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Author Topic: James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory  (Read 2277 times)

Jaeger

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« on: March 19, 2013, 10:25:23 PM »
I foolishly got involved in a thread over on TBP...

Anyway I though I would float it here to see if I am off base in my opinion

It is this thread:

http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?679556-Battle-of-The-Blues-Genetic-Infantry-send-quot-stablize-quot-Pandora/page7

The previous six pages aren't really needed because evidently I've pulled the thread off on a bit of a tangent...

My posts start towrds the bottom of page 7 (post # 67) and my position is basically that:

If you are trying to deliver a message don't make your allegory so ham handed, self-righteous, and annoying, that it can make some people actually root for the bad guys.

Why am I giving such a fuck?

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TristramEvans

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2013, 10:33:29 PM »
Allegory is giving Avatar a bit too much credit. Its basically Ferngully's plot rehashed for live action.

I've heard Dances with wolves comparisons as well, but Ferngully is WAY close to the mark.

But then, its Cameron. He's basically made a career of doing very good films with very cliched plots. Titanic was basically the plot of a billion romance novels, Aliens was starship Troopers, I believe he was successfully sued by Harlan Ellison for taking Terminator's plot wholecloth from an old Twilight Zone episode.
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Sacrosanct

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2013, 10:49:27 PM »
Quote from: TristramEvans;638533
Allegory is giving Avatar a bit too much credit. Its basically Ferngully's plot rehashed for live action.

I've heard Dances with wolves comparisons as well, but Ferngully is WAY close to the mark.
.


I totally agree.  Most people don't know about Ferngully though, but you're right.  It's an exact copy, down to the "stop the bulldozer".
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The Butcher

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2013, 11:11:08 PM »
Wow, seriously?

Looking forward to your review of Thor in a couple of years.

:D

Ratman_tf

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2013, 12:20:52 AM »
I call him Shames Cameron. His stuff wasn't too bad, but around about T2 and Abyss his preachiness started to get out of hand.
Avatar, jesus christ. Dude should have just called it Captain Planet: The Movie.
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thedungeondelver

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2013, 01:12:11 AM »
Quote from: TristramEvans;638533
I believe he was successfully sued by Harlan Ellison for taking Terminator's plot wholecloth from an old Twilight Zone episode.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwyyJ3D3g1E

Two The Outer Limits episodes ("Soldier", "Demon With A Glass Hand") and I think you could make the argument "I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream" influenced it as well.  Skynet == AM.
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gattsuru

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2013, 01:21:22 AM »
There is a massive cultural inertia toward treating every occurrence of imperialism as King Leopold II's personal fiefdom, except significantly worse.  RPGnet posters are probably going to imply that Avatar doesn't paint the humans as mono-maniacally evil enough if the conversation follows that thread much longer.

You've got a point, in that Avatar-as-presented is very, very shallow.  Even without the expanded material or deleted scenes, you've got your greedy babykillers on one side, and on the other the enlightened perfect beings, and anyone who is even remotely in between these two points will always be persuaded to one and only one side.  It's very, very telling for storytelling when people aren't able to pick between the right side and the wrong side, but still make the wrong choice.

It'd be trivial to muddy the waters.  In the real world, sometimes the bad guys do good things, or do bad things with good intent or by accident, while sometimes good people have bad habits.  Spread of technology tends to be a very standard thing with empires, even if they don't want that to happen, and quality of life and even expected lifespans tend to increase in connection.  There's a lot of xenophobia to play with when bizarre aliens start pretending to be (dumb, sightless) imitations of you.

  However, that doesn't necessarily make for a better work -- if you've come to see Ferngully 3D, the preachy aesop might well be a feature, not a bug.

Piestrio

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2013, 01:51:12 AM »
Avatar, and most James Cameron films, are simple stories told well.

Nothing more, nothing less.

He takes very old plots, characters, and settings and plays them straight.

This upsets people for some reason.
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Warboss Squee

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2013, 03:42:19 AM »
Quote from: Piestrio;638565
Avatar, and most James Cameron films, are simple stories told well.

Nothing more, nothing less.

He takes very old plots, characters, and settings and plays them straight.

This upsets people for some reason.


I think if Avatar had been better written, there wouldn't be so much hate for it.  And it's really the only one of his I didn't like.

It was just lazy writing.  'Unobtainium' my ass you lazy fuck.

