Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Battle of the Big-Budget Blockbusters

The vaguely ethnic wolfpack from New Moon.

As blockbusters go, I'm pretty apathetic. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy flashy explosions and power ballad theme songs just as much as anyone else but, after a while, they all blend together to me. The plots and characters start to feel recycled.

This year, I had the honor (or dishonor, depending on how you want to look at it) of viewing two of the most-anticipated films of the year on their opening weekends. And let me just say, one clear beat the other. Those movies were the Twilight sequel, New Moon and James Cameron's Avatar. Besides the buzz surrounding these films, the two are almost incomparable.

The Twilight craze is strong and so unjustifiably so (in my view) but, Avatar definitely lived up to the hype. And I'm glad audiences worldwide have warmed to my view. Domestically, Avatar may not have caught up with New Moon (which has been playing longer) but, it's breaking all sorts of international box office records and is on its way to reaching Titanic heights.

If you're on the dark side, I'm not going to try to sway you. But I will present some valid arguments to demonstrate Avatar's superiority.

1. Avatar respects women and New Moon really doesn't. For the fact that author of the Twilight series is a woman who wrote her books from a female's point of view, for all the buzz the films have received for providing young women with a positive role model, New Moon is the most anti-feminist movie I've seen in a long time. Whiny, co-dependent Bella is the least likable character I've seen on screen. Most of the movie, she spends her time plotting various ways to kill herself because A.) her man left her and B.) she "sees" him when she's in dangerous situations. Every time this happens, some guy has to swoop in and save the day. Bella is an anti-heroine. I would never want my daughter to idolize her, even if she promotes chastity. Avatar, on the other hand, written by Cameron and told from a male point of view, features strong female characters. Ones who I respect and would like my daughter (if I had one) not to worship but, to admire qualities of.

2. Exploitation - The whole draw of New Moon is half-naked exotic looking boys. Where Twilight was all about Robert Pattinson's hotness, New Moon is all about Taylor Lautner's abs. For some reason, his character can't seem to keep his shirt on. Maybe he's allergic to wearing clothes. Either way, I found my self guilty of making this 17-year-old (the same age as my little brother) a sexual object. It really creeped me out. Society's always making a big deal about half-naked teenage girls (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus) yet, nobody seems troubled that the climax of New Moon is when Lautner exposes his perfectly indented abdomen for the first time. This is the only time I will probably ever state this, so listen up: New Moon promotes a male double standard. And don't get me started on the clearly ethno-centric bent of this film. In Avatar, even though the characters are mostly naked for the whole film, it feels natural. Maybe it's because they are computer-generated but, I feel like the avatars are tastefully undressed, if that makes sense. It seems natural for the Na'vi culture to wear minimal clothes, as they would just
interfere with their connectivity with nature and their hunting and gathering activities.

Zoe Saldana's character, Neytiri, daughter of the Na'vi tribe's chief.

3. Plot vs. Not - From most the reviews I have read, the plot of Avatar is the one aspect of the film that has been heavily criticized. I realize that it was not the deepest film I have ever seen. Yet, I do understand the overarching themes - respect for humanity, anti-imperialism, indigenous rights, man's return to nature, and they speak to me. I feel there is a point to the movie. When I was watching New Moon, I just felt like I was wasting my time. Since it was based on a best-selling novel, I expected some substance. Yet, I felt like the film was just banking on the franchise's power and unlike the Harry Potter flicks, I did not feel like it could stand alone. The characters were cardboard and one-dimensional and the pacing was terrible. The first 3/4 of the film dragged on forever and all the action took place at the end. I think this is because we were supposed to go on a psychological journey with Bella but, it was shoddily set up.

4. Acting ability - I won't say that the actors in Avatar are the best in the world. Zoe Saldana's accent shifts around at times. But the voice actors are so much more emotive than the human figures in New Moon. Kristen Stewart still hasn't grown out of her awkwardness. Where at first, this characteristic might have been endearing, I'm over it. She's been acting for years and she should have developed her craft by now. All she does is make a pouty face and roll her eyes. Robert Pattinson's career seems to based on his attractiveness. His acting consists of making sour faces, like he just sucked on a lemon. Since his casting appears to hang on his beauty, when Taylor Lautner upstages him in that department, his existence is just sort of pointless. I'm glad an unknown was chosen for the lead role in Avatar. Since I had no idea who he was, I didn't associate his personality with his performance, which I thought was acceptable - he served his purpose as an action star and I got that his character was undergoing a transformation.

There's no comparing special effects as Avatar has broken a mold in the film industry in terms of its innovative 3-D technology. What I will say is that as a traditional film, Avatar crushes New Moon's in all the non-blockbuster categories.

No comments: