Four Years & in Defence of Avatar


As of yesterday, my gorgeous lady and I have been together for 4 years. I drew this picture for her as a gift:



anniversary_03_smallClick the above image for a larger version.

We saw James Cameron’s Avatar at IMAX and both loved it. I’ve noticed some very vocal backlash against the film amidst all the accolades and applause. On some points I tend to agree, but I don’t think the negatives (the story’s lack of originality, cheesy dialogue, etc.) come close to outweighing the positives of the “experience” of Avatar. Avatar is a fine piece of entertainment, and offers a visceral thrill ride that I’ve never before experienced in a movie theatre.

Avatar is a movie made for the mainstream, not the discerning intellectual film goer. Although that doesn’t stop every armchair critic from tearing it apart. I understand where those people are coming from, I really do. I was like them once: haughty, elitist, unable to let myself go and just enjoy the ride. So what if Avatar adheres to tried and true story-telling conventions? Not every film needs to be Pulp Fiction or Run Lola Run. There is a place for classical storytelling in cinema, and that place is in the big-budget high-grossing films of Hollywood. Movies like Spider-Man, Titanic, Lord of the Rings and Avatar all share a naiveté and sentimentality that appeals to the masses, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Storytelling like this works, and has done for thousands of years. I wrote an essay five years ago called “Smart Film vs. Dumb Film” which you can read by clicking here.

In it I wrote:

The real reason some people abhor mainstream cinema is because of their need to rebel and feel part of a select few. So-called “smart” cinema is just the elite group they’re looking for. “Smart” cinema really isn’t all that smart; it just makes the viewer feel smart. To a “smart” movie-goer, becoming lost in the myth, fantasy, drama, romance or action of a film seems dumb because it appears to require less brain-power. “Smart” movie-goers want a film that makes them think, thus making them feel smart. But what “smart” movie-goers don’t realise, is that it takes more intelligence on the film-maker’s behalf to have an audience become “lost” in the movie, than to have them constantly question everything they see on screen. “Smart” film wants to be overtly smart. It wants to show off its intelligence to the world. Mainstream cinema is content doing what it’s always been doing – entertaining.

Story aside, I simply don’t understand people who didn’t enjoy Avatar on a visual, visceral, sensory level. I guess the aesthetics might have turned some people off, but to me they were absolutely stunning. It’s on this level that Avatar rivals and arguably even surpasses it’s predecessors (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings), and I’m inclined to think that people who disagree with that are stuck in a reactionary point-of-view based on the massive success of the film.

I’m siding firmly with the mainstream here, and recommending Avatar to everyone I know. I’d be more than happy to debate my point of view in the comments section.

Oh yeah, and Happy Anniversary Lucy!