The Art of Reviewing Special Edition(TM): The 20 Minute “Avatar” Review

Every blog needs a large-scale project. The Art of Reviewing will explore reviewing as an art form and as a valuable element to understanding society.  During this project, I will profile specific reviewers of merit.  Several specific cases also explore other facets of reviewing.

If you haven’t seen it already, it’s making the rounds on Ye Olde Nettertubes.  It’s a twenty-minute review of James Cameron’s blockbuster Avatar.

Here’s the review, in two parts:



This review is a bit long and a bit cynical, but it makes a number of valid points.  It is an artful combination of pop culture references, snark, and erudition.  The description of audience manipulation on the part of the filmmakers illustrates the power and seduction of the medium.  Making an analogy between Avatar and the Garbage Pail Kids Movie (Rod Amateau, 1987) shows a stroke of demented genius.

While I have not seen the film, I have seen Dances With Wolves, Titanic, and Aliens. I’ll probably see it once it is released on DVD and enters my Netflix cue.

In our media-saturated culture, one has to be aware of how audience manipulation works.  Every work — book, TV show, film, etc. — draws us into a world that is not our own.  Avatar, with its blue color, sexy panther-monkey aliens, and CGI, opts for the easy path.  The easy route includes villains too easy to hate and an alien culture too beautifully perfect. The film’s 18th century caricature of the military mirrors its 18th century caricature of “the noble savage.”  Add the tacked-on topicality (“Did he just say ‘Shock and awe’?”) and NSFW eroticism of the Na’vi and the result is boffo box office, despite the sheer obviousness of its crapulence.  Hence why the reviewer dubbed it an “effective movie” but not a “great movie.”  Akin to the difference between Dick Van Patton and General Patton.

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