that I have ever seen. Perhaps it was the incredible panorama of breathtaking special effects that make you want to believe in the impossible. It could be the captivating and imaginative script and storyline. The action packed thrill ride that carries you awestruck from open to close could be it also. Or is it the sexy aliens that have you wishing that you could climb into a booth and go for a romp with one as one of them. In the end it is everything, including the catgirls boobs that bring to life this story and make it one of the best movies that I have ever seen.

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  35. Gab #

    I haven’t seen it yet, but crazydave, I can’t help but note how the majority of the positives you mention are aesthetic in nature and not about story or character development (and by that I don’t mean cup size), so it sounds like what Mlawski said on the Think Tank page in carnate.

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  36. fenzel #

    Just saw the movie myself, and I stand by what I wrote. Most of what I guessed was going to be wrong with Avatar turned out to make it into the movie. Visually, it’s very impressive, but the story is weak, the acting is weak, and there are lots of conceptual and structural problems.

    Watch for our special Avatar podcast on Monday to hear the full report — including at least one overthinker who disagrees with me, loved the movie, and will fight me over it!

    Reply

  37. Kopakka el Incrópito #

    I’M VERY IMPRESSED AT AVATAR.
    i AM PRETTY CERTAIN I HAVEN’T SEEN A MOVIE SUCK SO BAD AND SO THOROUGHLY IN SO MANY LEVELS IN A VERY LONG TIME. (I MEAN, THIS IS “PHANTOM MENACE BAD”, AND WITHOUT THE SENSE OF HUMOUR)
    BUT THEN AGAIN I’VE BEEN TAKING A LOOK AT CAMERON’S ENTIRE DIRECTING CAREER, MAYBE IT’S JUST NOT MY CUP OF TEA. BUT ALMOST EVERYTHING SUCKS BIG TIME.
    ALSO VERY INTERESTING TO SEE HAW ACCURATE FENZEL’S PREDICTIONS WERE, THAT KINDA MADE ME HAPPY IN A SORT OF EVIL WAY.
    THE IDEA OF SEQUELS GIVES ME THE CREEPS, BY THE WAY.
    I’D LOVE TO SAY MORE BUT I CANNOT DO W/OUT SPOILERS, AND IT WAS BOUND TO GET A LI’L POLITICAL, SO THAT WOULD MAKE ME EVEN MORE OF A UNBEARABLE READING.

    AND TO THINK WHEN THE MOVIE ENDED THERE WAS A ROUND OF APPLAUSE IH THE THEATRE (BECAUSE IT WAS FINALLY OVER, PERHAPS?), BOY THAT WAS REALLY CREEPY.

    I WANTED TO HAVE A “RORSCHACH MOMENT” BUT BOREDOM KEPT ME FROM IT.

    DOES ANYBODY KNOW IF THIS WAS A CHILDREN ORIENTED MOVIE OR IS IF THIS PART OF THE DISNEYFICATION OF, WELL APPARENTLY EVERYTHING.

    Reply

  38. Kopakka el Incrópito #

    AND YES THE VISUALS WERE AWESOME, COOL. IT’LL PROBABLY WIN AN ACADEMY AWARD FOR FX, OR HOWEVER THEY ARE CALLED TODAY. I’M PRETTY SURE IT WILL.

    Reply

  39. JAS none #

    This is a fail. I disagree with almost every point. The one I disagree with the most… “Cats with human boobs suck” Why? Because boobs make anything better.

    Reply

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