Spike

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2013, 03:43:19 AM »
Quote from: gattsuru;638562
 In the real world, sometimes the bad guys do good things, or do bad things with good intent or by accident, while sometimes good people have bad habits.  


In the real world 'the bad guys' are usually not. It is exceptionally rare for anyone to be universally loathed for their evil ways.

On the other hand, you've got an hour and a half (or three hours) to tell a story. Try to get some tits in it and an explosion or two.  Moral Complexity and well meaning people doing bad things for good reasons? Great, maybe if you've got a few sequels to work with and don't mind loosing half the audience along the way.
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James Gillen

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2013, 04:02:51 AM »
Quote from: Piestrio;638565
Avatar, and most James Cameron films, are simple stories told well.

Nothing more, nothing less.

He takes very old plots, characters, and settings and plays them straight.

This upsets people for some reason.


Yeah, with all the problems in Avatar and even Titanic I still liked them.

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gattsuru

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2013, 10:35:20 AM »
Quote from: Spike;638579
In the real world 'the bad guys' are usually not. It is exceptionally rare for anyone to be universally loathed for their evil ways.
Not really.  History has more than its fair share worth of monsters -- if they aren't universally loathed, this represents a failing of the observer, not a lack of evil.

King Leopold II existed.  He was directly responsible for a regime that may have killed half of the population of a country, and maimed a sizable portion of the survivors, all for natural resources and all with a self-proclaimed humanitarian face, along with a vast array of serious sins.  That he ended up on commemorative coins doesn't make the man less obviously "the bad guy": it says that certain Belgians need to do some serious soul-searching.  You could not put him, or a pastiche of him, in a setting without basically having Guy Worse Than Hitler as the stage directions.  You have Hitler, Stalin, Pinochet, Pol Pot, Mao, dozens more.  Even where you can point to monsters that had good intentions, like Qin Shihuangdi, they are still very clearly villains when they start burning books and crushing scholars under giant rocks.   Where they only have a couple of small alcoves full of human skulls instead of the typical mountains, you still have people that might as well stroke a mustache every scene.  Pancheco and Bordaberry weren't even terribly bad, as economic and social dictators go for the southern hemisphere (damning with faint praise as that and a thousand+ death toll can be) and still make Palpatine look a nuanced master planner by comparison.

And those are just the obvious, relevant, simple examples.  There are countless -- literally countless -- modern-day or historical smaller mass-murderers, and the best thing you could say about them is they're 'just' fulfilling demand for hired guns or drug kingpin, and never quite accumulated the power to kill more.  There's no amount of dog petting or tipping of waiters that make up for this stuff.

The problem is that these aren't the only sort of imperialist villains in history, or even the majority of them.  And when every Imperialist Villain is King Leopold, you either forget about or trivialize all the ones that were Queen Victoria.
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On the other hand, you've got an hour and a half (or three hours) to tell a story... Moral Complexity and well meaning people doing bad things for good reasons? Great, maybe if you've got a few sequels to work with and don't mind loosing half the audience along the way.
Meh.  This isn't hard stuff.  Change three scenes and you'd make the folk a lot more complicated.  Princess Mononoke isn't exactly a new story.  Whether people want complicated is a different question.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2013, 11:35:57 AM by gattsuru »

The Traveller

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2013, 10:59:11 AM »
Anything with Michelle Rodriguez in it gets my attention.

Also, what is this, 2009?
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Bedrockbrendan

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2013, 12:21:10 PM »
Quote from: gattsuru;638618


Meh.  This isn't hard stuff.  Change three scenes and you'd make the folk a lot more complicated.  Princess Mononoke isn't exactly a new story.  Whether people want complicated is a different question.


I think there is plenty of room for both approaches. I can enjoy a film with moral complexity, but I can also have a blast with a movie with a ridiculously evil villain. I enjoyed Gone Baby Gone, but I also got a kick out of the Fifth Element or Enter the Dragon.

jhkim

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James Camerons Avatar = Badly written Allegory
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2013, 12:27:34 PM »
I didn't care for Titanic or Avatar much.  Still, with results as phenomenal as their box office numbers, it's hard to argue that Cameron didn't know what he was doing or was just lazy.  I think he has apparently successfully figured out what brings in the bucks, even if it happens to be a ham-fisted style I don't care for.  

I still like T2 and The Abyss.