When one of my friends strolled up to me a few days ago and said, "As a liberal, I really enjoyed Avatar," a malignant, ominous feeling began to grow in the pit of my stomach like I'd swallowed too much formaldehyde. It was only given a carcinogenic snowballing when I actually bothered to see the movie and discovered during the first thirty minutes that I wasn't attending the sophisticated political masterpiece most people boldly claimed it would be. Maybe it's just because I judge narration on the level of Chuck Palahniuk, but the beginning voice-overs struck me as sad attempt at profundity. Sure it may have been an honestly executed undertaking, but it missed the mark by about two miles and plunged hopelessly downward into a stinking mire of apoplectic alligators.
Every main role was eagerly withdrawn from Hollywood's trusty Stock Cliche Character Generatrix. Or perhaps Disney's trusty Stock Cliche Character Generatrix, since the two protagonists were obviously playing John Smith's and Pocahontas's stolen roles. My favourite blatantly copied and pasted character would be the scarfaced trigger-happy general. I suppose I should applaud James Cameron for dropping the pants of clever guise and honestly and wholeheartedly raping originality in the ass, but General Scarry won't make it into my arsenal of favourite villains because he was an easily swappable mannequin, like when your bong cracks so you grab the nearest apple to hollow it out. You could easily replace him with General Hein, or the vice president from Day After Tomorrow, or any generic condescending Republican warmonger with two ass cheeks for a chin and a cluster of small boulders for upper arms. The only characters emitting one photon of potential humanness were deemed expendable by the director, and promptly dealt with, lest Avatar stray from the severely overbeaten path and jeopardize the ratings.
At least I can't rip on Avatar for being elusive, impenetrable, or even remotely complex. Perhaps because the film borrowed its sense of classy discretion from the Glenn Beck school of thought, it got the fucking point across well enough. Hell, I've seen Miyazaki films subtler than this. The only element it was missing was the smallpox-infused blankets. Then at least the characters could've died and I wouldn't have had to live through three hours of severely elongated Smurfs reenacting Fern Gully. I also wouldn't have had to endure the closing Uematsuish pop song, composed and performed with finesse by Fred Penner and Celine Dion.
Despite obvious arguments to the contrary, Avatar wasn't really bad, at least as long as Fantastic 4 exists to compare it to. It had a charm that most recent films lack; the classic Star-Wars-esqe art of throwing the characters into absolutely horrendous situations where no logical solution presents itself, then right when the protagonist's ass is fucked, miraculously if not equally ludicrously yanking them out again. I also enjoyed the fact that every living being on Pandora (I couldn't help thinking of Borderlands the entire time) had conveniently compatible USB ports through which to talk to their horses, birds and dead great-aunts. And we normal people have to channel through John Edwards. But it had a creatively envisioned setting, where evolutionary prerequisites are completely ignored (like camouflage, for instance), and it has floating islands blatantly removed from JRPG Land, which is always a plus. It was entertaining and exciting enough--an opinion my ass being close to the borders of the regions relatively near the edge of my seat would support. It was also very pretty. Just vapid. Like a Miss America contestant. But it had a flavour of only being filler, like the plot was only a vessel through which the director could show off his shiny new CGI effects. CGI effects that probably took massive amounts of money, electricity, and time that could've been spent actually saving the earth from the imperialistic White Man.
Maybe I'm not being fair, and maybe my opinion was coloured by the fact that my friends appreciate political agenda movies more than I do, or maybe it was the fact that the masses were hailing Avatar as the next Savior descended from the glowing marshmallow clouds of heaven itself to rescue their souls from the mundanity of two-dimensional film, but I found it to be an over-hyped disappointment. I could be wrong, since I enjoy most movies about as much as a cheese grater to the genitals, but to me it seemed an extremely thin and equally transparent allegory weakly spread like plastic wrap over steamed Brussel sprouts. They may be pretty and green, but they still taste like shit.
If you want to have the ideal Avatar experience, I suggest you ingest three to four grams of peyote and watch Fern Gully. At least it has musical numbers.