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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Reverse Predictions and More Subtexts

I see that AVATAR is now the most successful movie in history, passing TITANIC earlier this month (I won't use the obvious sinking metaphor.) Since this movie cost a half a billion dollars, movie economics dictates that it didn't start to earn a profit until it earned a billion dollars at the box office. It's just done this, but half that sum came from outside the USA. Why? Is it just due to the effects, or something more?
AVATAR has done spectacularly well in China and other Asian nations, so well that the Chinese yanked the 2D version from the theatres to prevent piracy.
Which leads me to suspect that AVATAR'S popularity is due to another subtext that appears in this movie. It's about the end of colonial empire, specifically an American colonial empire. There are some different races in this movie (Cameron makes sure to show some mixed-race troops cheering Colonel Quaritch's peptalk before the last great invasion.) It's an American corporation ordering the invasion in a cynicical partnership with the military and the scientists who were almost certainly sponsored by the military. A good portion of scientific research is now underwritten by military funding in the USA so this is no future fantasy.
I've seen a cartoon posted by Darryl Cagle showing Indian and Asian people holding hands with a ten foot high blue avatar figure. That is not coincidental.
But when I visited Zagreb many years ago a Serbian animator told me "We make fun of America in our (animated) films because we cannot make fun of our own governments."
Perhaps some of the approval for AVATAR comes from people in similar situations.
Which would make AVATAR one of the most subversive movies ever made, in that it questions the corporate culture that enabled the film to be produced in the first place.


Nancy said...

But I still found it simplistic and very stupidly plotted. If not for the effects, there would be no reason to see this movie.

Floyd Norman said...

James Cameron made this movie in an empty soundstage in Culver City. As one who has visited stages filled with beautiful sets in past decades, this does not bode well for the future of film making.

More empty stages and more empty movies are on their way thanks to Avatar.

Daryl Boman said...

I waited to rent the DVD of Avatar, instead of running to the theater to see it, and when asked by the clerk if I had seen it, of course I said 'No'. He gave me a look of disbelief and grunted. I had to laugh!
Anyway, after watching the DVD, I have to agree with your comment. It's really just a high-tech animated cartoon.

Nancy said...

A Chinese friend told me that it did remarkably well in China because Avatar was the ONLY film playing in China at that time. How could it not do well with a billion potential customers?

Nancy said...

and Floyd, there are a lot of location shots in New Zealand. I recognized Milford Sound, among other places. It wasn't all shot on a soundstage.

muddleglum said...

> "We make fun of America in our (animated) films because we cannot make fun of our own governments."

Sorta reminds me of the comment from a Japanese person many years ago about enjoying the Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan because he could see that the play was about England.

Thanks for the heads up.