Forum:Avatar vs Hurt Locker

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Moved from Saloon Bar Scarlet A.pngpostate 16:34, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

Which movie was better, Avatar or Hurt Locker? Interested in hearing all opinions! Refugeetalk page 19:47, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Hurt Locker had the better story by a margin. Avatar was a visual treat, but that is about all. It was worth seeing for the backgrounds and all. ĴαʊΆʃÇä₰ the most colourful sig on RationalWiki! 19:52, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
I thought so too! Avatar was bright and visual, but Hurt Locker was a more real story - both were good. Refugeetalk page 19:58, 18 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with both of you - Avatar was entertaining, but the plot was pretty much ripped off from "Dances With Wolves." Tetronian you're clueless 23:09, 18 March 2010 (UTC)

Allegations of racism[edit]

Avatar was one of the worst movies of the year, a cynical and mindless lump of drivel slathered with CGI. It represents a new low in the history of cinematic low common denominators, with all dialog and acting jettisoned in exchange for formulaic cinematography, then crammed with as much flashy CGI as possible. Stealing every element of its plot from worn-out saws, it managed to be profoundly and disturbingly racist even though its main topic wasn't even human - taking vulgar stereotypes of every kind of "aboriginal" people in history and mashing them together in a pastiche of the "noble savage," and gutlessly avoiding controversy by the expedient of painting them blue.
Hurt Locker was decent. Excellent cinematography, okay acting, with a tired plot that's entirely predictable. Sufficient care was taken to telegraph every new development well ahead of time. Still, a good movie.
The best movie of the year, especially when compared with those two, was A Serious Man.--ADtalkModerator 03:41, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I personally was much more fond of Pixar's Up. I get that the story was fantastic, but I admired the character development, and that golden opening was a piece of art. Doubt me? Watch this 04:05, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Up was great, but A Serious Man had depths within depths. It was art.--ADtalkModerator 06:14, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Nothing beats Up. The back story was a throwback to The Lost World. It had a talking dog who didn't make me want to kill myself. For these reasons and more, Up, Up, Up. (I'll have to see A Serious Man now). PubliusTalk 06:22, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
"Avatar was one of the worst movies of the year, a cynical..." Hahaha! What a load of conceited balls! It was a fun movie with excellent visual effects. Racist? It wasn't anything like deep enough to be racist. What a pitiful criticism. Seriously, don't give up the day job. Ajkgordon (talk) 10:05, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I guess it was "fun" as a spectacle, and the special effects were certainly amazing and great. But it's really hard to just ignore everything that was wrong with it.
I'm not sure something has to be "deep" to be racist. That actually makes little sense to me - I would tend to think that the deeper something is, the less likely it is to fall prey to shallow portrayals of blue American Midwestern plains peoples.
Also, you're not being very polite. You dick.--ADtalkModerator 11:10, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Avatar, like so many of it's ilk, reinforces the image of the noble savage who is unable to lead his own resistance - it's only when the white saviour comes along that salvation is reached. As such it is deeply racist. Jack Hughes (talk) 11:14, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
I have yet to see The Hurt Locker, but my response to Avatar was "what's the big deal? It's impressive to watch, but the story is nothing impressive." MDB (talk) 11:35, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. It's not about the story. The white saviour / noble savage thing is an inane criticism anyway. If you have to see it as that, so what? How does that make it racist? A less technologically advanced people being helped out by those with a conscience is nothing new. It's part of human history.
Don't mean to be rude, Tom, but it seems that you're seeing more than there is. It might be clumsy, it might nick themes from other films and stories (what film hasn't?), and it might be nothing more than a visual tour de force. But racist?
That might say more about your prejudices than the film makers'. Ajkgordon (talk) 13:34, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Actually, Tom, you're right. I was being rude. Sorry about that. Ajkgordon (talk) 13:50, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
