Movies

Blue Man Group

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I'm blue da ba dee…

James Cameron's Avatar, which features revolutionary advances in character animation and 3D filmmaking, is a movie built to awe, to wonder, to stir great emotion, to make you feel as if you just haven't lived until you've seen two ten-foot tall warrior Smurfs making out in an alien jungle that looks like it was dreamed up by Rainbow Bright and a team of acid-tripping glowworms. (And just in case you're wondering: Yes, the two digital blue lovers do eventually get it on, but that occurs mostly off screen. Perhaps there are some things that Hollywood's most lifelike 3D was simply not meant to show.) 

From a technical standpoint, the movie's a genuine wonder. Arguably for the first time since filmmakers began outfitting viewers cheap glasses and claiming that a moviemaking revolution had arrived, the 3D presentation isn't a gimmick. The movie's expensively pixellated world has depth as never before; bathed in a vast array of hazy blues, it's like a living, breathing manifestation of an Eiffel 65 song. And the Na'vi, the movie's marble-skinned alien natives, are easily the most convincing humanoids ever to leap forth from a Hollywood effects house's CGI server-farm — that is, at least in terms of the way they look and move. The realism stops, however, every time they open their mouths and reveal themselves to be crude, one-dimensional native stereotypes: instinctive and animalistic purveyors of cheap mysticism and nature worship. 

So despite its genuinely impressive technical innovations, Avatar isn't much a movie: Instead, Cameron's cooked up a derivative, overlong pastiche of anti-corporate clichés and quasi-mystical eco-nonsense. It's not that the film's politics make it bad, it's that even if you agree, the nearly three-hour onslaught of simplistic moralizing leaves no room for interesting twists or ambiguity in the story or characters: corporations are bad, scientists are good, natives are pure, harmony with nature is the ultimate ideal — the only suspense comes from wondering what movie Cameron will rip off next. The go-to comparison so far is Dances With Wolves meets Ferngully, and that's just about right. But Cameron rips himself off considerably as well: There are gruff marines are straight out of Aliens, stubborn science-types pulled from The Abyss, and a love-across-the-boundaries romance that echoes Titanic — only this time, it's across species rather than ship decks. 

Last week, Jeffrey Wells called Avatar "the most flamboyant, costliest, grandest left-liberal super-movie anyone's ever seen," and that's true as far as it goes — but he forgot a word. It's also one of the stupidest major movies in recently memory, blithely peddling a message that its entire production process actually undermines. That Avatar's melodramatic attacks on corporate interests and its defense of simple, natural living come packaged as one of the most expensive, and probably the most technically advanced, corporate films in history would seem to indicate that only quality bigger than the movie's stupidity is its head-in-the-clouds hypocrisy. Cameron's made a movie that he intends to be epic and awesome, but the only thing that's awesome here is his total lack of self-awareness. 

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214 responses to “Blue Man Group

  1. That video is the perfect accompaniment to the review.

    Well done.

    1. Although now I’ll have that song running thru my head for the rest of the day…

    2. Agreed, but having the video and the alt-text is overkill. Yo, Suder-man, we can get your references without you having to hammer them in.

  2. peddling a message that its entire production process actually undermines. That Avatar’s melodramatic attacks on corporate interests

    This passage immediately threw the image of Michael Moore into my head. And I just ate. Thanks!

    1. Ok i am starting to get pissed.

      The kitties were defending their land from trespass.

      How the fuck is this a lefty Michael Moore message?

      Since when do libertarians think it is ok for corporations to run around and take other people’s resources?

      1. You might be correct in terms of technical detail, but the film obviously never portrays the struggle as one of “property rights vs. corporate statism.” The blue aliens don’t have people giving speeches explaining their motivation as “this world is our private property.”

        It is quite clear the film frames the moral conflict as “submission to (thus ‘harmony’ with) nature” vs. “man’s Promethean utilization/augmentation (or ‘destruction’) of nature.” The former’s way of life is allegedly perfect and wonderful and moral and noble, the latter’s way of life is ignoble and monstrous and greedy capitalist etc.

        Yes, the allegory is imperfect. Certain concrete facts within the story contradict the overal message. However, the film itself quite clearly frames the moral dilemma as “noble savages vs. corrupt modernity.”

        1. The blue aliens don’t have people giving speeches explaining their motivation as “this world is our private property.

          Ummm actually from the trailor:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRdxXPV9GNQ

          At min 3:19 you specifically hear this, and I quote “This is our land!” The quote is even drawn out with huge dramatic pauses.

          You would have to be intentionally trying to miss it to not hear it.

          Also from watching the trailer you specifically see all the individuals among the Na’vi carrying weapons in public both men and women (citizen soldiers?)…furthermore you see a common theme of flying through vast open unbounded expanses often with smiles on the characters faces. Hard not to associate such scenes with liberty.

          Anyway i could give a crap about nature vs destruction of nature. If the blue hippies want to be blue hippies on their land then they can be fucking blue hippies.

          Liberty is and has always been about choice. Even if that choose is to live in a tree house.

          1. Oh yeah I forgot about the prodigious amounts of exposed naked fleshy skin in the trailer. You might want to look at a few political paintings of the French revolution.

            I remember looking at one at the Louvre in Paris a few years back. I was staring at the bare breasted woman waving a flag.
            My girlfriend at the time who i was visiting noticed that i was looking at the breasts. I asked her why there were so many paintings of women with bare breasts waving the French flag on battle fields. She summed it up by saying this:

            “It represents LIBERTY

            1. I’m pretty sure it represents that people like tits.

          2. Take all the examples of “THIS IS OUR LAND” and list them on one side of the page.

            On the other side, take all the “the Na’vi are a superior race!” “the Na’vi are genetically better than us!” “the Na’vi live in harmony with nature and this is clearly a better way to live than industrial pollution!” “man conquers/rapes/exploits nature and the Na’vi don’t, and they are better than us!” and all related sentiments and place them on the other side of the page.

