10 Reasons Why I Hated Avatar

(The opinions in this review are mine and mine alone.  They reflect the feelings of Lisa Marie Bowman and not the feelings of any other editor on this site.  To prove that the opinions below are solely mine, check out this very positive review of Avatar that was posted on this very site last December.)

In case you didn’t already know this from my previous reviews, I’m going to confess something here.  I hated Avatar.  It was probably my least favorite film of 2009.  How much did I hate Avatar?  Well, I didn’t care much for The Hurt Locker either but I still cheered when it won best picture because it meant that Avatar didn’t. 

Most of my friends and family loved Avatar and, I’m proud to say, that none of them have allowed our difference of opinion to effect our relationship.  Indeed, most Avatar fans have been very tolerant of my dissenting views.  However, there’s always an exception.  From the 1st time I ever openly admitted to disliking Avatar, I have had to deal with a small but vocal group of people who not only disagree but apparently feel that I’ve committed a crime against humanity.  So, why bring it up now?  Because on Thursday, Avatar is going to be released on DVD and Blu-ray.  In honor of that event, here are 10 reason why I personally hated Avatar

1) Ironically enough, most people who love Avatar will probably agree with the majority of my criticisms.  They’ll argue that yes, the story is predictable and yes, James Cameron is heavy-handed as both a writer and a director but none of that matters because of all the brilliant visual effects.  They’ll argue that Cameron made a whole different world, Pandora, come to life.  To a certain extent, they’re right.  Cameron does manage to make Pandora believable and wow, Pandora certainly turns out to be a boring planet.  Seriously, does that jungle cover the entire freaking planet?  However, regardless of my personal feelings about Pandora, James Cameron is hardly the 1st director to make an alien world believable.  Peter Jackson did it with his Lord of the Rings trilogy and the same can, arguably, be said of the Narnia films.  Even earlier, Mario Bava did it with Planet of the Vampires and he did it with a lot less money.  Of course, none of these films were in 3-D but so what?  Just because the mundane appears to be inches in front of your nose doesn’t make it any less mundane.

2) Speaking of mundane, wouldn’t you be let down if, when you first met the members of a totally alien race, they all turned out to be a bunch of movie stereotypes?  The Na’vi appear to have developed their entire culture as the result of a steady diet of Hollywood westerns, New Age self-help books, and some 16 year-old’s half-assed understanding of what it means to be a Pagan.  I remember when I first saw Avatar, it was impossible for me not to compare it unfavorably with District 9, a film that addressed many of the same themes and issues as Avatar but did it with a much lower budget and a much more intelligent script.  This was especially evident when one compares Avatar’s Na’vi with District 9’s prawns.  While the prawns were believable as both individual characters and as representatives of a totally alien race, the Na’vi are essentially the reflections of James Cameron’s sophomoric noble savage fantasies.

3) District 9 wasn’t the only great science fiction film to come out in 2009.  There was also Moon, which featured a great performance by Sam Rockwell and excellent direction from Duncan Jones.  When /Film asked Jones for his opinion of Avatar, Jones replied, “…at which point in the film did you have any doubt what was going to happen next?”  It’s a good question. 

In all honesty, I’m a horror girl.  I haven’t seen much science fiction and therefore, I’m not as well acquainted with the genre’s clichés as I am with horror.  However, I can still say that, at no point, did anything that happened in Avatar take me by surprise.

Of course, some of my favorite movies were (and are) very predictable.  Georges Polti argued that there were really only 36 basic plots available to use in fiction so its understandable that you’re going to come across the same one used several times.  However, a predictable plot can be forgiven if maybe that plot features at least a few interesting characters or maybe an occasional unexpected line of dialogue.  Avatar, however, can’t even manage this.  Our hero is an impulsive man of action.  The villains are all evil because … well, they just are.  In the manner of most oppressed races in American film, the Na’vi are noble savages who require a white guy to come save them.  The only lines of dialogue that I remember are the ones that made me roll my eyes.  I’m talking about stuff like a bunch of 22nd century marines being greeted with “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”  Well, that and “I see you,” which was apparently included in the script so that it could serve as the title of a syrupy theme song.

4) Strangely enough, even though the movie took absolutely no narrative risks, it was still full of plot holes and things that just didn’t make much sense. 

For instance, why does Quaritich promise to give Jake back his legs (“your real ones”)?  I mean, does Quaritich have them sitting in a freezer somewhere? 

As part of his deal with Quaritich, Jake agrees to make videos about the Na’vi.  Oddly enough, it appears that he’s still making the videos even after he turns against Quaritich and you have to wonder exactly why.  Also, Jake records many of these videos in an isolated, apparently one-room outpost occupied by him and two other scientists yet the scientists are later shocked and outraged when told that Jake was making the videos.  Okay, what did they think he was doing all that time?  Were they just not listening to what he was saying? 

What exactly was the backstory of Sigourney Weaver’s character and when exactly did she join Sully in the Na’vi camp?   And why were the Na’vi willing to let her into their tribe when they would only grudgingly accepted Sully even after the Goddess selected him?  I mean, if Weaver already had such a great relationship with the Na’vi, it seems like she could have saved a lot of time by just taking Sully straight to them.  (Editor’s Note: According to the comments below, this issue actually was addressed in the film. — LMB)

Sully, after the final battle, decides to stay on Pandora and he might as well since the Tree of Souls (good God!) transferred his soul into his Na’vi body.  But what’s in it for Max and Norm?  We seem them at the end (though really, Norm should be dead) standing there pointing guns at all the humans that are leaving.  Norm, at least, could still probably hang out in his avatar but what about Max?  Why is Max, who has had nothing to do with Na’vi, so quick to join the revolution?

I’m sure a lot of this is because scenes were edited out and I know that Cameron has a reputation for reinserting those scenes once his movies come out on DVD and blu-ray.  Well, more power to him.

