Epic sci-fi crap typically ain't my cup of tea. I get a lot of angry e-mails from people whose bottle of Mountain Dew it is. The notes are usually pretty threatening, as though me not liking something these people love is a matter of utmost importance. As though the fact some asshole with a web site doesn't care for what they do threatens the substance of their passion.
My nephew Jimmy is one of these people. He is spurred to action only when someone insults the shit he likes. Then, his first reaction is to insult whomever doesn't share his opinion. The kid knows his sci-fi shit, though, and he talks the fanboy language for whom Avatar is finally a reason to take a shower, pour on a bottle of Axe body spray, wear that homemade quilt sweater the Aunt gave them last Christmas and get out of the basement to go someplace other than Best Buy or Gameforce. I will be spending a lot of time with Jimmy over the next couple of weeks. Christmas is at his mother's, and I have to act like a nice guy if I want to be invited. I will because they spike the punch with grappa and always forget to lock the medicine cabinet. Two years ago I scored birth control pills that made me feel unbelievably pretty and a delicate for two months.
So, Jimmy joined me for a Friday-night showing of Avatar in 3-D. We didn't talk much, which was nice because he's a fucking dork, but we at least sat together (with an empty seat between us) so we didn't look like guys who go to movies alone on Friday nights. Now, Jimmy joins me in reviewing Avatar.
Filthy: Welcome, Jimmy. You're still wearing Aunt Filthy's sweater?
Jimmy: Maktu Mendo.
Filthy: What the hell is that?
Jimmy: I will explain this once and only once. I speak Na'vi, the language of the indigenous people in Avatar, out of respect for their ancient culture. Anything I have to say will only be heard by people who understand Na'vi. Nikto Filt'y.
Filthy: Well, that's going to make for a shitty review.
Filthy: Okay, I'll get this started. Avatar is a major crapload.
Jimmy: Jik jik jik!
Filthy: It is! It looks great, like a truckload of diamonds for sure. But, good lord, the story is a trite, patronizing pile of Hollywood arrogance. The new agey theme and cornball dialog nearly drowns out any goodwill earned by the movie's fancy-ass creation of a fantastic new world.
Jimmy: Jik jik jik!
Filthy: Jimmy says he agrees with me.
Jimmy: Oen ontu teya lu
Filthy: Get your hands off me. Jesus, you smell like a gay brothel in a sweat sock. Avatar's plot is virtually identical to Ferngully, a shit-for-brains, message-heavy kids' cartoon about pixies who must stop loggers from destroying their rainforest. One human pretends to be a pixie and falls in love with the pixies and discovers how precious their world is. That is the plot of Avatar, except this new mega-production isn't handled as maturely as the kiddie movie, and it has a shitload more carnage.
Jimmy: Rapa Nui!
Filthy: I don't understand a word you're saying. One-hundred-fifty years into the future, the earth has been mined for everything worth a shit or giggle, so humans have moved on to mining alien worlds. Their interest is in a moon or planet named Pandora (Yes, seriously, it's named that on-the-nose).
Jimmy: Feno-me'go te!
Filthy: Jimmy agrees, that is a corny name because, get it, opening it up will be like, well, duh. How clever. Anyway, Pandora is a somewhat earth-like place with giant, blue humanoids living with fantastic dinosaurs, proto-mammals and flying reptiles. That's all pretty cool. As are the giant trees, the luminous plants and the "hanging" mountains. It is very King Kong is the way the humans discover and interact with a lush prehistoric world. Not so cool is the horseshit about the natives linking their pretty braids with other living things to communicate with them. That's pretty lame.
Jimmy: Ong Bak 2.
Filthy: He said I'm a genius.
Filthy: Pandora is being strip mined by an American company that I assume, in Cameron's oversimplified analogy of the Bush-era war machine, is supposed to represent Blackwater. Oops, sorry, I mean Xe. They have huge leeway to beat the shit out of locals for their own benefit, and have all sorts of fancy, high-tech gear to do it. Robocop-style killing machines, hovering copters and big-ass guns. The hardware is a role-playing-game geek's wettest wet dream. One small and relatively ignored division of this make-believe Blackwater is a group that tries to "win the hearts and minds" of the locals by building schools and pretending to give a shit about them. That is meant to pacify them so they're easier to kill or rob.
Jimmy: Kilvan ngim lu.
Filthy: Jimmy said he likes to jerk off to Sony PS3 commercials on G4.
Filthy: And that he has Team Edward footie pajamas.
Jimmy: Jik jik jik!
Filthy: Avatar's hero is Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, an Australian playing an American but with a poorly-masked accent. Why Jake Sully? Why not Butch Brassballs or Turd Tuffguy? How about Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy, as long as you're making up generic stud names? Speaking of which, Blackwater is on Pandora to collect the rare metal "unobtanium". No, that isn't the placeholder name director-writer James Cameron gave it in the rough first draft. He actually gave it the same name that a boring asshole office worker calls non-dairy creamer when he can't get any.
Jimmy: Chew'a inoue tonn 'nik.
Filthy: Right, you are, Jimmy. Unobtanium is also what Jimmy calls a girl who will play Evony with him.
