What's surprising to me about Avatar is the corpus of critical writing it has inspired. With all apologies to Michael Haneke, whose White Ribbon would seem to be the frontrunner in inspiring critical discussion, what with its promise of tracing the origins of evil and World Wars I and II and the Nazis, no movie has generated as much fascinating reading for me this year as Avatar (Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man, perhaps, are runners up).
It's unexpected, all this serious analysis for a James Cameron-penned screenplay that is largely derivative of familiar Hollywood tropes. Why Avatar has generated this back and forth and not other big Hollywood movies is curious; for one reason or another it has become a global cultural touchstone.
Here's just a short list of writings about Avatar that I enjoyed:
This is just about the movie itself and doesn't even factor in how the movie was shot. When the inevitable $99 10-disc Blu-Ray Na'Vi Ultra Edition with 12" bronze figurine of James Cameron's penis is released, there will be enough making-of featurettes to make the movie's 3 hour runtime seem like a movie trailer.
The technology Cameron developed to allow him to look at live actors on a soundstage but see them as Na'Vi figurines in a digital landscape sounds like a George Lucas wet dream and may be itself a metaphor for the idea of American cultural imperialism, that is, Cameron wears goggles that allow him to see what he wants to see, a fantasy which uses reality as a mere skeleton. That Americans only see the world through their own red, white, and blue goggles; that's an argument I've heard many a time while traveling abroad, or that I read a couple times each day when answering user e-mails to Hulu (to those people I'll just say this; the reason we don't stream our content outside of the U.S. yet is because the rights we were granted were for U.S. streaming only. Content distribution rights in entertainment have long been sold geography by geography, and the global nature of the Internet doesn't change that overnight. This isn't some U.S.-centrism at play, Americans are just as locked out when it comes to streaming content from other countries, much to my dismay when trying to watch the latest season of MI-5/Spooks on the BBC website).
If you find other Avatar-inspired articles of note, please pass them along.