5) The film suffers from a really bad case of the white man’s burden disease.  This is another one of those films where a caucasian character befriends an oppressed minority and, with remarkably little dissent, manages to appoint himself as the leader of that minority.  It’s a fantasy, one in which members of the bourgeoisie (like James Cameron) can live out their childhood fantasies of being outlaws without having to worry about  (unlike actual “outlaws,”) being punished for taking their stand.

Once again, it’s hard not to compare Avatar with District 9.  Both of them feature lead characters who are transformed into aliens.  The difference is that, with the exception of one brief scene, Jake Sully accomplishes the transformation rather easily and quickly becomes the best Na’vi there is while in District 9, poor Sharlto Copley is terrified by the process and, even though it does lead to him understanding the prawns (and ironically, learning how to show a little humanity), the movie never pretends that Copley isn’t losing his own individuality in the process of transforming.

6) The lead character is named Jake Sully.  Did James Cameron get frustrated and just use a Random Generic Movie Hero Name Generator to come up with that?  I wonder if Nick Sully was Cameron’s 2nd choice.  It’s not that there’s anything wrong with either name.  It’s just that it feels so generic.  Of course, the leader character is going to be named Jake and, of course, he’s not going to be an intellectual and, of course, Sigourney Weaver’s going to spend the whole movie making sarcastic comments about how stupid he is.  Speaking of which…

7) Sigourney plays Dr. Grace Augustine.  Her character and her performance are typical of a rather annoying Hollywood tradition, that of portraying any “strong” female as a total and complete bitch.  If you want the audience to know they’re supposed to take a woman seriously, have that woman spend the entire movie pissed off about something, as if the only way a woman can be strong is by sacrificing anything that might make her unique.  Now, there’s a lot I could say about why, from a cultural perspective, American movies often seem to be so conflicted about how to portray any woman who is neither an Eve nor a Lillith.  But in the case of Avatar, its hard not to feel that it comes down to screenwriter Cameron’s inability to make any of his characters interesting unless something nearby is exploding.

8 ) And while we’re on the subject of misunderstood women…okay, let’s say you discover a planet and this planet is a lush, beautiful paradise.  Why the Hell would you then call it Pandora?  Yes, I understand that newly discovered planets are usually named after mythological figures.  But there’s still usually some sort of vague logic behind the names.  For instance, Mars was named after the God of War because of its red hue.  Venus was often considered to be the most beautiful star in the sky.  Mercury has the fastest orbit.  Jupiter’s the biggest planet.  Pluto (before it got downgraded) was considered the darkest and coldest of the planets.  Pandora, however, was the woman who opened up the jar that released everything terrible, evil, and destructive into the world.  Why would anyone name a planet after her?  It’s possible, of course, that all the good names were taken.  Of course, it’s also possible that this is just another example of how thuddingly obvious Avatar is in its symbolism and subtext.

9) Speaking of obvious, what about the villain played by Stephen Lang?  More specifically, what about that accent?  It’s true that Cameron doesn’t exactly encourage his villains to be subtle.  Just check out Billy Zane in Titanic.  Zane, however, at least appeared to be having a little fun at his director’s expense.  He, alone among the cast, seemed to realize that Titanic was a silly melodrama and so he gave something of a silly performance.  It’s no great secret that it’s often more important to have a good villain than to have a good hero.  A good villain usually has some sort of motivation beyond just being the villain.  This is something that Cameron has never seemed to be able to grasp.  Whenever I see a military figure show up in a James Cameron movie, I get the same feeling that I get whenever a preacher shows up in a Stephen King novel.  Automatically I know that they’re going to turn out to be evil and I find myself dreading having to even waste the time with the “shocking” discovery of that evil. 

10) Perhaps most importantly, this is a movie that wants to preach peace but celebrate war.  Avatar contains all the trendy environmental messages that you’d expect from a Hollywood film but — even though director Cameron seems to be in a state of denial about it — the film’s heart is with its villanous soldiers.  Much as how Titanic, for all the rhetoric about the passengers in third class, was really only interested in portraying the lives (and deaths) of those in first class, Avatar spends a lot of time talking about trees but is much more interested in blowing them up with the destruction of the Home Tree serving as the money shot.

To be honest, I don’t mind a little hypocrisy when it comes to movies.  Most exploitation films celebrate hypocrisy.  The filmmakers knew it and, for the most part, the audiences knew it.  The fact that a movie like Child Bride could be advertised as “an important movie every parent must see!” became something of a shared joke between the filmmaker and his audience.  Rather than being hypocritical, the exploitation filmmaker is simply inviting his audience to join in a conspiracy against the forces of dullness.

Unfortunately, Avatar is not an exploitation film.  If Avatar was simply a B-movie, none of the my previous complaints would matter.  They would add to the film’s rogue charm.  Avatar, however, is too expensive to be considered an exploitation film.  And James Cameron, as he proved when he went ballistic over Kenneth Turan’s negative review of Titanic and as he has continued to prove with his recent comments regarding global warming, does not have the sensibility of a B-movie maker.  Arguably, he once did.  This is a man who, after all, did the special effects for Galaxy of Terror and made his directorial debut with Piranha IIThe Terminator was a great B-movie, right down to the accusations of plagiarism from Harlan Ellison.  However, as he’s become the most financially succesful director in history, Cameron has lost that B-movie sensibility. 

In other words, James Cameron takes himself seriously now and that, ultimately, is the main reason I hated Avatar.  It just takes itself too damn seriously.

Yes, I’ve read quite a few favorable reviews that have argued that Avatar‘s sole purpose is to entertain and that people like me who occasionally expect unique characters and an interesting story should just lie back and enjoy it.  I’ve seen the term “popcorn epic” used in quite a few reviews. 

I’m sorry but I’m not buying it.  If Avatar was truly setting out to be a “popcorn epic,” than I’d be a lot more willing to cut it some slack.  However, when the script contains lines about how on Earth, humans have “destroyed all the green,” and when the villains are accused of launching a “shock and awe” campaign, it’s ludicrous to then argue that Avatar isn’t setting itself up to be judged by a higher standard. 

