Avatar: Classic Disney for the Digital Age

Published 5 years ago by

avatar one Avatar: Classic Disney for the Digital Age

[This Article is SPOILER-FREE]

I making this statement because I truly believe it: Avatar is a classic Disney-esque adventure as imagined by James Cameron. In my head, that basically translates to “A cliched but endearing tale-for-the-ages, with claws, fangs and lots of big guns.”

In the next few days, weeks (maybe even months) you’re going to be hearing all about what Avatar is and is not (check out our own official review HERE). You’ll hear the debate about whether it has lived up to the hype, whether the film has truly changed the CGI face of movies (it has) and whether the film is all that it could’ve been.

As far as that latter question goes, read on if you want to hear my breakdown.

The critical response to Avatar has generally been positive, if not similar: visually, the film is a spectacle that no movie-loving person should miss. You should experience Avatar – you’ll likely be hearing that word, “experience,” a lot – in  theaters, in 3D,  in IMAX if you can. What James Cameron has done, technically speaking, is truly worthy of the word, “magical.”

However, the script and story have many critics shaking their heads. They (including our own Vic Holtreman)  feel the story is a bit cliched, uninspired, two-dimensional, even naive and/or offensive in its depiction of humans as heartless militant oppressors and the Na’vi aliens as the proverbial “noble savages.” I confess, the story of Jake Sully’s (Sam Worthington) journey had even me joking to a friend that the only thing I learned from Avatar is that a century from now, you can still send one white man into an endangered indigenous culture and if he can find one hot native chick he likes, he’ll manage to save the day.

avatar jake neytiri 570x243 Avatar: Classic Disney for the Digital Age

Is Avatar‘s story perfect? No. Is the film throwing any worse stereotypes or simplistic morals at my young impressionable mind than Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Snow White, Aladdin, or The Lion King did? Certainly not. Fans keep saying they expected more from James Cameron – but then, Cameron himself has been saying all along that he wanted to make ‘an epic fantasy adventure for the global audience.’ And what has more appeal to people of all ages, from all over, than a simplistic Disney-style yarn?

Of course, a lot of people will argue that we’re supposed to be past the kind of cringe-worthy missteps and outdated notions we see in old Disney animated features – and there is some truth to that. But then again, Pixar – the studio which has risen to become “the new Disney” of the digital age – has been trying to tell more sophisticated “human” stories for sometime now. Their latest feature, UP, was fantastic – but how wide was the appeal of that often-depressing story? I know firsthand that a lot of kids had trouble with it…

avatar military jungle Avatar: Classic Disney for the Digital Age

In the end, Avatar is an old-school movie adventure, for better or for worse. It’s a bit simple in its concepts (good is good, bad is bad), a bit overly-romantic in its imaginings (earthy types are good, techie-types are – ironically enough – bad), a bit cliched in its story – man learns to love his enemy by seeing through his eyes – but then, your grandparents’ heartfelt nostalgic stories are never that insufferable, are they? Well, neither is a heartfelt nostalgic adventure as told by James Cameron. And the experience of seeing this film – there’s that word again – is undoubtedly worth the price of admission of ten other films with better scripts. So you tell me what’s worth your time at the movie theater this winter.

The ironic part about all this is if Avatar had turned out to be more Dark Knight than Iron Man (read: morally gray, narratively complicated with morally complex characters), I truly believe a resounding cry would have risen up from the ‘Net, with critics screaming, “Enough already with all boring stuff, we want to see the pretty pictures!

avatar close up Avatar: Classic Disney for the Digital Age“Deep story? I’m here so YOU can count the wrinkles in my CGI nose!”

Ah, the movie news business… Nothing else like it…

When the inevitable Avatar sequels are set into motion, then I feel like we’ll all be much more justified in our demands for a more sophisticated depiction of planet Pandora and its inhabitants. For now, it feels more like a lot of people are criticizing a baker who has cooked up a delicious new form of bread, while simultaneously licking crumbs from their collective fingers. But that’s just my opinion.

Don’t be left out of this debate a second longer. Run out and see Avatar starting at midnight tonight, December 18, 2009. Then come back and join in our spoiler discussion to let us know what you thought.

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  1. Even a story with some original ideas would have been nice.

    District 9 is in a different class to Avatar. One of them cost $30 mil, one cost ten times that! Its just insane.

    And D9’s story is more original than Avatar, to say they are basically the same is lazy, just because they are both about aliens does not immediately make it the same.

  2. @ Sam

    The narrative theme between D9 and AVTR IS the same, Sam. How you are going to argue they are not is beyond me.

    The theme is: Learning understanding and compassion for a foreign people by walking in their shoes. That’s it.

    It’s fine that you disagree with me (you do so often) but I would appreciate if you could at least cite evidence when You say that I am wrong. Just saying it doesn’t make it true.

  3. D9- He didnt exactly chose to walk among them, and his choice in eventually helping them was a completely different motivation to Avatar. In D9 did he really have compassion for the creatures at the end, I’m not so sure.

    I think the two films are worlds apart. Literally.

    Maybe they do share a limited narrative, concerning aliens and how we as humans react to them. But character wise, acting wise, story wise, and acting wise, they are so different.

    D9 is amazing, and Avatar is at best, a spectacle.

  4. “D9- He didnt exactly chose to walk among them”

    Um, Sam, in Dances With Wolves, Kevin Costner’s character didn’t choose to walk among the Indians either…

    Thanks for admitting that D9 is actually closer to the same DWW tales than Avatar since Avatar mixed it up to where Jake Sully chose to live among them…

    BURNED!!! lol

    Stop trying so hard to hate on Avatar, you are so quick to jump on it for having a similar theme as other movies when you haven’t even seen it while another movie clearly has the same theme as other movies as well but you choose to give excuses for that movie. Come on, if you’re going to be critical, at least be consistent with your standards and stop flip flopping around.