Because I wasted time and money watching it.
Mind you, it’s not because of the movie’s pinko, liberal, anti-imperialist, fuzzy-minded, bleeding-heart, liberal, tree-hugger message. I’m a pinko, liberal, anti-imperialist, etc. myself. I’m part of this movie’s natural audience. And yet I hated it.
Basic story: Alien world has mineral Earth badly wants and needs. Human beings set about strip mining the place. World’s inhabitants, ten-foot tall blue aliens with tails, are upset. Humans create their own ten-foot tall blue aliens with tails, telepathically controlled by humans and called avatars, to deal with the aliens. Our hero, one of those telepathic controllers, ends up preferring being an alien, switches sides, and leads a successful alien revolt.
Not wanting to wear the special glasses, we decided to skip the 3-D version and watch it in 2-D. I accepted that it wouldn’t be as visually interesting in 2-D, but I didn’t expect all of the characters to be two-dimensional. I don’t think the special glasses would have helped with that. I don’t mind good guys vs. bad guys, and I always prefer it when the good guys end up winning. But it helps when both good and bad guys are also real people, with believable motivations and human characteristics.
Speaking of which, the Simpsons are more human and believable than Avatar’s CGI aliens and their world. Hell, the actors in rubber suits and the papier-mâché rocks on the original Star Trek TV show (the only real Star Trek TV show!) were more believable than Avatar’s aliens and their world. For all the high tech and big bucks, the blue aliens and their lush world are a cartoon from beginning to end. I never believed any of it.
Details bothered me. For instance, the aliens we see the most of live in a giant tree. But their feet are flat and inflexible, with short toes, just like ours. The movie makers didn’t think about what the aliens’ feet should have looked like. They just copied human feet. Big budget for CGI, but small budget for thinking.
Don’t assume that I’m an elitist snob who normally prefers serious movies that delve into the human condition and were made in France. I avoid such movies like the plague. I insist on escape. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, comedy, and preferably a few good explosions and shootouts – that’s what draws me to the theater. I was looking forward to escaping into the alien world of Avatar. I tried hard for the movie’s full 18 hours but never succeeded.
The plot is clichéd and predictable from one scene to the next. The action scenes are devoid of tension. Not only are they cartoonish, they’re dull cartoonish. Think of the absurdity of the truck-freeway-jet-fighter segment in the last Die Hard movie, and replace Bruce Willis and the truck and the freeway and the jet fighter with cartoon blue aliens and flying lizards and humans in armed flying machines. Character deaths are predictable and devoid of emotion, and character escapes from peril violate both physics and physiology.
The relationships are passionless. We are expected to believe in them, but the actors, whether human or CGId into aliens, give us no reason to do so.
The alien society is an awkward mix of generic tribal American Indian and generic tribal African. This is symbolism of shameless nakedness. It punches us in the mouth and orders us to feel guilty for the sins of European and American expansion.
The aliens’ embarrassingly silly Earth-mother religion is glossed over with a pretense of science that is as unconvincing as the aliens themselves. They are deeply in tune with their world (take that, you urbanized, industrialized EuroAmericans!), but that doesn’t stop them from murdering peaceful herbivores for food, even though they’re surrounded by a bountiful forest with plentiful and delicious fruit. Okay, so they say mystical garbage to the herbivores before they finish them off. Big deal. The herbivore, gasping in agony from the arrow our hero has shot into him in one scene, might be wondering why the blue chap is now sticking a humongous knife into him. “In the name of the earth mother,” the herbivore might be thinking, “why aren’t you a vegetarian?”
In the end, the good guys win and the bad guys lose. But the bad guys are the empire, with its vast resources and advanced technology, especially ways of blowing things up real good, whereas the good guys are just primitive blue aliens. In real history, empires often lose such first skirmishes due to underestimating the primitives and the terrain and the logistics. Empires learn from these failures and return with overwhelming force. That’s why I’m writing this in a Western language, using Western technology, while living in what used to be land occupied by non-Westerners.
So in reality, the blue aliens would lose in the long run. If they were lucky, they’d end up on reservations. If not, they’d be eliminated. Either way, the end result would be the strip mining of the planet.
Or perhaps the aliens will accept the inevitable and make a deal with the mining company. They’ll grant mining concessions to the humans, and in return they’ll be given human weapons, which they will use to conquer and enslave the other clans of aliens whom we glimpse at the end of the movie. We’ve already seen that these simple, gentle, loving, living-in-harmony-with-nature aliens have a warrior caste and a warrior ethos. Hmm. Where did those guys come from?