It becomes hard to escape the fact that Cameron, regardless of how well he handles the special effects, has essentially made a stupid movie about deep issues.

As I said before, the majority of the people I know love Avatar.  I don’t hold it against them or think any less of them because, ultimately, movies are a subjective experience.  Whether or not a movie is good has less to do with the actual movie and more to do with the person watching it.

It would be nice to have the same courtesy extended to me .  Since I first revealed my opinion of Avatar on a non-Avatar related message board, I have found myself frequently attacked by little fanboys who apparently cannot handle the fact that one human being didn’t enjoy Avatar.  I’ve been told that, as a female, I can’t be expected to understand Avatar.  I’ve been accused of being “unimaginative,” “a snob,” “a bitch,” and my personal favorite “the type of cunt who cried at the end of the Blind Side.” 

I realize the risk I’m taking by openly admitting my dislike of Avatar but then again, movies are supposed to inspire conversation and not just pavlovian agreement.  So, in conclusion, I’ll just admit that yes, I am female and yes, I did cry at the end of The Blind Side, and yes, I hated Avatar.

107 responses to “10 Reasons Why I Hated Avatar

  1. I have to admit I did quite like Avatar… mostly because it was beautiful… The story, well… it was funnier with Robin Williams playing a bat named Batty – because that’s all Avatar really is, is a pretty 3D Ferngully.

    They did, however explain why Sigourney’s character didn’t do the introductions – she had a falling out with the natives after she brought up the subject of them moving somewhere else (or something like that… only seen it once, and it was shortly after it came out)… they were kinda pissed at her.

    Anyways, kudos on a well written, well thought out piece of writing, and on being honest about how you feel – that tends to be rare these days.


    • I think you’re correct concerning why Sigourney Weaver’s character fell out with the Na’vi and I added a note to that effect in the original article. My main memory of Weaver, to be quite honest, is just her avatar suddenly popping up in one of the scenes with the tribe and I remember thinking, “Wait a minute! What’s she doing there!?” lol.


      • I think the film could have done without the street talk from the avatar kids. Saying Bro countless times and bitch they are still in a fantasy world not Chicago or New York.


  2. I liked Avatar but, as you wrote, I do agree with most of your points. I thought it was visually stunning and the plot left a lot to be desired. It was a good movie, just not a great one. There was much potential wasted.


    • Thank you. Despite the amount of time I devoted last night to picking this movie apart, I think your comment of “good but not great” is probably closer to the truth. I doubt I’d have the strong feelings that I do about this movie if not for the fact that I’ve had to deal with so many people insisting that this is a “great” film.


  3. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and…yes. Spot on!

    Funny and insightful – a great post and the comparisons with D9 were something I have been mulling over for a few months. Thanks for putting it into a cogent argument!


    • Thank you. : ) As I stated in the article, I’m not a huge science fiction fan but I still think that District 9 and (to a lesser extent) Moon were two of the great movies of 2009. It’s a pity that these two films have ended up being so overshadowed by the James Cameron juggernaut.


  4. Thank you for taking the time to REALLY read into the film. So many people just look at it on the surface as a eye-fuck 3D orgy and revel in how great of a technological feat it was. Yeah, I won’t argue that was great and Cameron did a great job creating a sci-fi world that is absolutely amazing. But people don’t look at how contradicting the movie is with its messages or bother to question things like the character or setting names.

    This is a good look into that. People should always be thinking about cinema like this, even if I do disagree with some of the points.


    • Thank you. : ) I think one of the unfortunate things about Avatar is that so many people seem to feel almost obligated to love the movie unconditionally. For me, part of the fun of seeing a movie with other people is the chance to pick it apart and argue about it later. Unfortunately, with Avatar, a disturbing sort of groupthink has developed where anyone who offers up the slightest bit of dissent is immediately seen as being the enemy.


    • Ok I dont think we need to lose sleep over reading into the movie. You want to read into it then tell me how the avatar picked up BRO and Bitch in their language.


  5. As the said author of the positive review I wholeheartedly support this dissenting piece just for the fact that it’s well thought out, written and actually explains why she didn’t like it (or hate if one prefers LOL).

    I can actually understand her points as to why the film didn’t work it’s magic on her the way it did for many others. One major reason why I went the opposite of Lisa Marie when it came to Avatar was that I bought into the spectacle and epic nature of the film. As I stated in my own review this film’s arrival and the reaction to it by the majority is akin to how Star Wars almost overnight created a massive cult of personality with its fans.

    I can sympathize with Lisa’s reaction to the, as I like to call them, Blue People (or Avatards for those really obnoxious with their love and worship of the film) since there’s many who do brook no dissent whatsoever when it came to the film they love. But to play devil’s advocate I also think that there’s a vocal minority on the dissenting side who are as bad as the Avatards and who find joy at baiting them.

    I think the film on it’s own is great for some because of the reasons I pointed out in my review, but who are willing to let those who disagree to have their opinions without resorting to name-calling and/or pointing out intellectual deficiencies. Some didn’t like the film as much or not at all because they couldn’t get passed the flaws which is fine when explained succinctly the way Lisa has.

    I’m secure enough in my own opinions of the film to not get my briefs up in a bunch because someone doesn’t share the same feeling. Plus, Lisa’s love for gialli, grindhouse, and foreign films gives her a lifetime pass to dissent away. 😀


    • Thank you. 🙂 As might be evident from the disclaimer at the start of my review, I had reservations about posting it because I know that you (and a lot of this site’s readers) are of the opposite opinion regarding Avatar. But then I thought about how boring life would be without friendly dissent. So thank you for allowing me this space to formulate my dissent and thank you for not locking me out after I posted it. 🙂

      I want to clarify one thing that, in retrospect, I wish I had made clearer in my review. My negative opinion of Avatar is confined solely to the movie and not to those who sincerely enjoyed the movie (with the exception, of course, of the ones who call me names and respond to my comments with crude insinuations concerning my personal life). One of the wonderful things about human existence is that everyone is wired differently and therefore, nothing will ever be universally loved or hated. Imagine how boring things would be otherwise.

