It’s Been Three Months: Seriously, Stop Hating on Avatar Already

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Last week, I Watch Stuff reported that James Cameron and Fox Studios are in talks to rerelease Avatar to theaters with some extra footage late this summer.

Now, hold it right there.  I’m going to come back to this.  But first, from the post:

Did Avatar‘s 162-minute running time leave you another to see another [sic] 10 minutes of mundane parable whitewashed with CGI?

I don’t want to specifically call out I Watch Stuff, a site that puts out good stuff; it’s one example of many.  But seriously: It’s been three months. Everyone, stop hating all over Avatar already.

I went to see Avatar with a good friend, both of us certain that we would be, at most, mildly entertained by the jokes we made at the movie’s expense.  So many people had told us that Avatar was the nirvana of film making that we no longer believed it.  In fact, as we got in the car to drive to the theater, I said to her, “Just imagine.  In three hours or so, we will have seen Avatar.”  Stressing the past tense.  Meaning that we would no longer have to deal with people telling us we just had to go see it.  That was the extent of our motivation for going to see what was clearly just another big special effects action blockbuster: so that we could stop all the rube consumers from gushing at us about it. Elitist?  Yes.  But I’ll come back to this.

We sat down to watch the movie, and I think we made a joke or two about strategic placement of tubes, heads, and labcoats that kept us from any Watchmen-esque giant blue wossnames.  And then, as the cast of characters were introduced and the movie’s plot began to spin up from a somewhat clunky start, we shut the frak up for two entire hours.

Two savvy media consumers; a creative writing major, and a film, nay, animation student, had our cynicism generators forcibly shut down by, yes, a parable washed in CGI.

So, I reiterate.

Stop Hating On Avatar

Whenever I ask someone why they didn’t like it, their first response is to say the story was too simple.  For example:

Don’t tell me that Avatar is just Pocahontas or Dancing With the Wolves.  Listen up:

The legend of Pocahontas is one that came into our cultural consciousness because of the telling and retelling of a historical event.  It was never anyone’s original idea.  It was something we made up all on our own, and this reason alone should prove that it is a story worth the telling.

Why?  Because this is how stories evolve.  We tell them and tell them and tell them, and what you get at the end of all that is a lean, mean, survival of the fittingest machine of a narrative.  We used to do this all the time; now we call it “oral tradition.”  We don’t do it that much anymore, although we still have urban legends and internet memes, and comic book superheroes, characters who were created once and have been revived and restarted and reimagined by hundreds of others.

Avatar is just Pocahontas?  And I suppose Batman Begins is just Batman?  The story is only the beginning.  It’s also how you tell it.  Disney‘s Pocahontas, while a beautiful work of animation and music, wasn’t the highest grossing movie of its time.

But we don’t have to just talk about a hero who visits an oppressed native people, meets a nice girl, gets over his culture shock, and saves the day.  Lets talk about this story:

Harry Potter and Star Wars have the same story.  Does this mean J.K. Rowling is a plagiarist?  Only if George Lucas, Alexandre Dumas, Brian Jaques, C. S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien were too, because this are also the stories of The Count of Monte Cristo, Redwall, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon.

Hero goes on mission with special item, possibly given to him by an elderly guide figure.  Elderly guide is eliminated early on, hero must persevere without him.  Hero triumphs over evil, using special item.  Afterwards, hero must return home to fix domestic problem. Joseph Campbell, etc.

There are many more versions of this story than the few I’ve listed above.  Hell, even Iron Man followed this form.

The Point Is:

Avatar wasn’t perfect.  Its villains were laughably one sided, and it still ascribed to the uncomfortable idea that so-called primitive cultures really just need one white guy to help them out.  Oh! and that scientists lack the emotional intelligence to make cultural connections, and laymen don’t.  But please.

Please stop hating all over Avatar.  A simple story does not make a movie bad.  It’s how you tell it that counts.  And if you didn’t find the telling all that great, I’d be really interested in talking about why, as long as you can admit that both opinions are valid.

Please stop hating all over Avatar.  If you didn’t like it, say so.  That’s totally okay!  The last thing I want to do is rob someone of their opinion.  But you cannot, at this point, simply call it bad and leave it at that.  Sorry.  No.  I think Watchmen is a great idea wrapped up in a badly written comic book and a juvenile fixation on sex, but that can also admit that it is really important and valuable part of comics history.

Please stop hating on Avatar.  Because the more I see people say that it is bad without presenting a convincing reason why, the more I can only conclude that they have decided that it is bad because the average person liked it.  After all, that’s how I felt about it before I saw it.  And if everybody likes it, that means that if I don’t, I’m being cool.  Sure, you wouldn’t jump off a bridge because everyone was doing it.  But you also shouldn’t jump off a bridge because no one is doing it.

As a counter culture, we geeks have an apprehension about adopting anything that’s packaged for the mainstream, and we can become incensed when something that we love gets, typically late, media attention.  “I liked it before it was cool!” comes the cry.  I can assure you that if the Twilight books weren’t so popular with non-geeks, nobody in the geek world would really care if they were good or not, or about their interpretation of vampires.

Avatar was not bad.  Actually, it was pretty good.  Please stop hating all over it.

THAT SAID:

I do not need a theatrical release of Avatar with ten extra minutes of footage.  No, really.  It’s cool.  I can just wait for the DVD.


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Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.