            I am quite sure that the latter column would come out as longer.

            Also, about your example of “freedom when running through the jungle” etc, that can easily be interpreted as “freedom from the corrupting, stifling control that technological civilization represents.” Another classic element of the Noble Savage fantasy.

            You are completely correct that the actual, technical definition of liberty is perfectly compatible with leaving the Na’vi alone! But again, that isn’t the moral dilemma that is framed by the story itself. The film quite clearly puts “man’s Promethean nature-raping arrogance, manifested in corporations” on one side, and “harmony with nature, i.e. submission to it” on the other side.

            Yes, the aesop is broken by the technical details of the story. Do you expect hollywood scriptwriters to have passed Political Science 101? Look beyond the concrete political details of the film and look at the moral dichotomy framed by it. Its in that dichotomy the monstrosity lies.

            1. This is getting lame.

              there is nothing innately left wing with going back to nature. Conservatives hunt, libertarians have gardens, and independents go for hikes.

              The only way your argument would make sense is if the Na’vi were forcing others through government to live they way they do.

              From what i understand of the plot is that it is government that is trying to prevent the Na’vi from living how they want to.

              1. Josh, I think you’re radically misunderstanding what message ordinary people get out of movies like this. The framing of the message is absolutely what matters…

                They will never think through the hypocrisy, they will never stop and say “hey, these guys are just defending their property rights and that’s good”. Instead, they will walk out understanding that humanity is evil & rapacious, technology is the enemy, and if we could only get back to a more “natural” state, we’d be better off.

                I guarantee you the state will receive no blame – regardless of whether or not the villain is the military. Corporations will be viewed the root cause, not the power structure of government.

                You’re reading in a message that I doubt Cameron himself wishes to portray anyway and certainly one that few will walk out of theatres actually recognizing.

  3. Not much of a surprise. Titanic killed Cameron’s soul.

    The previews I’ve seen remind me quite a bit of the look of the Star Wars suckquels. Too much CGI, not enough story. Pity.

    1. From all the articles about the making of this flick, I’ve gathered that While Cameron’s spent easily the last 20 years planning for this movie, the plot seems to have been a minor detail. He walked out of Star Wars with a dream to eventually make the space epic the way it ‘should’ be done. That’s what this movie is. It’s his bigger dick contest entry against George Lucas.

      1. I’d say Cameron proved his was bigger.

  4. This is going to become an open thread anyway, so …

    Did anyone go to the feministing happy hour?

    1. Feminists are never happy.

      How can they have a happy hour?

      1. Nice Zen Koan.

  5. Christ furries are going mainstream.

    1. Christ furries? They dress up like Jesus and, you know, just do what comes naturally?

    2. +1

  6. I should note, for the record, that, aside from Piranha II The Spawning, which I’ve not seen, I actually like all of Cameron’s previous films, including Titanic (though it has some problems).

    1. Sucking hard is not “some problems.” It’s the problem.

      1. It does have a couple of assets. . .both residing on Kate Winslet’s body.

        1. Meh. Jude the Obscure has full frontal and no Leo.

          1. True, but they do play a role in Titanic. The movie would have been completely worthless if they hadn’t made an appearance.

            1. A dollar bill in a bag full of crap doesn’t change the fact it’s a bag full of crap.

              And Kate Winslet looks like she has fruit punch mouth half the damn time.

              1. I like Kate. She is a great body and a natural look about her. She is kind of the antihollywood skank.

                1. Yeah. There is a pretty good amount of actresses who don’t have that “Hollywood skank” look about them, though.

                  1. True. But a lot of them are still too damned skinny.

                    1. What the fuck is wrong with you people?!?!

                      You get to see a ship full of people be crushed killed flung and destroyed and a huge ship break in half and it lasts for like 20-30 min of pure awesome.

                      It is like one of the best episodes of Superjail ever but before superjail even existed and in live action.

                      Philistines all of you.

  7. I am involved in a related argument with people at aintitcoolnews about this film.

    My complaint is this:

    A society that has easy interstellar transportation on short time-scales, like the one in this film, can’t have either an energy problem or a minerals problem. Economic scarcity would certainly still exist in some form, but not for either energy or minerals. If we can get to other star systems there is effectively a limitless amount of high-energy elements like uranium already available to us. The idea that it would be economically efficient or worthwhile to go to the only other inhabited planet we know of and kill the aborigines there for a mineral is patently absurd.

    Now, I understand that science fiction plots do not always make economic sense, but since Cameron’s social message is so anti-technology, I think we’re entitled to criticize him if the very technologies he’s complaining about would make the type of conflict depicted in his film economically and politically impossible.

    1. You probably also endorse burning the rainforests down and salting the earth where they stood, eh, fascist?

    2. …not having seen it…

      Do they say what they need the unobtainium for? Is it just energy production?

      If it was something rare that allowed for translight speeds and and there were no other viable technologies for translight speeds, a culture might go crazy for it.

      Just energy production, you’re right… bullshit.

      1. Wait, isn’t that the plot to Dune?

        1. You are not going to quote the film. . .again, right?

          1. You are not going to quote the film. . .again, right?

            I don’t know why this thought is so alarming to you. Remember, fear is the mind-killer.

            1. You’re doing it wrong. That’s from the book. This, however, is not:

              I must not see ugly. Ugly is the taste-killer. Ugly is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face away from your ugly. I will permit it to pass over there and away from me. And when it has gone past I will turn a squinting eye to see its path. Where the ugly has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

              Gods below, you ugly.

              1. Yeah, but that quote wasn’t from the movie, either.

                1. No, it was from a misguided attempt to combine Sanford and Son and Dune. Though maybe misguided is the wrong word.

                  1. No, I read it already and thought it was pretty funny. I was just playing coy.

                    1. There was a whole Hit & Run thread that mashed up Mr. Sanford and the Atreides family. That’s what inspired me to post that.