      I also meant, in the original review, to comment on some of the extremism of the anti-Avatar crowd, as well. However, in all honesty, by the time I reached that point in my review, it was 4:30 in the morning and I was worried I might enter into some sort of otherwordly “dream time” like Richard Chamerlain did in Peter Weir’s The Last Wave.

      However, I’ll take the time now to agree that the anti-Avatar crowd has been just as guilty as the pro-Avatar crowd when it comes to going overboard. In my opinion, Avatar is not a crime against humanity nor is it the death blow to independent film. In my opinion, it’s just a terribly overrated movie.

      (I’m on the outs with most of the anti-Avatar crowd anyway because I’ve been even more vocal about disliking The Hurt Locker.)

      To be honest, my main problem with Avatar is the attitude that many have developed which seema to be that to be a true film watcher, you are obligated to love Avatar unconditionally. Whenever an opinion is transformed into an obligation, I will always come forward to dissent as loudly as possible. 🙂


      • Nah, wouldn’t lock you out. You’ve been a godsend to traffic. 😛

        I mean it’s not like you said something like original Dawn of the Dead is the most overrated, boring and dumbest movie ever. 😀


  6. Well…no, no, I’d never say that! lol.

    Strangely enough, if the Na’vi had been dead cannibals with blue skin, I probably would have loved Avatar. 🙂

    (I also would have loved to have seen Sam Worthington and Stephen Lang go through the whole Ben/Harry argument from NOLD at some point.)


  7. 1) The gift of Avatar isn’t the story and the acting so much as it is the immersion. It isn’t about realistically portraying a fictional world, as much as it is placing you as the viewer within that world. There were points in the movie that I felt a little betrayed because I expected to feel the air blowing from the helicopter blades and the heat from some of those fiery explosions. At times you weren’t just observing the scene, but if you let yourself get caught up in the story, you were participating in it. For me, there were many “I didn’t know you could do that with a film” moments, and it is as disruptive in film techniques as the first Matrix movie was.

    2) I’d only comment here that I think the Na’vi were nondescript enough with their culture that nearly anyone could identify them as “group x” and they’d be right. It is meant to be accessible to everyone and that destroys the possibility of developing more complex characterization.

    3) Similar argument as 2, but probably not the strongest part of the film. It isn’t a reason to hate a film though.

    4) I think this demonstrates in general, a lack of understanding about some scenes in the movie more than it does to point out plot holes. “For instance, why does Quaritich promise to give Jake back his legs (‘your real ones’)? I mean, does Quaritich have them sitting in a freezer somewhere?” It was perfectly clear to me, and as repeated many times through out the movie, you could buy replacement legs now that aren’t just prosthetics, but are actually limbs of flesh (and bone?), but it was a very expensive operation. Quaritich is telling him that he’ll be able to walk on real ones and not those of his avatar. “As part of his deal with Quaritich, Jake agrees to make videos about the Na’vi. Oddly enough, it appears that he’s still making the videos even after he turns against Quaritich and you have to wonder exactly why… yet the scientists are later shocked and outraged when told that Jake was making the videos.” Accept he is doing a job for Dr. Augustine. When Jake first joins the team, she instructs him to record his video diary. I’m sure even when you are supposed to be working on a computer, occasionally you might do other things. I see no reason why things should be different in the future. I suspect you only had one viewing of the movie, as I expect subsequent viewings would have answered several of the plot problems for you. As far as Max is concerned, I don’t know either, but there’s your unpredictable Deus ex Machina for you. 😉 Plot holes just exist and they always will to a certain extent. Unless a movie is written expressly to tie everything up in a nice tidy bow at the end, things are just going to be left out.

    5) Is it safe to assume you’re White? I don’t think it was written with a specific demographic in mind, but that you see it that way might suggest something about how you see the world. I don’t personally identify with it in that way, but it has all the trappings of “#24 Rivalry of superior vs. inferior.”

    6) Not everyone needs to be named like John Coffey for the sake of symbolism.

    7) Not the first movie to get the balance of a female role wrong. They’re either the damsel in distress, the overtly strong character, or they are in a “male movie” with an all-female cast, just to turn the things on their ear. I think the lack of definition in movie roles is more accurately a reflection about roles in society. In today’s Western culture, that balance hasn’t been achieved either.

    8) I think this was the symbolism you were looking for with 6 — That and if they called it banana, they would have really confused people.

    9) I agree, not evil enough in someways, too cartoonishly evil in others. To me, he was auxiliary to the movie though.

    10) I think part of that is just juxtaposition. It works for its purpose. You are meant to feel for the Na’vi and by blowing up their tree you are supposed to resent Quaritich. It goes back to #24 of the Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations.

    I hadn’t planned to write so much, nor do I consider myself to be fanatical about Avatar. You and my brother would get along as he too “hates” the film. There are reasons to feel one way or another about something, and I think that hating a film goes a little far — just as much as loving a film is also a bit melodramatic. You don’t have to like Avatar. You don’t even have to think it is any major evolution in cinematography. You can’t however deny, that it has left an indelible impact on how movies will be measured from now on, for some it will absolutely change the way that they think about film, and for future generations it will change how movies are made. It is a milestone in film, even if we don’t fully know what that milestone represents. That we have even had a lengthy discussion about the future impact of the movie says something in itself about it significance and influence for years to come.


    • I agree with some of your points and I definitely subscribe to the notion that this is a milestone film. I don’t think it will change how film is made. I don’t see 3D gamechanging as technicolor film was during the 50’s and 60’s. I still think 3D remain the tool the visually talented filmmaker and not one who is known more for storytelling. I, for one, can’t see Woody Allen using the new stereoscopic 3D system Cameron created to make a film. He’s just not the type to use such technical advancements.

      Even filmmakers who have a unique visual style are still hedging from going 3D. I now that Christopher Nolan has been lukewarm to the idea not because the doesn’t think 3D is a fad or a gimmick, but that he doesn’t see himself making films which would take advantage of it (though I do think Inception would be quite interesting if Nolan had years and Cameron budget to restart it and use 3D from the beginning).