A large group of native peoples, primitive in technology but attuned to Nature, come under assault by the technologically superior foreign people. "They don't need anything," notes one of the foreigners who becomes involved in their society. This aboriginal people are perfectly at peace without modern technology, which would only serve to complicate their simple but spiritual lives. But the foreigners attack and lay waste to the aboriginals. It takes a brave turncoat from the invaders to save them, to come to peace with his own turmoil and embrace the primitive but natural life of the natives. He uses modern thinking and his own cleverness to organize them and lead them in an assault that saves their world.
I literally (and I mean that in the strictest sense of the word) could not write a more perfect exhibition of the noble savage fallacy. The idea that aboriginal peoples are inherently closer to a natural morality, but that their primitive thinking is vulnerable to foreign ideas (unless saved by those same ideas!) is a shallow and reductionist way to view peoples whose worth and way of thinking is just as good as that of the conquering First World.
I don't even know why you're defending it. Fine, maybe you don't agree that the noble savage fallacy is very important. But you don't even seem to strongly disagree with me on most things - you seem to also think that the story was incredibly derivative, the acting was mediocre at best, and the dialog was terrible. You just say that it was a visual tour de force. And it certainly was that! But it was also a bad movie.
You can like bad movies. It's totally fine. But don't pretend that its thoughtless embrace of an ancient fallacy or its utter lack of cinematic merit doesn't make it a bad movie. It's just a bad movie you like. There are a lot of those, and I like some too. Don't be an asshole and call me conceited to try to make yourself feel otherwise, though.--ADtalkModerator 15:48, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
It's not a question about being bad or not, a subjective opinion anyway. I simply reject your assertion that it's racist. There are plenty of people who see it as exactly the opposite (and films such as Dances With Wolves) in that it was critical of first world powers taking advantage of less developed nations.
And I didn't call you conceited. But labelling this piece of cinematic frivolity as racist is, IMHO. Ajkgordon (talk) 16:18, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
1) The "noble savage" criticism doesn't work when the savages in question are actually noble. Any allegation that the movie might be allegorical to real life events, comes only from the guilty conciousness of the people who come up with this "tough guy" criticism. There is no rule saying that anything technological is automatically more noble, or that someone is automatically supposed to support whoever has the most technology around. (The Virginian Tech guy for example, had one piece of technology more, -guns- when the rest of the students didn't. That must make his great right?).
2) Thievery is thievery.
3) I also saw nothing "spiritual". The planet's conciousness was an objective, detectable scientific phenomenon. In fact I don't know about you, but in the movie I saw by the end of it a distributed bio-computer was tactically controlling the equivalent of organic UAVs, UCAVs and UCGVs. The network was self-replicating, self-maintained and self powered (photosynthesis?) Covered the entire planet, the Na'vi seemed to have the ability to at least upload their entire experience in it and did at least one case of "conciousness" transfer while figuring out the human "avatar" technology extremely fast.
Frankly I see no reason why to treat the Na'vi as savages simply because they like flowers or walk around demi-naked. (a quite barbaric/conservative treatment of standarts of "morality" and "civilization" in fact) and not equally treat them as bio-tech heavy "transhumanist" civilization, who from the looks of it commanded the most perfect form of nanotechnology that exists (life) who seemed to have solved their problems and just fooled around, and were caught by surprise BY a bunch of savages. The savages inevitably lost once the system analysed the threat and re-calibrated itsef. Sen (talk) 18:11, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
1) is in line with my point. They took a tired and exhausted fallacy - the notion that primitive peoples are more spiritual and have natural morals, and "don't need" modern technology - and just painted them blue and slapped on a little Gaia Theory. Cameron just fiat luxed the whole thing to force the morals to work out properly. It was incredibly lazy, and takes a wear notion worn paper-thin with overuse and slaps it into a Procrustean bed to make it work.
I'll agree that technology doesn't make them more noble - it's the savage people who are noble and look at their awesome leaf beds guys! - it's technology that makes them superior in thinking and cleverness. Only the clever white human person can save the primitives from other humans.
3) just goes with the above. The Gaia theory of everything being interconnected and primitive peoples being in harmony with the will of the planet was just painted blue (metaphorically). See, it's really true here because the planet has a complicated system of electrical impulses just like a brain and it's really alive! The Navajo Naavi really are more in synch with nature!
A bad movie.--ADtalkModerator 01:06, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