                      In a previous job, I used to clutch my chest and say, “Elizabeth” when an executive would propose something of questionable legality. They got it back then, but today’s executives don’t know their Redd Foxx. Sadly.

        2. thats exactly what I was thinking

        3. Yup. And there’s seems to be a little Ewok action going on as well.

          1. Jesus. Is there anything cinematically worse than that?

            1. Jar Jar? (although it amuses me to think that if he ever became a 5 percenter, he’s probably go by Jar 2X)

              1. Little known fact: The character Jar-Jar Binks was actually two Ewoks, one standing on the other.

          2. Do-da-do-da-do…Yub! Yub!

          3. Speaking of Ewoks, Lucas obviously was familiar with or even a fan of Dune, which shows up in several ways in Star Wars. So, in some alternate universe, Lucas took that liking for Dune and acquired the film rights to it. He followed the book very closely, except that he replaced the human Fremen with desert-hardened furballs called Ewoks.

            1. You know, that was a really weird thing to say.

        4. Pretty much. Except the natives of Dune are human too and are far more bad ass than anything ever.

          1. The Freeman would have kicked the smurfs ass. Actually, that might make a good cross franchise followup, smurfs versus freeman. Kind of like Alien versus Preditor.

            1. You do realize that this movie is Blizzard space marines vs Blizzard night elves, correct?

              If Blizzard isn’t getting a cut, then Cameron must have some good lawyers.

          2. but they are also so overtly supposed to be arabic muslims

            1. Arabs Muslims are human beings.

              1. I’m not saying they are not… just pointing out that Dune did not hide that fact what so ever and not sure if that was intentional or not

              2. I don’t think that Herbert meant Dune to be some kind of a political statement about real world Arabs. He just took elements of the real story of the Arab conquests (prophet comes to desert people whom he unites to storm out of the desert to kick ass) and language (jihad and such) to make his plot. He was copying the Arabs not really commenting on them.

              3. Why do you hate America, SugarFree?

            2. The Fremen were probably more than that, though they had lots of Arabic roots. The story is set many millennia from now.

          3. The spice wasn’t a power source. It did two things for human society–gave starship navigators a way to see into the future (to chart a safe course), and it greatly extended the lifespans of those who could afford it. And it tastes great on French toast!

            I’m having a prescient vision of an Eggo Waffles commercial for their new melange-flavored brand.

            1. Man, your thinking about what constitutes a power source is so, like, uptight, man.

              1. I’m buying you the books, dude.

                Hey, what’s with the “The”? Is it an Ohio State thing? They’re quite obsessive about the definite article for God knows what reason.

                1. Well, it kind of started when Harvey Dent gave himself up to the authorities in The Dark Knight by claiming to be “The Batman” and my amusement continued when someone referred to Lonewacko as “The Lonewacko”. I just added the “the” to my name because it amuses me so.

                  1. Very well, then, The Art-P.O.G. University it is!

            2. And it gave you cool blue on blue eyes, but horrible stains on your lips. You would have thought they would have marketed makeup to coverup the stains. It is funny how sci-fi writers really don’t think very well about how people and societies actually work. They get the big stuff right, but they sometimes have a blindspot for details like people covering up the stains on their lips caused by spice addiction.

              1. I thought the stains were something the mentats got from their drug of choice. I think the Fremen–aside from the lovely skin and physique living in a complete desert gives you–only had the blue-within-blue eyes.

                1. No it made everyone’s eyes like that with continued use.

                  “Extensive use of the drug tints the sclera, cornea and iris of the user to a dark shade of blue, called “blue-in-blue” or “the Eyes of Ibad,”[12] which is something of a source of pride among the Fremen and a symbol of their tribal bond. In Dune, Paul initially has green eyes, but after several years on Arrakis they begin to take on the deep, uniform blue of the Fremen. On other planets, the addicted often use tinted contact lenses to hide this discoloration.[13][14] In Dune, Paul sees two Guildsmen and notes:

                  The taller of the two, though, held a hand to his left eye. As the Emperor watched, someone jostled the Guildsman’s arm, the hand moved, and the eye was revealed. The man had lost one of his masking contact lenses, and the eye stared out a total blue so dark as to be almost black.[1]”

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melange_(fictional_drug)

                  1. Sorry, I didn’t mean “only the Fremen”, I meant that the Fremen’s only permanent physical difference was the melange-afflicted eyes.

              2. Foul. The lipstains were from what the Mentats consumed – sapho, not spice.

                But the best one came in the last or next to last book – the hypno-bong.

                1. My Dune skills are pretty primitive. I have only read the first two books. After Paul went off into the Dessert at the end of the second one I kind of lost interest. But I liked the two I read.

                  1. After Paul went off into the Dessert at the end of the second one

                    …nah, not going to touch this one.

                    1. No need to–it was actually handled by the Harvard Lampoon (clearly while presciently channeling your insight via John’s typo) in their Doon. Instead of a desert planet like Dune, it features a dessert planet.

                    2. That Wikipedia article was impressively thorough.

                    3. “God created Arruckus to annoy the faithful”

              3. I don’t recall the spice staining the lips or mouth. However, I do recall that the juice the mentats drank stained their lips and mounths.

                1. Yeah, sappho. Which is also a lesbian poet’s name. Not sure where Herbert was going with that.

                  Herbert described both De Vries and Hawat as having the stained lips.

                  1. I think it had something to do with going down on a chick who’s on her period.

                    1. After doing that, one would obtain great wisdom and clarity of thought, true.

                    2. Particularly if going down on a wise Latina on the rag.

                    3. Fags.

          4. Speaking of bad-assed critters, let’s not forget what happens when a certain guy takes on the sandtrout. He’s fuck our shit up if we tried to attack him.