      I think you both make good points. I also think that she has adjusted somewhat the use of the term hate, but no point in changing the title now. I do think that Avatar was/is what you both deconstructed it down to. It really depends on the mindset of the individual watching it. I’m a huge scifi and genre fan which the film spoke to. But in the end, I am also a film fan who appreciates the epic spectacle and, I think, most everyone will agree that Avatar was such a film.


      • Avatar will change how some films are made. Unfortunately, it would appear that many of the film’s fans believe that some film is the same thing as all film.

        Btw, I’m surprised that, out of everything I said, it’s the word “hate” that people get worked up over. 🙂


      • Up until this movie, every 3D movie I have seen has really played into the gimmicky aspects of it. It doesn’t mean that every movie shot from here out needs to utilize it, just like some movies for effect still are shot in black and white, but instead of flinging a yo-yo at the screen, a la Journey to the Center of the Earth, it serves to bring you into the film. The yo-yo tended to have the opposite effect on me. There are a great many movies that are milestones that don’t have an everlasting impression on people. Avatar may become one of those films, but it will cement the notion that you can give 3D a serious treatment and use it with great aplomb.


        • True, but it will take many years before most filmmakers gravitate to using it to create an immersive effect their films will have on the audience. Even Cameron decries much of the current trend studios are pushing with 3D. Clash of the Titans and Alice in Wonderland being two of the current 3D films which pushes what Cameron is trying to achieve backwards instead of forwards.

          I’m glad filmmakers like Scorsese and Werner Herzog will be taking on Cameron’s 3D model for their next films, but those will not reach the audience in numbers that will make studios happy. In the end, as much as Cameron’s work on Avatar was technologically groundbreaking it will all depend on how carefully the studios nurture this new 3D system and so far they’re not doing a very good of it.


          • In the back of my bedroom closet, I have a few things that used to belong to my mom. Among them is a bag that is full of these cheap, cardboard 3-D glasses that she saved from seeing 3-D movies that were released years before I was even born. If you look at the history of American film, you’ll see that 3-D always comes and goes. More often than not, one extremely succesful 3D movie is released and this leads to a spate of other, crappier 3-D movies which eventually alienate audiences and make it difficult for studios to continue to spend the money necessary to make and release all of these 3-D movies. I imagine that, rather than the future of all film, we’re simply seeing the latest outbreak of an old trend with Avatar.


          • The next 2-3 years will determine how well this new rise in 3D will manage. In addition to Scorsese and Herzog the next two Potter films will be in 3D and the Green Lantern film will be as well as all future DC comics adapted to the screen. I think the moment Spielberg, Nolan and Jackson go 3D then the move for epic, spectacle films to be in 3D will be complete. Even then 3D won’t be the norm, but relegated to the big summer and holiday event films. I just can’t see Haneke, Soderbergh, Cronenberg or Almodovar going the 3D route. The type of films they make just doesn’t need it.


          • 3D will be the summer thing. 🙂 I’m curious to see how Cameron’s 3D rerelease of Titanic works out. I fear that if its succesful, there’ll be a rush to 3Dize every old movie.


          • Yes, but the big difference Avatar has going with it (although not with the Imax version), is the technological advance of RealD 3D. With circular polarization, you can tilt you head from side to side and within a 90 degree or so angle, you will still see the correct 3D image. The anaglyphic 3D of the generation before that gave you poor coloring. I think the time is just about right for 3D to have mainstream acceptance, where the technology that creates the 3D doesn’t detract so much from the experience and can even enhance it. Combined with good story telling and good cinematography, 3D today has a distinct advantage over its predecessors. The real curiosity will be the success or failure of 3D television sets.


    • Hi. Thanks for the reply. You make some good points and you make them well, which is always appreciated. 🙂 When reading my response to your responses, please don’t mistake any combativeness in my tone as a sign of disrespect for you or your opinions. Anyway:

      1) For whatever reason, I never experienced the immersion. However, I’ve heard others say the same thing so perhaps it all has to do with individual perspective.

      2) Yes, the Na’vi were nondescript enough that the widest possible audience could accept them and that was the problem with them. They weren’t characters as much as they were a marketing device.

      3) Actually, it’s a perfect reason to hate the film from my perspective. I mean, when you say “Isn’t a reason to hate the film though,” what exactly are you basing that on (other than your own opinion)? It almost seems as if you really couldn’t come up with anyway to defend the plot so instead you just decided to dismiss my own complaints with a wave of your hand. Regardless, its hard for me to consider a plot as predictable as Avatar’s to be anything other than an insult to my intelligence.

      4) No, actually, I think it has more to do with a poorly constructed, hole-filled plot than with any inability to understand on my part. 🙂

      5) Yes, I’m white. That has absolutely nothing to do with anything I’ve said and quite frankly, I resent any insinuation that it did. Its obvious here that you totally misunderstood what I was saying. White man’s burden is not one of the 36 plots and it’s certainly not an audience demographic and it certainly is not a reflection of how I view the world. It’s a reflection of the fact that Avatar is yet another Hollywood movie in which an oppressed minority needs a big strong caucasion to come along lead them to salvation. Just because the minority here happens to be a bunch of blue aliens doesn’t make the underlying attitude any less condescending.

      6) Hopefully, being an obviously intelligent person, you realize that I wasn’t being totally serious here. But c’mon, it would have killed Cameron to at least come up with an interesting name for his lead characters? I mean, seriously — JAKE SULLY? For some reason, it just brings to mind James Cameron sitting around going, “What do the common people name their kids?”

      7) Finally, we agree on something! 🙂

      8 ) Huh? Wait, I was looking for symbolism in number 6? Uhmm, no, I was just complaining that the boring lead character being played the boring lead actor had a really boring name. As I think I made clear in my original review, I’m not a fan of symbolism. Though I will agree that Pandora is a better name than Banana.

