I saw the movie “Avatar” tonight. I was really interested in seeing it because I read an article on io9 about how it was another “white guilt” movie, where the priviliged WASPs take the basic story of European colonialism in the 19th century and change it around so that a white guy saves the day. Dune, Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, etc apparently fall into this category of “white guilt fantasy”. And so does Avatar.
So, the burning question: Did I think “Avatar” was a “white guilt fantasy”?
Hell if I know. But it was certainly crap.
You have to give them credit for the awesome special effects; even if the 3D was monofocused and made my eyes bleed, it was still awesome to watch those flying lizard/dragon wanna-bes drop off of cliffs and high branches.
But the plot was cliche, the characters were stock, and the Na’vi acted like your stereotypical “Plains Indian” with blue skin and cat ears. And a crazy tail thing that communicates with trees. Wasn’t there a Star Wars novel with a living planet and symbiotic ecosystem? I know I read it.
Anyway, the plot followed the general “white guy goes native” plot, including having the white guy (read: human) mary the chief’s daughter over her fiance’s head, and take the role of a mythical figure seen only “five times since the days of the first songs”. Is there white guilt there? Maybe. Stereotypical fantasy fare? Hell yeah.
In fact, this movie wasn’t science fiction but science fantasy. Emotion wins the day, and tech is relegated to huge booms and some aliens. It’s like Ewoks Pandora. Kind of like NCIS LA. Much as I love Sigourney Weaver (who plays the egg-head anthropologist to whoever’s scarred veteran merc), that’s just not enough to carry this deadweight. Especially how brains with no neural patterns of their own can somehow support mature human minds without the neural connections that make a person who they are. At least John Scalzi had his folks prepped.
So, in conclusion:
Watch it for the blue and boom, but not for the great story or creative science–or originality.