(undent)I don't particularly think the "noble savage" thing is a fallacy as such, more of a trope. And as has been said, if you see it as a patronising allegory of real events that's your problem, not that of the film maker or the trope itself - sort of on par with people complaining about the innocent lives lost on the Death Star, you're just reading too much into a well established plot device. That, of course, says nothing about the "nature is good, technology is bad" trope has merit, as that's a slightly different question. Scarlet A.pngpostate 18:21, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I think it's both a wearisomely overused trope and a fallacy. Primitive peoples are not necessarily more in tune with natural morals or with nature, except in the most obvious form. Western (or more advanced) peoples are not necessarily smarter or better leaders.
If you honestly don't see the allegory, then I guess we have to agree to disagree.
In which case, maybe you can tell me what you liked about this movie. I thought it was terrible and rather racist. You seem to be sidestepping the former in favor of attacking the latter criticism. Could that maybe be because it was a bad movie?--ADtalkModerator 01:06, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Hehehe. Ajkgordon (talk) 08:20, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I didn't think it was amazing, and I didn't think it was awful. Like The Matrix, it's just a bit of fun to waste a few hours and showcase some really impressive new cinematography technology that's then spoilt by people trying to read too much into it. It's partially because actors and directors (but mostly reviewers I think, witha few exceptions) can't just come out and say "dudes, we're going to do something really cool and a big gimmicky just for the sake of doing something really cool and a bit gimmicky". No, they have to go on about a "message" or "making the audience think" and then people go in to watch it thinking that's the actual point and get all confused when it actually doesn't deliver on a higher intellectual level or misses the point. I might be in a minority here - being pretty much borderline autistic and unable to process emotion at all - but I'm not particularly caring about acting being "good" (even then, most people only consider acting to be "good" if their either drawling out Shakespeare in a ridiculous fashion or playing something "edgy" and shouting and crying a lot). And as for plot/story, it's predictable but meh, I'm not paying to think for 2 hours - if it's a complex plot, like The Prestige I'll catch it on DVD so I can rewind through the what-the-fuckery. If I don't come out of a theatre thinking "well, that's a few hours I'm not going to get back, ever" then it's fine stars from me, if I come out thinking "yeah, I'd do that again" then even better. So Avatar, good, predictable, uncomplicated fun. Scarlet A.pngpostate 23:43, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

Can't they just slag it from orbit?[edit]

Obviously, the racism thing tends to be seen by Americans - a group who seem to have racism on the brain constantly, so they'll see it as that. However, it is inane, you have to read in quite deep to see it (well, not that deep, but still, if you don't have the stereotypes and ideas ingrained already you'll not pick up on it). One of the more interesting criticisms I've heard is that the sci-fi aspects are quite poorly thought out. Avatar features only one major sci-fi idea; the idea of the avatars themselves. A massive leap in bioengineering and thought transfer and all that, but the rest is very much 20th century. So the criticism is thus; they have all this technology to travel through space, build big mechs, bioengineering and thought transfer etc. etc. etc. ...but they can't just slag this two-bit settlement from orbit? Although this would violate the laws of the Tough Guide to the Known Galaxy (see "slagging) so we can just quote "narrativium" to this. Although I haven't seen the whole film, from what I have seen, it seems like the sci-fi aspects do lack imagination, as if all the imaginative effort has been put into the one technology when they should have a much wider range of awe-inspiring cool shit to play with. Scarlet A.pngpostate 13:47, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I would presume that if they did "slag this two-bit settlement from orbit", it would have made the unobtainium even more.... unobtainable. Kind of like the people who suggest we nuke the Middle East to get the oil. MDB (talk) 14:32, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I've got to say that "Hurt Locker" - as least the version dubbed into Spanish - was pretty crap. There was no real plot, just things happening to some people. My wife walked out about three-quarters of the way though as a result of boredom and depression. Maybe it was more meaningful to the US but it did nothing for me. Avatar on the other hand was a real feast to the senses - a film which really took you to another universe.--BobIt's windy! 15:41, 19 March 2010 (UTC)