      9) This all probably goes back to the immersion thing. You were immersed in the world so the plot (and the weak villians) didn’t really bother you. Whereas I was not immersed in that world and therefore, I really didn’t have much choice but to pay attention to the plot. As I said before, it all goes back to perspective and what you go into the theater searching for.

      10) Again, this is a matter of perspective.

      At the risk of sounding like John Locke, don’t tell me what I can’t deny. 🙂

      Yes, Avatar has left an impact. And in the end, who cares? I still hated the movie, regardless of whether you think that “goes too far” or not. Again, that’s a matter of opinion. There is no right or wrong answer because, unlike the world of Avatar, we live in a world that’s governed by amibiguity.

      As for whether or not Avatar will effect how we view the movies in the future, that depends on who is doing the viewing.

      Honestly, I think Avatar will eventually go the way of Cameron’s Titanic. I think in the future, it’ll be one of those films that our children laugh at while we sheepishly admit to actually having seen it in a theater.

      To me, the ultimate test is this — can Avatar actually stand up to repeat viewing outside of a movie theater? Is Avatar still an amazing experience when you’re sitting in your living room and watching it for the 10th time? If you can answer yes to these questions than maybe Avatar will be one of the new classics. Maybe film schools will drop classes on overrated directors like John Huston or John Cassavettes and they’ll redirect their entire curriculum to celebrating the monumental talent of James Cameron.

      However, for whatever reason, I kinda doubt it.

      Again, thank you for the reply. You made good points and you made them well and for that, I thank you regardless of how much I disagree with you.


      • I didn’t intend to write so much when I started out. I just got on a roll and didn’t look back. 😀 Some of my remarks were probably a little inflammatory for that reason, but I’m glad you took some of them in stride.

        I probably shouldn’t have hung so much in the fact that you said you hate the film. I just think that is a misguided emotion. There are plenty of films to hate, and I’m not sure a film like this should be held to that powerful of an emotion. The scale of most films arguably should be along the lines of “I enjoyed watching that film” to “I wasn’t enjoying that film so I got up and left.” Unless you are being forced to watch it against your will or unless the film profoundly has nothing to offer society, I see little reason for people to hate a film. Most films, for their egregious faults, still contain something redeeming.

        I really detest the notion of a “white man’s burden disease.” I understand what you are trying to get at, but in doing so it needlessly calls into things a racially motivated element. The Na’vi look different than humans, and it is entirely way to easy to then make a generalization. If that was Cameron’s objective, to open some sort of social commentary about conflicting races, I don’t think he would have chosen the Na’vi to be so iconically different from humans. If that wasn’t your intent, perhaps it was a poorly chosen phrase to communicate your message. On the other hand, cheering for the underdog has always been great storytelling. You argue that it is a film where “a caucasian character befriends an oppressed minority and, with remarkably little dissent, manages to appoint himself as the leader of that minority.” Would it have made a difference if blue aliens were attacking earth in the ’60s and discovered a colony of hippies singing Kumbaya? And then one of the aliens befriends the hippies and decides that what they are doing is wrong, takes a stand with the hippies, and then starts throwing flowers at the aliens, who incidental are highly allergic to the pollen and it drives them away? I call dibs on the rights! It is a classic structure, a David and Goliath story with a slight twist. It is best described as an underdog story, it just so happens that one of the David’s of the story would normally be considered a Goliath.

        I appreciate that you didn’t just go with the mainstream and voiced your opinion. I’m just concerned that perhaps you’ve let hype get the better of you and didn’t get to really experience it with your eyes wide open. I’ve sat through plenty of movies like that myself, but I find that when I do, I’m usually looking for reasons not to like it and end up missing out on an otherwise enjoyable experience.


        • The so-called “White Man’s Guilt” theme does exit but I think it gets used by many groups whenever they see, hear or read something that doesn’t agree with their own personal viewpoints. I made a post of it using an earlier 2010 film as an example: Daybreakers


          • Most studio movies are all about white man’s guilt. Sometimes it’s just more obvious than others. What people have to understand is that mainstream American film is basically controlled by a bunch of insecure white guys who are all stuck in a permanent midlife crisis.


          • I actually think that it has less to do with White Man’s Guilt and more about Rich Man’s Guilt. I know that race relations when portrayed in entertainment still can be very backwards, but now I think it’s more class-stratification where its not just minorities anymore being part of that said class but caucasians as well. I see more of that in The Blind Side than I do a race-based theme though that is still there just not the dominant one.


          • Ok, I’ll go along with “rich man’s guilt.” I still think it is a weak argument, but considerably more appropriate than “white man’s guilt.” This has been fun.


          • Actually, it’s a very strong argument that you have thoroughly failed to refute. 🙂

            But you’re right, it has been fun. 🙂


        • Chinpokemon, you were doing so well. Don’t ruin it by talking down to me, okay?

          First off, you obviously still do not understand my point about the whole “white man’s burden” thing and the fact that you “detest” my argument about it really isn’t a counter argument.

          And no, this is not the result of me using “a poorly chosen” phrase. Just because you don’t understand a phrase does not mean that it was poorly chosen.

          As for the definition of “hate,” it’s not really that important to the overall point of what I’m saying.

          Again, nothing personal against you. Quite frankly, all you’ve done so far is agree with me on the basic facts while using those facts to come to a totally different conclusion.