            1. Are you sure?

          5. Speaking of bad-assed critters, let’s not forget what happens when a certain guy takes on the sandtrout. He’d fuck our shit up if we tried to attack him.

            1. Yep, I guess you are.

              1. I wouldn’t have said it twice, otherwise.

                He also would see it coming way in advance, which can be a problem when you’re trying to kill someone.

    3. Yeah, my objection there, and double down on creating these hybrid dna/clone/remote brain link “avatars” but being able to fix a guys legs/spine.

      1. Or is the healthcare reform bill still being filibustered!?

          1. Or maybe TriCare sucks really bad in the future.

        1. It would be too classic to have a line about “if the damn government would just pay for my spinal implants” in it.

          1. I suspect that South Park will rip on it at least once again, so a “If only we had universal healthcare, then I wouldn’t have to kill these damned noble alien CGI cat people, damn it Kelly” gag could well be in the offing.

    4. And we also are supposed to believe that a society that is capable of intersteller travel and creating avatars still hasn’t solved the human spinal chord. How the hell is anyone disabled in a society that advanced?

      And we are also supposed to believe that a civilization advanced enough to have intersteller travel and as hopelessly evil as this has somehow forgotten how to wipe out indinginous populations. Western imperialists had no problems wiping out the Indians, aboriginals and Tasmanians before gattling guns were invented, but these guys can’t do the same even though they have the ability to travel to the stars.

      1. Ah, but John, these noble savages are in harmony with nature. Interstellar armies are not match for that!

      2. They have solved the human spinal chord. How else could the colonel tell our hero he can have functional legs if his mission is successful? My understanding was the process is expensive, so it can be held out as a bribe.

        1. So the Colonel is filibustering his healthcare?

        2. Price Rationing! Seeeeeeeee!

          1. One question: at one point, the colonel says that the native village is on the largest source of unobtainium within 200 kilometers. This implies there are other sources of unobtainium on the planet. If you’re capable of going light-years to get unobtainium, is it too difficult to go a couple hundred miles to get it, rather than starting a full-scale war with the native population?

  8. Just in case anyone wanted to hear “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” in reverse, it’s posted on my new blog.

    1. That was disturbing.

  9. …in a alien jungle that looks like it was dreamed up by Rainbow [Brite] and a team of acid-tripping glowworms…

    I’d probably only be impressed if they were, at the time, on a James Agazzi-designed game-show set.

  10. But do we see their blue junk? After Dr. Manhattan I hoped 2009 would be the year of deep cerulean genitalia.

  11. I don’t think it’s the year of blue-skinned people; it’s the year of blue and green-skinned people. Remember the Orion Slave Girl!

    1. There is a green girl in the new Star Trek

      1. Pro Lib knows. There’s also Winona Ryder and Zoe Saldana, hubba hubba hubba.

  12. Great review. I had a feeling Avatar would have the typical postmodernist under-narrative where being non-American + primitive = moral superiority. It’s just like in Dances with Wolves: Tribes fighting tribes for resources and territory was pure and natural. In contrast, the ‘Euro-American tribe’ fighting Indian tribes for resources and territory was an exercise in belligerent racism.

    I don’t know what’s worse… the paternalistic condescension or the recycled sophistry.

    Still, I liked Dances with Wolves as a story of exploration and self-discovery, and I’ll probably approach Avatar with the same perspective.

    1. I’d probably have the same attitude except I just can’t respect a people that have fallen for colloidal silver hook, line, and sinker

      1. This comment has to earn at least Threadwinner Runner-Up.

  13. There is nothing wrong with a movie having a political view as long as it is well made. Avatar is just a western set in space with aliens as the Indians. Contrast Avatar with a movie like Little Big Man. Little Big Man has pretty much the same political outlook as Avatar. Even if you don’t endorse its politics, you can’t help but love the movie because its characters and plot or so interesting. I in no way agree with the politics of Little Big Man, but I love the movie. In contrast, I totally agree with the politics of say the Death Wish movies. But, other than as interesting socialogical artifacts of the 1970s, they are terrible movies. Agreeing with the politics doesn’t help.

    1. Agreed. If we must judge art by its political content, libertarians aren’t going to find much to like and are going to miss out on a lot in the world of music and movies.

    2. How dare you. Death Wish 3 is the greatest movie of all time. End of discussion.

      1. Only because the S&W 500 hadn’t been invented in time for Death Wish 4.

  14. Glad to see i’m not the only one who made the Eiffel 65 connection:)

    Great job!

    1. Yeah, that video has me longing for the days when M_2_ was still showing videos. Jancee Dunn, sigh….

  15. Piranha II The Spawning, which I’ve not seen

    It’s his least bad movie, in the same way Duel is the only bearable thing Spielbierg ever did.

    If that sounds nutty to you, Piranha II is not your thing.

  16. Hey, I liked the first Indiana Jones movie.

    1. So did I. It went down hill after that. The most interesting character in the second one were Kate Capshaw’s tits. But the first one was good.

      1. Last Crusade is objectively the best movie ever made. The debate is over.

  17. I thought techno-hypocrisy was on display in Lord of the Rings, as well. While it wasn’t the smash-you-over-the-head noble savagery that’s evident even from the trailers of Avatar, there was a definite bias against technology.

    1. Definitely. Especially in the scenes involving Saruman. Where he is building the Orcs and burning down the forest, that is nothing but a slam against industrialization. I think thta element was there in the books, but not nearly as strong in the movie.

      1. John, I’d say it was as strong in the books – remember when the Hobbits go back to the Shire? The place has become an industrial slum due to Saruman.

        But yeah, it was the Saruman / Orc army scenes I was thinking of when I made that comment. Tolkein and Jackson were definitely in accord on that topic.

