It’s Okay to like Avatar

So last semester (or last April, however you keep time these days), we had watched the live-action movie of Casshern for anime. Yes, I took a class on anime—it was kind of amazing. Anyway, one of my classmates wasn’t too pleased with it because of its extremely visual style and it (apparently) ruined the source material. She really liked the original, animated Casshern. She mentioned that liking a movie for it’s visual style is not a real reason to like something. Then someone mentioned James Cameron’s Avatar and she got a little heated. She had three main points: 1). The plot for James Cameron’s Avatar is unoriginal and kind of sucks, 2). people like it because it’s pretty and they shouldn’t because of #1, and 3). Academia won’t study it because of #1. This is my rebuttal because you think up arguments two minutes (or months) after it finishes.

Thesis: It’s okay to like Avatar. Really.

Unoriginal Plot

We all know the plot, but for those of us who don’t, have a two sentence summary:

Jake Sully goes to the distant moon Pandora sort of on a whim where he gets a new body and befriends the Native American symbols, *cough* I mean Na’vi. He goes on to lead the revolution that essentially kicks capitalism off the moon.

I can make it simpler!

Dances with Wolves in space with blue people.

So what?

When people say the plot sucks, what they’re really saying is “this plot is unoriginal.” But you know what? You can probably sum up their favorite story in less than ten words too. It’s really easy. Any English Major should be able to do it. And if you’re literate in stories, then you already know there’s only a limited selection of plots to choose from, and each of those has been done at least a thousand times before. So why the importance of originality?

The good people at Writing Excuses talked about The Problem of Originality. You can find the podcast by clicking this elegant and finely-crafted link.

Secondly, there is blatant environmentalist symbolism that entire movie. Even I will admit that it’s kind of suffocating, and it would be, but the pretty is my inhaler.

Pretty Planet is Pretty

(Note: “Pretty Moon is Pretty” is less alliterative)

I contest this girl’s argument that you shouldn’t like something for its visual appeal. (Have you seen Casshern? No? Watch it. It’s pretty and only sometimes makes sense.) In the case of Avatar, the majority of its budget went into the visuals. So if they spent so much time and money making it pretty, why the hell can’t you like it for the pretty? It’s pretty! They spent the budget on the pretty. It is a very valid reason to like it on the pretty because that is where the effort lays.

I’m hosting a supremely expensive meditation retreat to this moon. Sign up in the comments.

I realize some people out there value story over visual effects, and that’s fine, but give credit where credit is due. It’s like watching a Michael Bay film and not appreciating the explosions. You’re just not a nice person if that’s what you do.


This girl mentioned Avatar wouldn’t be studied in academia. I can name a few reasons why it would. And to give you some background, I am three credits and a declaration away from a Communication Arts major. So I know a little something about that area of academia.

Anyway, at some point, I would have said that Avatar broke some Box Office record or other, but then The Avengers happened and that all went up in smoke. But it did indeed break some sort of record. Even then, that’s not why people will study. They won’t study it for story either. There are other, better examples for that.

No, academics will study it because of the technology used to film it and for its use of 3D. Have you seen this movie in 3D? You see all the little bugs and things flit before your eyes and, I swear, you can stand up, take a step, trip over a branch, and land among some ferns. In the entire movie, there is maybe two gimmicks that throw things in your face. And even then they’re not obvious at all and, when in a 2D screen, still look awesome. This is the movie that defined how proper 3D is used.

Additionally, the majority of the action was filmed using motion capture (mocap) technology. So it’s like the actors are acting but they’re not in their actual bodies. Just think of the innovations you can do with that! Tron Legacy goes on to use it to make Jeff Bridges look young. Yeah yeah, Lord of the Rings did it first with Gollum, but Avatar defined what that technology can be used for. Or it at least gave it attention.

Finally, James Cameron is a total tech-guy. If you go to find any information about him, he’s all about the tech and the science. He created a new form of CGI with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Then he practically recreated the sinking of the Titanic. I haven’t seen it in 3D, but I wouldn’t doubt he put some serious time and effort into making that look amazing. (Y’all are free to refute this, FYI). In any case, James Cameron likes his gadgets, and I’m not about to come between a man and his gadgets.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, academia. Avatar will be studied by the students who study James Cameron’s fascination with movie technology. I think it’s quite revolutionary, myself, but someone with an actual degree in this can come refute me.


People of the world: it’s okay to like James Cameron’s Avatar. It’s an enjoyable movie. For me, “I enjoyed it” is a good enough reason to like something and to hell with anyone who thinks otherwise. But for those of you who enjoy a good discussion, here’s some reasons for you. Use them well.


Discussion Question: What is your guilty pleasure movie and why do you like it?



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