It’s been a long journey this semester on Citizen Shame. We’ve explored the illuminating canon of films so bad they have not left my mind, but our time is coming to a close. It is with great sadness that I must say goodbye to this weekly exercise of self-reflection and near-physical pain.
But where shall our voyage end? A classic Mel Gibson roast? A subversion of Wes Anderson worship? Some more barely backed-up references found on Wikipedia that only people with camera emojis in their Instagram bios could pretend to understand?
Maybe I should spend these final words discussing the last ten minutes of the final Harry Potter film and how it harmed my emotional maturity. Or perhaps the day I stayed home sick from school at age 12, popped in “Titanic” (1997) on VHS, and suddenly wanted to learn how to draw.
Movies have gifted me with various short-lived career dreams. “Almost Famous” (2000) fostered an urge to write for Rolling Stone. Movies like “Zodiac” (2007) and “L.A. Confidential” (1997) made me want to solve mysteries. After watching “Ratatouille” (2007), I wanted a rodent best friend to teach me to cook so I could win back my estranged father’s legacy as a brilliant chef.
But what film fills me with such rage and indignation that it deserves the much coveted spot in this final skewering? The answer, of course, is “Cars” (2006), but I’ve already done that one. So, today, we will examine the movie that made more money than any other: the blue-peopled disaster of 161 minutes called “Avatar” (2009).
Grossing more than the GDP of such countries as Samoa and the Gambia, one might expect this James Cameron movie that you saw in theaters with that one friend you had in middle school that you didn’t really like to be a worthwhile movie. But when you peel back the thousand or so layers of ‘groundbreaking’ digital effects that just turned everyone blue and tall, nothing is left but a hollow mess and a poor attempt at a metaphor for environmentalism.
James Cameron broke onto the scene with his great action movie “Aliens” (1986), which featured Sigourney Weaver, mechanical exosuits and aliens, so it’s comforting to see him achieving new things in “Avatar,” featuring Sigourney Weaver, mechanical exosuits and aliens.
It’s probably been a while since you felt your eyes burn from the 3D glasses you paid 15 dollars to watch the movie in, but four (four!) sequels are on the way, so prepare to fall back in love with the truly messed-up story of a corporation destroying an entire culture for profit. This movie’s anti-capitalist metaphors are as subtle as that one friend from high school you still keep on Facebook because he hasn’t quite realized his political postings don’t have an effect.
Ironically, it’s the epitome of commercial moviemaking, a film with so little substance and so much flash that it loses all potential to make a point. Which is, I think, a (citizen… get it?) shame.