  8. Wow Lisa. Once again a very powerful review. Now i haven’t seen Avatar but after reading that, i feel like i have. The plot and the script were really that bad huh? Pretty much all the reviews i heard were the same thing. That the only reason to see this movie was to be visually stimulated. Now i have to admit i went and saw a couple 3D movies the last couple of yrs and enjoyed them, the last one being Alice in Wonderland. But i thought that was a great movie all around. But back to Avatar, i know after i finally see this movie, i will agree with everything u said. I usually do when it comes to films. I love your tastes in movies and different movie genres. I like some science fiction, but like u im not a huge fan. I’d rather watch a horror, a grindhouse film or the giallo films u talked about. Is that the right term, giallo?
    I also agree with the things u said about Cameron. It seems like he’s just such a serious snob now who can’t take any criticism. it’s a shame it couldn’t have been a b-movie.
    I really enjoyed this review, like i did the others and all your thoughts and opinions. I haven’t seen any of the movies though(Avatar, District 9 or Moon) I thought the way u ended it was just classic and then showing the pic of the Blind Side. Another incredible review Lisa


    • Giallo’s the right term. It’s one of my favorite words too. 🙂

      Obviously, my thoughts on Avatar are pretty obvious but I do want to take this chance to really encourage you to see both District 9 and Moon. They’re both brilliant films in their own way. District 9, of course, got a little attention earlier in 2009 but Moon really did get kinda lost in the shuffle. It’s a shame because Moon features a performance from Sam Rockwell that is nothing less than brilliant! It’s a great film. 🙂


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  11. You forgot to mention it is a highly plagarized script. Some say “inspired” but that word is being used the wrong way nowadays. For a script that took a decade to write, I would have expected more (much more). Instead, it took major amount of elements from the Hindu culture, movies like Atlantis & you know the rest.
    I might add Disney’s Atlantis was written better than Avatar and I was 11 when I saw it.
    Also, the next Avatar movie is going to be underwater so its going to be greater resemblnce of Atlantis.
    I agree Jake Sully sounds generic. lol And how many times is Cameron going to use “Jake” as a main character lead? lol
    I agree about your white’s mans burden. My mom and sister even said this (they implied it)
    I felt when watching the ending, a feeling of guilt, not from me. For example, it draws too much of a comparison of the famous Europeans and the Native Americans feud or of any indigenous group.
    Actually, the whole movie felt like guilt. It’s like NOW they see and understand the indigenous people’s way of life and their cultural morals.
    It takes a poorly written movie with glowing light for people to see/understand a different culture. WOW!
    It appeared the movie forced a happy ending because the Native Americans didn’t. ( Don’t think I’m pregudice or jealous, oh please. I know a hundred of ways to have done the movie differently.)

    In addition, I did NOT like the battle scene. It wasn’t planned properly. They should have used the rhino-like creatures first. It was pointless to have had all those characters killed. Na’vi knows their land better than anyone else. That is an advantage and I feel they didn’t use it fully. Not much logic was not used. I have to say, the battle was won by luck.

    Last, the use of the word “avatar” for the movie is not technically what the actually word means. It was more of surrogate than reincarnation.

    P.S. i did not like the characters. Jake Sully was entertaining in the beginning, that’s it. I liked Neytiriri (misspelled) at one point.
    Oh and I saw noooo chemistry between the two characters. I do not even know how they started a relationship so quickly. Spending quality time is not chemistry. Same with Cameron’s other movie, Titanic. The love was quick for no reason. Not even love at first sight occured.


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  13. Oh no! Over a year and a half since this post was first published and it just got a second thumbs down vote. I don’t know who owns that thumb but regardless, I declare him to be an OUTLAWWWWWWWWWWWWW!


  14. completely agree with chinpokomon reply to lisa review. it’s obvious she wrote it after seeing the movie no more than once(if that, possibly multitasked while viewing or developed prejudice beforehand, as some “rebels” would to things popular) and failed to digest everything. the review itself is well written and denotes someone with her fair share of coherence but itself fails under same logical analysis it paid the movie. thumbs up to chinpokOmon. consider me the third outlaw. btw, i don’t know where lisa stands behind the phrase discussed or frown upon her for either side she may be on, but it’s usually not the reader shortcoming when a phrase casts doubt to its meaning where the author intended none, especially when that same reader seems to have a capable handle on the language proves himself capable of understanding everything else written. write to your audience, wasn’t it?


  15. I agree with a lot of what you’ve said about the movie. It really irks me when we are “expected” to love a movie simply because everyone else did. It equally bothers me when we are “expected” to get deep meaning from a movie because it is lauded by critics and members of the film elite. If you want to waste 90 minutes of your life, watch the movie “Somewhere” by Sophia Coppola. This was the biggest turd I’ve ever seen and it won best picture!!! Just goes to show when judging a movie, it is always best to judge it for yourself and risk pissing off the rest of the world…..


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  17. I haven’t read this yet – but am about to. I’m just SO HAPPY that I’m not the only one who didn’t get this whole Avatar love-fest thing. I’ve really liked some Cameron flicks in the past (and am a sucker for Titanic, no matter how many times I’ve seen it), but this just really left me cold – and wondering “WTF?!?”


  18. Yay – you absolutely nailed it LM! I never wanted to think hard enough about why I hated this film (and still don’t, I just enjoy reading your words – it’s almost like reading mine without having to put forth the energy writing them! Are you *my* avatar? ).


  19. Thank you!
    I saw Avatar for the first time yesterday and I found myself supporting the evil colonel Quaritch. I believe I have never seen such a mighty pile of clichés: the Greedy Corporation in bed with the military, scar-faced and trigger happy marines, and blue natives (complete with spock ears and lats from hell) embodying all that is good with indigenous peoples. Add white guilt and stew for 162 minutes.


  20. Only a Sci-Fi Fan who lived from the 1940’s till now, could understand that most of the plot story in Avatar was from 15 other past; older, movies or Books. This totally escapes you in your review. Avatar is a work of ART in moviemaking techniques, not in plot. The plot has been done in over 100 movies in the last 100 years, The Plot that “Corporations are Greedy and use Patriotism and the military to accomplish there goals” is true and many famous elected Presidents and Congress representatives have warned as Much in the last 60 years in the USA. You need to study history more as you are certain to repeat it.


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  22. I love this movie for very personal reasons, the planet may be boring, but its a beautiful planet that would make you feel comfort in a time off need and also the na’vi treat each other like family and don’t subjectify someone or judge someone unless its a really good reason too. (Their home getting destroyd) (let’s face it, us humans are known for being judgemental) (I don’t mind you disliking it, some of your reasons seem a bit immature and saying “I hate it because I can” but you do have a few good points.) (I’m not saying its a great movie, there is no such thing as a great movie but to me this is a great movie. This movie hit a deep hole with me. I am 18 years old and here I am just stating my opinion and listing the positives for me. 🙂 (I do like the main girl honestly, a lot of films are sexist with women, but she actually fights back.