Filthy: Worthington is wheelchair-bound. But on Pandora, he is given control of his dead brother's avatar, a facsimile of the indigenous blue people that can be mind-controlled as it infiltrates the local culture. Just like Zack, the human shrunk to pixie size in Ferngully, Worthington drifts from his mission of figuring out how to best screw the locals. He hooks up with a Na'vi girl, falls in love, discovers how fucking precious the local rituals and traditions are, and decides to help them fight the evil, greedy corporation who wants to destroy their land.
Jimmy: Brr'rrawneee kw'kr p'krup'r.
Filthy: Beyond ripping off its plot from a cartoon for little girls, there's a bunch of other shit I thought sucked the cat's tits about Avatar. First is its patronizing vision of the indigenous people. It's like Cameron was channeling some long-haired asshole who sells turquoise roadside near Sedona. The movie treats the natives as simpletons, idiot savants full of pure goodness and new-agey magical powers, the same way guilt-ridden white people of limited intelligence think of American Indians. Cameron gives them the ability to see into the hearts of others. As far as I know, the only people who believe nonsense like that are folks with shit to hide. They're the ones who worry good people can see right through them.
The Na'vi talk to the earth and the animals. They live in harmony with nature. Through them, Cameron preaches the same simpleton back-to-the-earth bullshit as those phonies who go to Pow-wows and talk out their asses about magical American Indians. Hell, I'm surprised there isn't a cameo by Iron Eyes Cody. It's a really insincere message in a movie ripping off Ferngully's plot as its excuse for big-ass explosions and massive battles. "Fighting is bad. Here's some more!"
Jimmy: May I say something?
Filthy: I don't understand you.
Jimmy: I'm speaking English now, you moron.
Filthy: Na'vi only, Jimmy. The people who matter will understand.
Jimmy: Suck it, Uncle Filthy.
Filthy: You are disappointing your people.
Jimmy: I didn't see Ferngully. I only watch awesome movies. Like Avatar. Avatar fucking kicks ass.
Filthy: I believe that translates to, "I asked for a Ben 10 backpack or Christmas."
Jimmy: Shut up, and so what if I did? Anyone who goes to see Avatar for one of your stupid foreign-movie plots about gay people dying in filthy, weird countries is a dumbass. It's an action movie, it has its own language, and it looks so cool it deserves like a zillion of your dumb fingers. It has flying reptiles fighting helicopters. It has a guy riding a dragon. There are mountains floating in midair and these things that look like rhinos crossed with hammerhead sharks. The Na'vi chicks are sort of hot looking.
Filthy: It also has villains like Giovani Ribisi and Steven Lang. They are portrayed as meritlessly evil and vile to the point it is impossible to believe anyone would do what they ask. They aren't shaded with charm or even the hint of personality. They are just fucking cheesy bad guys. As for the good guys, Worthington at least starts out as a gung-ho marine who doesn't listen so good, but even that shading quickly disappears. As the center of the movie he's a big fat, baby-faced zilch. Michele Rodriguez as a helicopter pilot says shit like "I didn't sign up for this." What does Cameron think: he's writing the next Steven Seagal flick? The Na'vi girlfriend, voiced by Zoe Saldana, is too fucking pure to be interesting. She's Pocahontas-lite. Being that pure and simple makes your every move pretty damn predictable.
Jimmy: None of that matters! What matters is when they blow up the big tree. Or when they run through the forest and the ground lights up under their feet. Or how Cameron's computer-generated people's eyes look real, not dead.
Filthy: It matters. The story is what ties all the big-ass special effects together. It gives them context. Without something decent to think about all you're left with is a very, very pretty travelogue of a place that doesn't exist. Without a good story, you're stuck with people saying, "Oh, shit!" about a half-dozen times. People in movies should rarely shout, "Oh shit!" That's what a bad screenwriter puts on paper when he has nothing to say. Rather, the movie should make the audience say it while those on screen react.
Jimmy: Great, The Filthy Critic is putting down Avatar for saying shit. You're a hypocrite. You always were. My mom doesn’t even like you.
Filthy: If a movie is going to be 160 minutes long, it better give us something to care about.
Jimmy: I cared about the Inkaras.
Filthy: What's an Inkara?
Jimmy: Uh, derrrrr, only the flying reptiles that the Na'vi become one with. Hellllooooo? They look awesome and would be a killer chapter of a video game.
Filthy: I wouldn't say I hated Avatar, but I sure as hell didn't enjoy it.
Jimmy: Because you're retarded.
Filthy: Possibly, but I think it's because I was bored out of my fucking skull. There isn’t a beat of the movie that isn't predictable. From the first time Worthington and Saldana meet, you know they are going to hump. Only, you don't know that scene is going to be so damn cheesy and awkward. The first time you see the bigger-than-the-rest dragon and hear that only the bravest warriors can ride it, you know Worthington will. The first time you feel how slimy the bad guys are, you know how they will act and that they will lose. You also know the movie will invent some lame way to get Worthington physically into the body of his avatar so he can live with the Na'vi. Yeah, it looks great. It looks like a really nice place to go on vacation. I didn't want that, though. I wanted a good story.
Jimmy: You're an idiot.
Filthy: That's been established.
Jimmy: Six fingers for Avatar, the greatest movie ever made. Six fingers, because that's how many the Na'vi have, and I am now one of them.
Filthy: Two Fingers.
Jimmy: Everyone should be my friend on Facebook.
Filthy: What's Facebook?
Jimmy: It's Na'vi. You wouldn't understand.
to tell Filthy Something?