I saw Avatar as a parellel of what happened to the Native peoples in North America when the European settlers arrived. In history, as in the movie, the native peoples lived mostly in harmony with nature, and the "civilized" immigrants devasted their way of life and exploited their land for financial gain. The difference is that in the movie, one man decided to go against the system to try to save the people, who were unable to save themselves, an event that did not occur in real life. It seemed to be a story of what someone wished had happened instead of what did happen. I didn't see it as racist, because it portrayed the "blue" people with mainly good characteristics: brave, dignified, caring, strong, intelligent, compassionate. Or did you mean racist toward the white people? The Hurt Locker (and I still don't understand why they chose that title) kept my interest throughout. I viewed it as something of a study of how men react to certain situations, how the pressure of obligation of duty conflicts with innate human nature. In the end, I would rather see either of these two movies, and view them as much more worthwhile than some of the nonsense "entertainment" movies out there. It's interesting to read everyone's opinions. Refugeetalk page 18:25, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Oh, and I also absolutely loved "Up" the animated movie. The opening sequence was well done, it made me cry. and I agree, the talking dog was really cute too! :D Refugeetalk page 18:29, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Ok, there seems to be a similar conversation going on above, in the upper section of this page, at the same time as I posted this, that makes pretty much says similar things, although in a slightly different way. Excuse the duplication, I was unaware that the same points were being made above, as I was posting this. Refugeetalk page 18:37, 19 March 2010 (UTC)
Yeah, I split it up when I moved it from the Saloon Bar. Feel free to move the posts "up" to that other section where they may make sense. Scarlet A.pngpostate 21:16, 19 March 2010 (UTC)


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Avatar as a symptom of a greater ill...[edit]

When I saw Avatar a few months ago, I thought little of it. The trite plot and lifeless character balanced out the stunning visuals to create a movie that I honestly didn't think much of. Then, of course, mulling it over for a few months combined with a reading of the thread made me realize just what a piece of shallow propaganda it is. Cameron provided little more than straw men and caricatures of ALL the characters. Quatrich is a gung-ho military buffoon who fights for the sake of fighting (typical of most recent Hollywood films), Jake is a brave hero who defects from the decadent and corrupt bureaucracy to fight for the rebels, Grace whatsherface is a brilliant scientist oppressed by a stifling military, Norm is a naive young scientist confused by the advancement of science, who is eventually shown to "renounce" it in order to become a Navi, Parker is just a corporate prostitue thinking only of profits, and as Tom mentions above, every single goddamn Navi is the epitome of honor, justice, fairness, and the Hobbesian ideal of the "noble savage". The portrait we see is that of an evil and corrupt industrial society destroying a pristine natural world. But whenever you scratch the surface more than an inch or two, a more disturbing picture emerges. Ostensibly, there are 20 billion people on earth, all supported by energy and technology that comes from "unobtanium" from Pandora. The fact that Jakes rebellion completely severs this supply is never addressed or even touched upon, save the line at the very end where the HUMAN says that "The alien went back to their dying planet", implying that it is somehow O.K. to starve, murder, or otherwise kill over twenty billion humans all for the sake of preserving some bits of culture on a world light years away. This is essentially an attack at the very foundation of society, and in a pretty damn subtle way. We still live under an industrial revolution mindset, the idea that we can take stuff from the ground and magically turn it into a rising standard of living, based on the precondition that we must continue to extract a constant amount of materials to maintain a constant standard of living, and it must increase annually if our lives are to improve. When Jake cuts off the supply of unobtanium, he is removing humanities ability to better itself, and actually will cause regression, deaths, and wars, as the remaining stockpiles of unobtanium dwindle. Imagine if suddenly, all the oil and natural gas wells magically went dry. Now picture that if they were the only power source that we used. Sure, they'd be stockpiles somewhere, but with the main supplies gone, the conflicts over what I presume is the only major supply of energy on the planet would probably lead to a WWIII (if that hadn't already happened yet). This segues nicely into my next criticism, which is about we have become so desensitized to just how fucking awesome our society is that we actually will root against it (and with ease, too), but that point was so massive and far-reaching that I can't even manage to fit it in an essay, much less a single post.