        1. I forgot about the scourging of the shire. Tolkien was definitely a back to the earth romantic. In addition to all of that, the Men of Rohan were really kind of like plains Indians.

          1. The thing to remember with Tolkein is that he became such a naturalist because he witnessed first hand the worst of modern technology when he fought in the WWI trenches. That could understandably bias a person against technology. meanwhile, Cameron has gotten rich (and ocean-diving eccentric) with his technology founded wealth and his hostility towards his own medium is totally indefensible.

            1. The books definitely had an anti-technology bias, but I think that wasn’t intended to be a statement against all technology. WWI will mess your shit up.

          2. Also, Tolkien was part of the great line of English pastoralists. Many of them were against industrialism, per se… just the industrialism that marred the beauty of England. It was more nationalistic NIMBYism than luddism.

            1. Right. All that industry should’ve been located in the African and Indian territories.

        2. There was also the small matter of Saruman and his men oppressing the hobbits and telling them what they were not allowed to do, when previously they had been free to do as they wished. There are a lot of themes tangled into the Scouring of the Shire, and to read it as a simple anti-technological screed is pretty misguided.

          1. Alas, if all readers were capable of recognizing the complexity, then you wouldn’t have the vast majority of people walking away with a one-dimensional anti-industrialization message. Yet, they are not.

    2. I don’t see that at all in LOTR. There’s nothing approaching any sort of modern technology in the film for it to be against. If you’re talking about Saruman’s cutting down Fangorn Forest, I read that as more of a lament of environmental destruction than against technology per se.

      1. There’s also that the hobbits describing the elves’ artifacts as “magic” leaves the elves a bit confused as they just consider the camoflage cloaks and such their technology (though they don’t outright call it that). He seemed to be more against destructive tech. I imagine Tolkien would be all for “green technologies” were he still alive.

        1. As a former Tolkien nut, I can attest to this ambivalence.

          It is, for example, quite clear that the Noldor were to be admired for their excellent technology, including weaponry, and that only excessive attachment to the products of said technology was harmful (Feanor and the Silmarils). Same with the dwarves.

          The Silmarillion is interesting in this regard, as is Akallabeth. People who missed those books cannot have enough insight into Tolkien’s view of the world from LOTR itself.

  18. …Duel is the only bearable thing [Spielberg] ever did…

    What about the “L.A. 2017” episode of “The Name of the Game” (more here)? Nothing that stars Gene Barry can be all bad.

  19. I’m disappointed in Cameron. I was a fan of Terminator right when it came out and was still considered a low budget piece of scifi trash by most people, and one of the things I appreciated about it was Cameron’s wit and directing skills. I stuck with him even though (like all directors, even George Romero) he went downhill, but this sounds like he’s gone all the way down like Spielberg (NUKING THE FUCKING FRIDGE).

    Jaws and Terminator are some of the great movies of all time, but no one can keep that up, especially when surrounded by yes-men. I mean, was there no one to tell Spielberg that you can’t escape a nuclear blast in a refrigerator? Really?

    1. Don’t forget Speilberg’s orgasm ending in Munich. That might have been one of the stupidest movie “climaxes” in recent history.

    2. You might not survive a nuclear blast in a fridge, but you might if you were in the fridge in crash position.

      1. That’s not funny, Art. Nothing about Crystal Skull is funny.

        1. I sincerely apologize for my momentary lapse in judgment.

          1. I laughed. Then again, I never watched the film.

            It is interesting that great directors always seem to fail dramatically. Look at Coppola, who was friggin’ awesome for a while.

    3. Crystal Skull fist-fucked my childhood. I will never forgive Harrison Ford for agreeing to that shit parade.

    4. It WAS a low-budget piece of sci-fi trash–hence, one of the best movies of the 80s.

    5. Disclaimer: I make fun of the nuking the fridge thing ALL the time, and I’m all in favor of replacing the phrase “Jumped the shark”, with “Nuked the fridge”.

      That said, a point my roommate brings up a lot: Indiana Jones drank from the Holy Grail. While perhaps he didn’t drink enough to make himself truly immortal, he definitely drank enough to get a free pass for that nuclear explosion.

  20. As much as I am sure that this movie will offend me and make me feel stupider than any movie I have yet seen, and as much as I detest the idea of Cameron or any studio d-bag getting my hard earned movie dollars for it, I will without doubt see this movie for nothing other than its sheer visual awesomeness (or at least the promise thereof). But yeah, left hypocracy makes me vomit.

  21. I hear there is a new Dune movie in the works. I hope they don’t fuck it up.

      1. Most likely.

        1. For the love of God, please tell me it ISN’T Michael Bay at the helm.

          1. You’re in luck, it’s Jerry Bruckheimer.

  22. …was there no one to tell Spielberg that you can’t escape a nuclear blast in a refrigerator?

    He grew up in the 50’s. He thought you could live if you “duck and cover”.

    What movie was that in, anyway? I don’t usually watch his movies.

  23. Nothing about Crystal Skull is funny.

    Never mind.

    1. Hey, BP, you should watch that movie. It’s really good.

      1. Art, I like you. That’s why I feel incumbent upon me to let you know that Pro Lib and Episiarch are now planning on killing you.

        1. Warning him won’t make any difference, BP. He’ll never see us coming. There are advantages to being a ninja.

        2. Thanks. I think my last post was an excellent troll-job, but if anyone took it seriously, I’m not sure I’d like to know what their opinion of me was.

          1. Heh. Look right below this comment.

          2. Why would I kill The Art? I’ve never seen the film.

            1. Good fakeout, ProL. All the better to sneak up on him.

              1. Maybe I should go watch it, so I can grab on to some righteous outrage.

                1. You go do that. Make sure you don’t have a gun on you when you do.

      2. No it isn’t. It’s incredibly stupid in a bad way.

  24. It’ll be interesting to see how this film does. No 3D drama (as opposed to comedy) has ever done well, to my knowledge, in the box office; many have bombed epically.

