Monday, December 28, 2009

Whitty Whatch: Avatar, Patriotism and a Three-Star Negative Review

Avatar (2009 film)Image via Wikipedia
Yet another substandard review by Whitty (readable in its entirety here).

Whitty starts off his review of Avatar by being surprisingly honest, something a lot of critics have been trying to avoid. He rather bluntly points out that while the movie isn’t a steaming pile of crap, neither is it a groundbreaking work of cinematic history (apart from the budget, that is). Of course, that is all there really is to say about the film. But Whitty needs to fill more space in order to justify a whole-page review in the Friday Entertainment Section. So, needless to say, he starts spinning that classic Whitty magic.

One of Whitty's main complaints is that Avatar's anti-war theme makes some references that relate to our own country's eight-year Iraqi war. He appears upset that Cameron would dare make comparisons between Avatar's corporation-backed-military preemptively invading Pandora for mineral profits, and America's Halibuton & Blackwater-backed-military preemptively invading Iraq for oil profits. No, Whitty's right, there's hardly a real comparison there at all.

But just coming out and saying that he disagrees with the film’s political message won’t do. So instead he claims that the film “gets confused in its politics. He whines about the film’s Na’vi being portrayed in “the image of the Native American as a peaceful eco-warrior,” totally overlooking the fact that the U.S. government did indeed use its military might to practically wipe out the Native Americans for their land and mineral rights. More specifically, he fears that mixing the imagery of Native Americans with current military jargon like “Shock and Awe” and “Daisy Cutters” somehow makes America’s eight-year debacle in Iraq seem less legitimate.

So Whitty is a supporter of the Iraqi war. Fair enough. He is entitled to his political opinion. But instead of just saying so, he argues that the film is “poisoned” by Cameron’s “clumsy attempts” to modernize the classic tale of Corporate Greed vs. Indigenous Natives (Here’s a little hint for you Whitty: nations have been doing the same thing long before the stars and stripes. It isn’t always about us, you know.). It can’t be that he and Cameron disagree; it has to be that Whitty is right and Cameron is “confused” and na├»ve. He even goes as far as to insinuate that the film is nothing more than a terrorist recruitment brochure that should “have a huge opening weekend in Basra.”

Ironically, Whitty spends half of the review criticizing Avatar for being morally naive, and the other half for attempting to be morally relevant, simply because he doesn't agree with the political viewpoint of the director. He accuses the film’s anti-corporate/militaristic message of being “a misread mix of Rousseau and Chomsky,” making it readily apparent that he hasn’t read much of either.

Surprisingly, Whitty doesn’t make any glaring factual errors this round. The closest he gets is implying that Avatar’s plot is reminiscent of the Star Trek episode The Menagerie, a dubious and somewhat perplexing claim. I guess he felt that all sci-fi originates from Star Trek. He wouldn’t be the first to share that delusion. But he does use the sickening copout critic phrase Popcorn Movie, although he upgrades it to “Popcorn Epic” in Cameron’s honor. And I really fail to see what Cameron's multiple marriages have to do with his political views towards feminism. Then again, if you are determined to give a Three-Star bad review, I guess it helps to take pot-shots at the director's personal life instead of his film.

That’s right, you heard correctly. Whitty spends most of his lengthy review listing the numerous errors and flaws with the film, and then feels fit to award it Three out of Four stars anyway. So, in Whitty’s own words: the film Avatar contains “half-baked ideas,” “clumsy dialogue,” “adolescent philosophy,” and “sketchy characterization.” Sure sounds like a Three Star film to me.

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