So anyways, here's my tl;dr summary

  1. Humans in Avatar still live in a technological society like we do now, but theirs is much more advanced and more populous, with 20 billion people alive, more than three times our current population.
  2. In order to become more advanced, they need to consume more materials, most notably unobtanium
  3. The only know place in the galaxy where unobtanium can be (*ahem*) obtained is on Pandora, home of blue cat people.
  4. Due to an empathetic link with said cat people (Navi), a rogue ex-marine commits what con only be described as "treason against his species", and drives the corporation that mines the power source off the planet, effectively severing the link of the majority of humanity with their means of power production.
  5. With no power, human society collapse from the inside. Millions, if not billion, die, due to one man's action in preserving some alien's culture.
  6. Avatar, by portraying that it is a good thing for primitive tribes to triumph against industrial powers, is striking a blow against the foundation of our society, the idea of constant positive change through technology.

And here's the meta-tl;dr summary.

  • By showing choosing the Navi over the humans and allowing billions of innocent humans to die as the morally correct choice, Avatar deals a blow against our culture and society.

Rant is officially over. Expect essays shortly, and when I'm less drunk and tired. --The Emperor Kneel before Zod! 03:41, 20 March 2010 (UTC)

I think Avatar is terrible (obviously), but I do take issue with a few things. A minor quibble is that it was my understanding the the noble savage was the opposite of Hobbes' notion of primitive man - his most famous quote is certainly "nasty, brutish, and short" with regard to savage humanity.
Also, I'm not sure your logic follows. If a group of people get themselves into a situation where their only outlet is someone else's property, that doesn't make it okay to take it and doesn't make a defender culpable for preventing them. Imagine if all the oil was gone from everywhere but Saudi Arabia, but that society depended on oil to survive. Not a difficult scenario to envision; oil is required to make most plastics, and a plastics-dependent future is probably not even possible but likely. Does such a circumstance make it okay to destroy Saudi Arabia and take their oil, because the alternative is living with the consequences of our actions? No, it does not. Nor would someone who tried to stop such looting be a bad guy.
I think Avatar is a very comfortable movie. It doesn't really challenge anything. The good guys are right and moral because of various machina, and the bad guys are evil for equally obvious reasons. It's so comfortable as to be cartoonish (also: Avatar is bad).--ADtalkModerator 06:16, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
Dammit, did I mix up Hobbes and Locke again? Or was it Rousseau? Whichever one of those Enlightenment philosophers proposed the noble savage theory, that was who I meant. Come to think of it, it probably was Rousseau, since he did the most work on society. Whatever. --The Emperor Kneel before Zod! 17:19, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I agree with AD. I doubt Avatar contains such an elaborate and well thought out critique of our technological society, mostly because I don't thing that Cameron was interested in philosophy. Instead, I suspect that he was just trying to make a nice little morality play that would gross a bajillion bucks. Tetronian you're clueless 18:54, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
But it doesn't even touch on the fact that Jake has the blood of potentially billions on his hand. If anyone had even given the slightest consideration over the ethics of the situation, it would have been acceptable, but it's just depicted as stark and black-and-white; the humans are wrong the Na'vi are right. Educated time Phantom Hoover! 18:58, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
I think the point is that his behavior is excused by the humans' behavior, sort of a "if they hit you, hit back - harder" kind of situation. (I'm not saying I agree, but that seems to be what the text is hinting at.) Tetronian you're clueless 19:15, 20 March 2010 (UTC)
You are totally wrong and specie-ist but I am too bored to explain. :P I will say however "don't do the crime, if you can't do the time". Sen (talk) 19:05, 20 March 2010 (UTC)