Massachusetts Daily Collegian

“Avatar” a Pandora’s Box of Cliches

By Isaac Himmelman

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I’ll just get this off my chest. “Avatar” sucked.

Like everyone else on Earth, I shelled out $16-something to put on silly looking 3-D glasses and watch what will probably be the highest grossing film of all time. For those of you who spent winter break in a cave, “Avatar” is the latest film from director James Cameron, the man responsible for a little movie called “Titanic” (ever heard of it?). With a budget large enough to feed a small country, “Avatar” has been touted as groundbreaking in its use of new technology and computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation.

So just as our parents wax nostalgic about the first time they saw “Star Wars,” 15 years from now I’ll probably be sitting on a porch somewhere with my kids telling them that within the first half-hour of “Avatar,” around the time when the alien cats were sticking their braided ponytails into the alien horses, I took off my 3-D glasses and walked out of the theater.

For weeks I’ve been hearing variations of the following: “Dude, ‘Avatar’ is totally sick.” Or, “Bro, you have to see it at least once totally baked.” And even – “Dog, the plot is alright, but the visual effects make it worthwhile.”

First off, dude, if by totally sick you mean totally filled with gut-wrenchingly predictable plot lines, cardboard acting and dialogue ripped from B-list Disney cartoons, then yeah, no doubt, it was totally sick. Next, bro, you should assess what it is in your life that sucks so much that you’re willing to throw away large chunks of it on low-brow romance movies where alien cats are prone to the occasional nip-slip. And finally, dog, you’re wrong, the visual effects do not make the film worthwhile. OK, granted, there were some pretty spectacular visuals in this film. But you know what else has spectacular visuals? The screen savers on my MacBook, but you don’t see me watching those for three hours.

From what I deciphered during my half-hour of viewing – and mind you, I didn’t catch much – “Avatar” has something to do with white capitalist humans looking to kill off the planet Pandora’s native blue species in order to obtain a resource known as unobtainium (get it?).

Cameron, perhaps looking to carve out a place for himself amongst the more courageous social critics of history, comments on the malignant nature of our military-industrial complex by making all the army guys really scary and mean. Meanwhile, an ex-marine (Sam Worthington) becomes an alien and falls in love with one of the bustier members of the tribe (Zoe Saldana). After overcoming obstacles he learns to live as one of them and paint with all the colors of the wind.

During my 30 minutes in the theater I sat and wondered – Where is the scrappy raccoon and the talking willow tree? Then I thought, am I the only one here that finds this film’s depiction of the native inhabitants, with their braided hair and cross bows, to be borderline racist? Why is it that Hollywood’s idea of native peoples always seems to involve crossbows and hair braids?

Finally I wondered, what would these noble, blue, crossbow-wielding natives of Pandora – with their new age pabulum and their surprisingly fantastic abdominal muscles – think of Cameron unabashedly brandishing the chic green flag of environmentalism while raking in God-knows-how-many millions off of “Avatar’s” promotional tie-in with the dubious folk at the McDonald’s corporation?

Then the aliens began sticking their ponytails into their horses, which to me is the universal sign for “show me the nearest exit.” So save yourself 16 bucks if you haven’t already made it to the theater. I’ll let you watch a spectacular screensaver on my MacBook for free.

Isaac Himmelman can be reached at [email protected].


5 Responses to ““Avatar” a Pandora’s Box of Cliches”

  1. Ashley Lesperance on January 19th, 2010 3:20 pm


    I’m so glad you wrote this article. When I first saw the preview to Avatar, I was blown away that nobody seemed to relate it to Pocahontas at all. I couldn’t understand how people didn’t see the cliches, the depiction of the ‘primitive other’ as again being stuck in this frozen way of living, one that we have to better through our technology and colonization. Granted, I’m an anthro major and we’re taught to look at these things (not that everyone picks up on them), but I was hoping more people would see it. I guess the great visual effects were too distracting though.

    Great piece. I’ll be sure to not waste my money!


  2. Jon Y on January 19th, 2010 6:48 pm

    People who take issue, have issues.

    It’s a movie, get a life.


  3. Ashley Lesperance on January 19th, 2010 11:10 pm

    People who take issue, have issues? Meaning that anyone that has stands for something has issues? Maybe that’s true, but I’d rather be knowledgeable of the possibility of mass media being stereotypical and racist than be a blindly following movie goer that says “It’s just a movie” rather than see the racist beliefs it can and does institutionalize.


  4. Amanda Grace on January 24th, 2010 10:05 pm

    I agree completely with your review of this film. Thank you for putting my thoughts down in print. You should be happy you didn’t watch the ending, Isaac, it was by far the worst part of the film.


  5. Sean Schiraldi on June 3rd, 2010 9:30 pm

    That is great!! I was about 4 months late on my review, because i saw it on dvd, but my review mimics yours…right down to the pocahontas / john smith analogy.

    I thought I made it up! lol good stuff! what a crock!


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