    1. Final Fantasy was a beautiful looking film and bombed spectacularly. It almost destroyed Square Pictures.

    2. I’d say Zameckis’ Christmas Carol was a 3D drama and that did great box office. OK, people may have gone in thinking it had to be partly funny because of Jim Carrey, or that it was a kids’ movie because of the Disney credit, but it was essentially a drama.

  25. I don’t care that he ripped off “Dances with Wolves” etc, but ripping off Poul Anderson? Sumbitch has got real nerve.

    1. Ripping off Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Robert Heinlein (twice), John Shirley, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind wasn’t enough to convince you of this before?

  26. Tolkien also had some race issues. All of his bad guys are swarthy or dark-skinned (or just straight-up black). Orcs, haradrim, the Nazgul, etc…

    But yeah, he was totally on an anti-tech binge when he wrote LotR.

    1. I can see this thread is quickly becoming a Literary Theory 101 two minutes hate against Tolkien.

      The orcs weren’t black; the Nazgul were white back when they were human, and now are actually invisible, it was their CLOTHES that were black; Wormtongue, Saruman, Ted Sandyman, Bill Ferny, Denethor, etc were all white. Also the indigenous people of the Minas Tirith region, who probably aren’t white, help Theoden find a shortcut to Minas Tirith.

      1. Not hate…I’m a Tolkien nut (the books, not so much the movies)…but he was born in S Africa and probably had an aristocratic brit’s outlook on life, even if he was only a philologist.

        1. The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-Dur, the Mouth of Sauron was certainly Numenorean, racially identical to Aragorn “and he was much more cruel than any Orc”.

          And if Sauron already controls much of the world, you should expect to see people of many different races in his employ.

          From memory, Tolkien once had cause to write that “I know nothing about British or American imperialism in the Far East that does not fill me wth regret and disgust”.

      2. Actually most of the Nazgul were Southrons, and the rest were Black Numenoreans.

      3. Who said anything about hating him? I’ve already read the books; I wouldn’t have gone to see the movies if I’d hated them. Please also note the lack of statements like “…that dick Tolkein…” or “…what a unmitigated sphincter H.R.R. was…” in my comments.

        I stated there was an anti-technological bias in his books and in the Jackson movies. I still think so. I also own the books, and the Jackson movies, because I think they’re (generally) worthwhile.

        1. I think that “objects” like the palantiri, or, for that matter, the Sting and the mithril armor that Frodo wears, indicate that Tolkien was split on technology. He definitely admired long-lasting gadgets like those mentioned.

      4. I can already see some leftist nut deducing that black cloaks of the Nazgul are a hidden analogy of the burqa/abaya, and, therefore, JRRT was a closet Islamophobe 😀

        Perhaps Michael Moorcock could write something in this logic. He already sees JRRT as an uberfascist.

    2. Only a racist would see Orcs and think: black people!

    3. The men of house of Haleth are described as rather dark. The mean of th East are not described as dark.

      As for the Haradrim and the Varangians, they are not described as utterly evil themselves, rather than serving an evil master because their leaders decided sp.

      Aragorn spent some time in Harad, so it was a place where a “legal alien” could well survive and roam around.

  27. Perhaps there are some things that Hollywood’s most lifelike 3D was simply not meant to show.

    That’s what Anime is for.

  28. So despite its genuinely impressive technical innovations, Avatar isn’t much a movie: Instead, Cameron’s cooked up a derivative, overlong pastiche of anti-corporate clich?s and quasi-mystical eco-nonsense.

    I have not seen the movie only the preview…but blue kitty people defending their land from invaders does not really seem left leaning to me….In fact it sounds a lot like libertarianism.

    Whether a 12 year old punk walks on your lawn or a space marine it is every individuals right, blue hippy or otherwise, to tell them to get the fuck off of it.

    1. There is nothing wrong with the blue people defending their land. What is wrong is drawing the blue people and the humans as plastic charactures. No race of intelligent anything is ever perfectly noble. When civilizations collide it is a really complex and sadly often bloody process. But it is not some fucking dumb ass set piece of evil corporations versus noble tree hugging natives.

      There are any number of ways to make an interesting movie examining these issues. Hollywood has certainly done it tremendously well in the past; The Searchers and Little Big Man being two obvious examples.

      Cameron is not an insufferable dumb ass for showing the aliens defending their land. He is an insufferable dumb ass for taking one of the most most complex and interesting things in literature (the clash of two diametricly opposed and strange civilization) and reducing it to a one dimensional liberal revenge fantasy.

      1. I have not seen the movie but i will take your word that it is simplistic and dumbed down.

        My argument is that the movie is a simplistic movie promoting libertarian themes and not a simplistic movie promoting lefty themes.

      2. I know what you’re saying, John. I know the xenomorphs from Aliens wouldn’t work unless they were portrayed, essentially, as monsters. I’m guessing Cameron was enjoying portraying a more beneficent race of creatures but he may have swung the pendulum back too far to “noble savage”.

  29. Ok i now understand this statement:

    blithely peddling a message that its entire production process actually undermines.

    Before joining Reason, Suderman worked as a writer and editor at National Review

    It makes sense now…hey peter we are libertarians not apologists for every single fuck up of western civilization…if blue hippies want to be blue hippies on their land then they can be fucking blue hippies.

    Simply because the crooks are wearing military uniforms and speak English does not justify illegal land grabs.

  30. One thing that should be noted is that although there is often the association of primitives with noble savages what i think is missing here is the less noted association of free savages.

    The association of Native Americans and the ideals of freedom replete within our culture and should not be ignored.

    Fleck spending a week alone on a tropical island to live out a life time dream could be viewed as some lefty notion of “simple, natural living” or as most here probably viewed it as an experiment in liberty and individual self reliance.

