No? Let me refresh your memory: It came out just a year and a half ago, and it is the highest fucking grossing movie in history.
There are a lot of embarrassing statistics, truths and tidbits about the United States of God’s America — wars we’ve started, idiots we’ve elected, policies we’ve implemented — but nothing could be more humiliating than the fact that we collectively made Avatar the most successful film of all time.*
*Yes, I know that inflated ticket prices mean more people actually went to go see Gone With the Wind or whatever, but still, come on.
I was flipping channels over the weekend when I came across Avatar on some movie channel. Now, back when we all saw Avatar in super 3D on the big screen, we were well aware of its hilariously awful dialogue, rote plotting and mediocre performances, but we were somewhat distracted by the explosions and the blue people and the uncomfortable glasses we wore. We came away thinking that although Avatar certainly couldn’t be considered a good movie, it was at least an entertaining spectacle.
Nope. We were wrong. All wrong.
When viewed on a normal television, with the added benefit of distance from the mass hype surrounding the film’s release, it’s now clear that Avatar is one of the worst movies ever made.
I understand that part of Avatar’s appeal was seeing it on massive screens, in 3D, with surround sound and all the accoutrements. But stripped of all that, it’s completely unwatchable — except perhaps in a stoned, campy sort of way.
The characters/blue people look like they came out of a terrible Saturday morning cartoon from the mid-90s (post-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles era). The dialogue and plotting is even worse than we remember. The action looks ridiculous — and even worse, the whole film looks like an old-fashioned 3D movie when viewed in 2D. There are entire scenes and sequences that have no point except to wow people wearing 3D glasses. On its own merits, Avatar doesn’t even work as a spectacle action movie. This isn’t like looking back on the original Star Wars trilogy and realizing the dialogue is a lot hokier than we thought when we were kids. This is about realizing we’ve been utterly bamboozled.
It’s a useful reminder that American culture in particular tends to get swept up in crazes and fads, and that when you’re in the middle of that cloud of hysteria, it can be difficult to see your way out. We are a people who all once danced to “Achy Breaky Heart.” We all played with pogs. We all watched America’s Funniest Home Videos. And we all went to see Avatar.
We are a shameful lot.
The next time an Entertainment Weekly cover tells us that we really need to see a movie or buy something on iTunes, we should really take a step back and think about it for a while.