The questions of art and art forms have always been topical and controversial for people. Even the works of such prominent artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Van Gogh, which are undoubtedly considered being art, do not suit everyone’s taste. Certainly, the contemporary art has a similar problem not being understood by many, since many contemporary sculptures, pictures and installations are too shocking for the people. However, they are still qualified as art. Moreover, most people often forget that movies are also a part of the art. In the present days, many of them also seem to be controversial. James Cameron’s Avatar is one of the movies, which revealed the way the audience can be divided into two parts – the ones who liked and the ones who disliked it. The positive and negative response to the movie will be discussed further, as well as its meaning and value for the world of art.
James Cameron was working on Avatar during more than ten years. The initial idea of it appeared in 1994, and it was planned to create and release the movie soon after Titanic. However, Cameron refused from this idea because he did not have available resources, and technologies he needed to make the movie in the way he wanted to use did not exist yet. When the director got a chance to create it, he used all the newest technologies, making a breakthrough in cinematic technology (Kirkeby, 2010).
It is important to be aware of the main plot features of the movie in order to analyze it and the viewers’ response to it. Avatar events take place in the 22nd century, when humans have already depleted Earth’s natural resources found a habitable moon Pandora in the Alpha Centauri system, settled by blue-skinned sapient humanoids called Na’vi, living in harmony with nature and possessing rich reserves of a valuable mineral, called unobtanium. Since the Na’vi do not agree to give away their resources and contaminate their lands, a fight begins and involves everyone in there making some of the humans choose the side of the Na’vi. Eventually, the nature itself comes to help, and humans get expelled from Pandora.
To be qualified as an art work, the work needs to have a set of aspects for which it is appreciated by people acting on behalf of the art world (Freeland, 2001). However, as the old saying goes, tastes differ. Therefore, all the works of art always have admirers and haters. It happens due to the fact that the art it perceived differently by everyone. Audiences usually do not have shared beliefs, value systems, backgrounds and experiences, so they see art works in a different way and react to it differently as well. Thus, people sometimes do not understand certain things or even consider them being offensive due to certain associations. Nevertheless, as Freeland (2001) says, controversy is valued in the arts. This happened to Avatar as well, because the movie divided critics into two parts – the ones who hate and the one who praise it.
Negative Opinions of Avatar
Many works of art that appeared after 9/11 revealed the people’s sorrow and reaction to this tragedy (Gillespie, 2011). Avatar also has certain implications in this topic. It shows hostile people coming to others’ lands in order to take possession of their resources. Certainly, it reminds of the war in Iraq, which is thought by many to be just a way to get the country’s oil reserves (Walsh, 2009). Moreover, the movie plot can be paralleled with the history of European invasions and creation of colonies in other countries. There are many instances when the colonists came to take possession of the territory and killed all the people, who struggled with them. Reminding about these unpleasant historical examples, Avatar may seem to be offensive for some people because they will see themselves or their ancestors in the movie characters.
Other critics who have negative opinions on the movie tell that it is just a fairytale created with the excessive usage of visual effects, which distract the viewers from the plot and the story itself. Flat dialogues and obvious characterization are also among the issues existing in the movie (Kenneth, 2009). The critics who disliked Avatar also noticed its resemblance with the old American movie Dances with Wolves, which covers a similar topic and tells about the fight between British colonists and American Indians in the 19th century. Moreover, both movies are believed by some critics to have racist connotations due to the fact that the natives are being saved by white men. It is considered to be designed in a way to show the white man’s burden. In addition, the fact that non-white actors played the Na’vi, while a white actor played the main human character, seems to be wrong to them (Barnard, 2010).
Positive Opinions of Avatar
Nevertheless, the movie received more positive reviews than negative ones. With the budget of almost $300 million, its box office made up almost $3 billion, which proves that the audience liked it. Cameron used a new generation of visual effects and created an unprecedented movie, which became known all over the world. Furthermore, despite the negative reviews and accusations of racism, it is obvious that the contrary was true to the filmmaker. He wanted to bring an anti-war message and show people the results of some of their activities.
One more theme revealed by Cameron in his movie is the theme of people’s attitude to the nature. In the present days, people tend to put their needs in front of everything and do not take care of the nature, forgetting the fact that we actually need to live in harmony with it. In the movie, the Na’vi live in harmony with their rich nature and dense forests and do not strive for using up all the resources, taking only as much as they need. This is why it hurts them so much when they see their nature being destructed by the humans. They say that it is alive, and it needs to be respected, and the events in the end of the movie, when the planet itself comes to help them, prove their rightness. Thus, the movie shows us an example of how good a life can be if inhabitants live in harmony with what they have around.
The social and political subtext of the movie certainly attracted the audience’s attention. As a result, it became known as one the most amazing and inspiring science-fiction movies. Therefore, the critics enthusiastically praise Cameron’s work and claim to be one of the most beautiful movies ever created (Walsh, 2009). Certainly, not all the people like it when someone points them at their mistakes and this is the issue with Avatar. It reveals the hostile nature of humans and shows the historical examples in a rather emotional way. This caused the appearance of negative opinions and divided the movie audience and critics.
Avatar is surely a work of art. However, it is a controversial one, which caused many arguments between people who liked and disliked it. Mostly, it happened due to the fact that James Cameron, its creator, put many ideas in it, letting people decide themselves what it meant for them personally. Certainly, some viewers managed to find a personal meaning in the movie, and it made them think about certain things. However, in the meantime, other people did not understand Avatar or interpreted it as an offensive film.
The movie created such a powerful reaction among people due to the difference in their world perceptions, experiences, and ways of thinking. Things that inspire one people, but annoy others have always existed in the world, and Avatar just became one more example of such controversies. Despite the critical opinions of certain people, it remains a masterpiece and a breakthrough in the cinematography. Cameron did a lot of work launching his movie project, and eventually he created one of the greatest movies in the history. Indeed, if the director managed to give a positive feeling from the watch to at least one viewer, making them think about something profound, his work was not useless.
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