    Avatar may be a terrible movie but Suderman’s immediate grasps and knee jerks to box this movie in as a piece of left wing propaganda seem to me unfounded and based in conservative orthodoxy rather then an honest examination of its themes.

    Are the Blue kitty people communists or liberty loving gun (spear) wielding red necks of the wild?

    Is the corporate military complex soldiers under the command of General Washington or are they tax collectors declaring the Na’vi tree house as a blighted neighborhood?

    1. “declaring the Na’vi tree house as a blighted neighborhood”

      hehehe

  31. [Spoilers]

    Are the Blue kitty people communists or liberty loving gun (spear) wielding red necks of the wild.

    Given that the Na’vi only exist within the tribe, have hereditary religious leadership and upper class arranged marriages, and plug themselves into the tree of life to worship their ancestors, I’d say rugged individualism is not in the cards. BTW, they use bows, not spears.

    Is the corporate military complex soldiers under the command of General Washington or are they tax collectors declaring the Na’vi tree house as a blighted neighborhood?

    The “military” is ex Marine Corps mercenaries, commanded by a clich? they’re-savages-screw-negotiating-I-want-to-use-my-firepower barbarian. The corp. suit can’t understand why the natives won’t trade their home for a school where they can learn to read English.

    What I noticed technologically, or rather didn’t notice, were the usual 3-D showoff moments. You know, when the typical 3-D flick sticks everything from spears to breasts in your face to remind you you’re watching through cheap glasses. The 3-D in Avatar really works. Many of the effects were deliciously subtle.

    The plot wasn’t.

    1. The corp. suit can’t understand why the natives won’t trade their home for a school where they can learn to read English.

      Why bother with a school? Just offer them some shiny beads. Or metal tools.

  32. Oh hey i just noticed that the Na’vi have a pretty open immigration policy.

    Some weirded out hybrid half human can join their society and fuck their women without much of a fuss.

    I am sure many a Mexican looking for work in a promised land would envy a similar immigration policy.

    1. Actually their policy is “death to intruders” unless the Tree of Life gives them a sign.

      1. So you are saying that their religion informs their morality?

        Big stretch to call that left wing. But yeah that destroys my open boarders meme.

  33. Given that the Na’vi only exist within the tribe, have hereditary religious leadership and upper class arranged marriages, and plug themselves into the tree of life to worship their ancestors, I’d say rugged individualism is not in the cards.

    I agree the reality of tribalism probably adheres to what you are saying. But as i mentioned before in the trailer women are allowed weapons and are allowed to fuck hybrid humans and they have a pretty liberal immigration policy.
    I would have to see the movie but my guess is that it portrays the tribe in a Hollywood fashion much like Dances with Wolves did. There are lots of money quotes in that movie as well “All men are free” and the tribal elders were more of an advisory board to its tribal members. Youths could go off to war and do whatever they wanted.

    Anyway I will have to see the movie to get an actual grasp of how the “tribe” works.

    Of course if the tribe is as you say then it sort of destroys John’s notion that their portrayal is simplistic.

    By the way i don’t care if you “spoiler” the whole movie. To me it looks like a roller coaster. I can see where the tracks are and where the car will go…Visceral entertainment like roller coasters and this movie are generally unharmed by knowing where the tracks are beforehand.

    1. I would have to see the movie but my guess is that it portrays the tribe in a Hollywood fashion much like Dances with Wolves did. There are lots of money quotes in that movie as well “All men are free” and the tribal elders were more of an advisory board to its tribal members.

      The Na’vi make their decisions via divine revelations from the Tree of Life. Gaia looking over your shoulder and whispering in your ear would be a tad past “advisory.”

  34. I’m still totally surprised that the shitty 2012 movie ended with rich people, corporations, and the Chinese saving humanity. Not some fucking pseudo blue flagged UN wanna-be. I almost cried and cheered at the same time.

    1. Yeah, that movie really slammed the UN hard.

    2. Actually the plan was to save themselves. They had to be shamed (by a fiction-writing “common man”) into letting the workers who built their boats on board.

      I want to see the sequel, where they figure out that the illiterate Chinese subsistence farmers they barely let in have the most valuable education on the boat.

  35. rich people, corporations, and the Chinese saving humanity.

    It was a prophecy of Copenhagen.

    1. Because I don’t see any replies to this comment, let me assure Mr. Corning that it was most clever and amusing.

  36. This is a very good thread on a blizzard Saturday.

  37. That Avatar’s melodramatic attacks on corporate interests and its defense of simple, natural living come packaged as one of the most expensive, and probably the most technically advanced, corporate films in history would seem to indicate that only quality bigger than the movie’s stupidity is its head-in-the-clouds hypocrisy. Cameron’s made a movie that he intends to be epic and awesome, but the only thing that’s awesome here is his total lack of self-awareness.

    It’s almost as if world leaders flew around the world in airliners riding in first class, stayed at the best hotels, drove around in caravans of SUV’s, and gave speeches about our dwindling resources and rising CO2 levels.

    1. How DARE you, Paul! I will not be mocked! Guards, arrest this heretic!

  38. [More Spoilers]

    Yes, technically you could see the plot as a libertarian “get off my land” tale but you would be interpreting it out of context. The movie does almost nothing to encourage that perspective. I don’t recall the word “freedom” being uttered by any blue kitty character, nor the word “property.” I do remember the main character shouting “THIS IS OUR LAND” during a pre-war rally… but he’s still a dirty human, you see.

    Lifting the plot from “Dances With Wolves” works emotionally. But when you stop and think about it in context, the resulting narrative is anti-man. It’s not just that the aliens are the heroes and the humans are the villains. It’s deeper than that. The humans here are soulless destroyers, by nature, and the aliens are the paradigms of “humanity.” Any redeeming qualities that human characters happen to possess are aberrations, which are (and must be) expressed as alien-like qualities.