    • Thank you for the reply. Even though we disagree, I respect the way you expressed your opinion and, much as you don’t mind that I don’t like the film, I don’t mind the fact that you love it. 🙂 As always, my opinion is ultimately just my opinion and what should matter most to you should be your own individual reaction to the film. 🙂


  23. avatar reminds me of the europeans coming over to america. how corny is that? the white people taking everything and slaughtering the native americans
    exactly the same case for the movie
    only difference is, the europeans/whites won in the real world.

    avatar to me is just a corny ignorant grade F movie


  24. I agree with you completely and I liked the movie for its beauty. But it is pretty predictable and stupid. What makes me upset is definitely how uncreative it is and especially the fact that the rare element they were looking for was unobtainium…really…gets under my skin. Anyway great points, great review


  25. Non of the plot holes listed were actual plot holes, though.. When Quaritch was talking about getting him his legs back, they were talking about fixing his broken spine, which Jake himself said in the start of the movie, was an operation he couldn’t afford on his army salary.

    Secondly, The Doctor and Jake’s friends weren’t surprised by the fact he’d been making videos. Everyone made videos, documenting what they feel and think. It was explained in the beginning of the film. They were surprised about his sentiment that what they were doing would never succeed, which he said at night while he was alone.

    And for the people who had no reason to stay, I suppose they didn’t have any real reason to go back. Actually, I don’t you ever see them staying, just overlooking the humans as they board the ship. They probably went home as well. I can’t remember.

    As for the stereotypes, it’s a Hollywood movie. I love those stereotypes, that’s one of the reasons I watch movies..


  26. Thank you for this review! When I left the theater after seeing this movie I thought “Is everyone INSANE? This movie is terrible.”

    Clearly I’m not alone.


  27. Finally!!! that movie was a total snooze-fest. Everyone looks at me like i’m crazy when i say i didn’t like it. it was a total cliche…yes it was visually stunning…but to call a movie great, amazing, spectacular, the best etc. based on special effects is to miss the whole purpose of watching a movie (cough cough for the story cough cough). I never could sit through the whole thing once without falling asleep. Cheesy, campy, over budgeted and overrated. thank you for speaking the truth. I’m so tired of people telling me i’m crazy when i tell them i thought avatar was boring and not that great of a movie.


  28. Good article. I’ve actually quoted from it to a friend who went far enough in his love for Avatar to buy that stupid “survival guide” and a couple of Na’vi figurines.

    He still likes the movie. I made it clear to him that I was cheering for the marines the entire time. I also made it clear that I will NOT go to see the sequel unless it consists of the Earth’s overwhelming military force landing on Pandora to lay down the law and kick some skinny blue ass. Which, of course, it won’t. Which will likely make any sequel entirely unrealistic.


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  32. I hated it. From the simplistic implication all soldiers are murderous thugs to one dimensional “corporate guy” to its unashamed dances with wolves rip off plot to its preachiness about the environment while the toy rights are given to matella company that exploits workers and destroys chinas environment the hubris and hypocrisy are thick in this one. And yes avatar fans are ridiculous from “Pandora depression” to navi obsession I was banned from a message board whe n I pointed out the films multiple failures and hypocrisy the reason stated by the Armin “being an idiot”


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  34. I thought the movie was ok. I was 13 years when I saw, so of course I caught on the hype train. The world was beautiful, but the story left a lot more to be desired. For a total of 3 hours, you should get a lot more. That doesn’t mean the movie was bad, but like I said, you expected a lot more out of a 3 hour duration. A movie with it’s story should’ve been no more than at least 2 1/2 hours. The aliens were cool, but I thought they were a bit generic. I think he focused too much on making them super perfect. I know this is off- topic, but I’m a huge mass effect fan and I love the krogans. Their back story is very well developed. Are they aggressive and war like, yes. Are they immoral at times, yes. But when you find out about the genophage and how many still borns it caused, you develop sympathy for them. In addition, they have this burial ground called the Hollows. And guess what? Despite their violent nature, violence is prohibited. Now this is a really cool alien species backstory right here.


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  36. I know it’s been years, but I was just too amused with the idea: The planet is called Pandora because, like Pandora’s box, it’s filled with monsters (from the humans’ perspective).


  37. Pingback: 6 Reviews To Help Lisa Get Caught Up: Ant-Man, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, The Man From UNCLE, Terminator: Genisys | Through the Shattered Lens

  38. I really hated Avatar, the special effects were incredible, but the storyline was crap. I was in the military during the 60’s and a lot people hated us, calling us really hurtful names like, baby-killers and this movie again stereotypes the military as murders, mindless goons, thugs who just go out to kill. I’m pretty certain that Avatar 2, 3 and 4 will portray the military the same way, even thought they are dying for us overseas.t om


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  42. The part about Jakes leg is addressed in the movie. Early on he says that humans have the technology to fix his paralysis but he can’t afford it (something on those lines)… So when jake is offered his real legs back, it means that his surgery is going to be paid for. It doesn’t mean his legs are in a freezer and he’s just gonna hand them back.


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  45. Since I didn’t see “Avatar” in a theater, I couldn’t be wowed by fantastic, 3D special effects. I had to rely on the story and the characters to keep my interest.

    I don’t remember if I ever finished watching to the end.


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  49. I hated Avatar too! It was violent & destructive. Nothing said “Peace.” The “hero” kills an animal to prove what? He thanks the animal. Why? The animal didn’t say “Okay, kill me.” There was nothing to take away. No gem of wisdom, no parable to assist one’s in life, no new philosophy to ponder, no entertaining or witty dialog. The hanging mountains were the only thing I thought gave Avatar any worth. This is one (sadly, there is way too many) of the those movies the clues humans to their TV with stupidity. A total waste of time & money!


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