    Suderman is right in criticizing the movie as being hypocritical, but I think he’s got the wrong focus. The main problem isn’t that it’s a corporate movie with an anti-corporate message. The problem is that it’s a fundamentally human story with an anti-human message.

    I mean, is there any other way to interpret a movie where the main character’s final redemption is in deciding that he’d rather die and go through some risky mystical suicide-and-reincarnation process than go on living as a dirty human? For me, that was the ultimate kick in the nuts leveled at man from a profoundly depressing film.

    Pandora is paradise, you see. And humans don’t deserve to live in paradise. Humans have original sin, so they deserve to die. THIS is the underlying philosophical payload this bunker-buster was built to deliver straight into your sinful heart of stone.

    1. Great post, I felt the exact same way. The end just felt way too escapist to me.

      1. The end just felt way too escapist to me.

        Blue kitty people on another planet with floating land masses in the sky….

        I would think the whole movie could be characterized as escapist.

        What part of the trailer quote “You are not in Kansas anymore” gave away the escapist themes of this movie?

  39. I watched this last night and totally loved it. I read Reason every day and consider myself a die-hard libertarian. What the movie shows is an idealistic view of Native societies, which I can’t really disagree with. I think above all else, we can agree that the way things are is totally FUBAR. What’s so wrong with an imagining of things being different? That’s all it is really. Personally I saw the movie tying in very well with the “love everyone” philosophies of John Lennon, Ghandi, and those other people that were too pure for our world.

  40. You need not be a liberal to think corporations are bad. Nor is it ipso facto simplistic to think so.

  41. Stephan Kinsella has a very different take on the film.

  42. (sniff, sniff)

    Methinks I smells Objectivoids.

  43. “Avatar isn’t much a movie:”– Are you flipin nuts??? The movie was about Property Rights, and how a Corporate-Government empire can and does conspire to do evil things. Its a real pity that a “Reason” reviewer doesn’t get it. It was about the best libertarian movie to come along in a long long time. Reason Mag seems lost to me, not in the Ron Paul R3VOLution, not in the Antiwar movement, and now not into a cutting edge, spectacular Libertarian Movie!

  44. Ok, I guess I’m going to be the first to say it, but wasn’t anyone waiting for the Sully (or whatever part Uhura played) to repeat one of Cameron’s greatest screen lines.

    (This can be said by either character as the Col. is about to kill the other): “Get away from her (him), you DICK!!!”

  45. The blue aliens don’t have people giving speeches explaining their motivation as “this world is our private property.”

    No instead they say, “This is our world.” I suppose if you want to be a semantic nitpick go right ahead. But you sound like a Vogon saying, “Sorry, but our records don’t indicate you own this planet or that you even inhabit it. Sorry, we are going to destroy it for the intra-galactic highway.”

    It is quite clear the film frames the moral conflict as “submission to (thus ‘harmony’ with) nature” vs. “man’s Promethean utilization/augmentation (or ‘destruction’) of nature.” The former’s way of life is allegedly perfect and wonderful and moral and noble, the latter’s way of life is ignoble and monstrous and greedy capitalist etc.

    Thats rubbish. The inhabitants of the planet also have a network not unlike our internet. They’ve done biologically what we’ve done mechanically. Attacking our internet would likely be seen as an act of war. Sure their way of looking at it looks primative and is cloaked in mysticism, but they are a more primitive people. Really you sound like an apologists for the horrifying treatment of Native Americans in this country.

    On the other side, take all the “the Na’vi are a superior race!” “the Na’vi are genetically better than us!” “the Na’vi live in harmony with nature and this is clearly a better way to live than industrial pollution!” “man conquers/rapes/exploits nature and the Na’vi don’t, and they are better than us!” and all related sentiments and place them on the other side of the page.

    Maybe Grace Augustine thought that and the hero towards the end, but I don’t remember such expressions. And so what? It still does not negate the fact that it IS their land. If they want to be primitive insular racists so what. Isn’t that what liberty is about to live as you choose, even if it is in some ways disagreeable.

    And as for living with pollution, can I come over to your house to crap on your living room? Its waste and you don’t seem to mind it. Pollution is undesirable. However, going withou the products that give rise to pollution is also undesirable its tradeoffs and if one group decides on their land they want less products AND pollution why should any group be justified in changing that via coercion, force and murder?

    You and Suderman really are demostrating why libertarians have such a hard time being taken seriously.

    Josh, I think you’re radically misunderstanding what message ordinary people get out of movies like this.

    My what elitist rubbish. Sure some people might think that. So what, that doesn’t mean that the corporations are in the right in the movie. A libertarian should see that.

    And we also are supposed to believe that a society that is capable of intersteller travel and creating avatars still hasn’t solved the human spinal chord.

    Actually it was doable, just expensive. The corporation in question wasn’t willing to pay out the money for such a surgery (with little or no return) but was for the avatars (which it saw as having a potentially substantial return). Really why is this so hard, or did you not see the movie? It isn’t any different than a company seeing a defect and doing a cost benefit analysis:

    Optiona A — Fixing the defect: $25 million.
    Option B — Paying for the lawsuits and bad PR: $15 million.

    Option B is selected.

    The bottom line here is that the corporation in this film didn’t go in and try and purchase the rights to the mineral they sought. Instead they sent in an army to take it by force. By any and all libertarian standards that is evil. To argue otherwise to to argue in favor of corporatism.

  46. How sad to read such a review on a website that supposedly cares about liberty.

    Shame on you.

  47. hi,
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  48. Avatar tries to have it both ways, to be preachy and a thrill-ride at the same time. I can’t in all honesty say it pulls it off ? it’s baggy, longwinded and, for all the light-speed imagery, just not quick on its feet. Cameron used to be the tautest film-maker around, but he just got slack.
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