German FAZ Sets Avatar’s International Reception in US-vs-PRC Synopsis

Hyper-Urbanisation Criticism or Un-American Activities? Hell's Gate on Pandora (Source:

James Cameron’s Avatar [1] is a tremendous commercial success and will recuperate the long and fruitful relationship between Hollywood’s Big Business blockbusters and the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre itself. Probably it is doing for 3D cinema what Halo did 2001 for the X-Box in the game branch: It is more important for its ground-breaking 3D theatrical projection technology than for visionary ‘phuturist’ statements of artistic excellence in art or design.

Although I don’t have seen it either in 3D spectacles version nor in standard 2D yet, I am tending to follow my strong prejudgements against this ‘Pocahontas-in-Space’ and trying to procrastinate any close encouters of whatever kind as long as possible. But having  in mind that our upcoming PHUTURAMA session [2] does not reflect explicitly the world-wide success of this stunningly well performing Science Fiction mega-blockbuster, I am lucky to get inspired to write something in this particular blog by the occasion that my favourite newspaper confronted their Feuilleton readers on January 21, 2010 with two synoptically arranged stories [3], referring the different reception and debate in the People’s Republic of China and in the movie’s domestic U. S. homeland.

Out of the Blue?

Avatar seems to serve as a perfect bluescreen for projecting randomly heteregenous political notions and criticisms onto it. Following the report from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung correspondent the Chinese response seems to interprete and identify the role of the movie’s indigenous Pandoran Na’vi – ‘native’ or just ‘naïve’? – with the obstructive movement against brute force or just plain criminal-minded  ‘urbanisation’ practices which completely re-rendered the surface of Chinese cityscapes from scratch and produced anti-modernistic counter-heroes like the inhabitants of the famous “nail house” [4] in Chongqing. Indeed, this iconic building really resembles the Pandora’s low-gravity caused shifting mountain compounds. Limiting the cinemas that are playing the movie has been suspected therefore as an anti-oppositional move of repression by the all-mighty censorship authorities to promote the upcoming launch of a more patriotic movie on Confuzius.

Into the Black?

Verena Lueken on the other hand sums up the major complaints that has shaken the “red” Republican-American reception confronted with Avatar’s tremendous box office success. Whereas the Chinese reception got a liberal and anti-gouvernemental spin, the U. S. right wing media protagonists like John Nolte of Big Hollywood or John Podhoretz of Weekly Standard smelled betrayal and claimed completely Un-American Activities behind the movie’s simple plot. James Cameron, never denying his solid rootedness in 1960s hippie sub-culture, is suspected to undermine America’s strength and fortune by blackmailing U. S. Armed Forces, free entrepreneurship and the justified “War on Terror” – all represented in Avatar’s predominant Resources Development Administration (RDA – as an aside: signalled by a completely dull and ridiculous logo). But a free-wheeling “quasi-governmental administrative entity (QGAE)” [5] isn’t entirely unparalleled in the history of colonialism and a thankful stand-up enemy in any action flick since the creation of the world (‘Creation’ as in ‘Grand Design’). All that cries “Blackwater!”, whereas this controversial company itself (probably in reaction of such unintended castings and vaguely mantled innuendos) shifted their brand name recently into Xe Services. [6] Don’t follow this link, muhaha! Guess what? Nobody would confuse now a well-respected private military contractor and security consulting firm with a completely fictitious Hollywood blockbuster villainous entity.

In the end, all these allegations could easily point at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox produced real-time TV success series 24 as well – with the sublime difference that in Avatar a Jack-Bauer-like character mask does not necessarily strangle innocent beings to go blue in the face.

[1] Avatar: The Official Movie Site
[2] PHUTURAMA Session at transmediale.10 Salon Talks, February 3, 2010, 14:00 – 19:00
[3] The FAZ Stories on Avatar Reception in the U. S. and P. R. China
[4] The “Nail House” Lemma in English Language Wikipedia
[5] Yes, There Is a Web 2.0 Fansite Called “Pandorapedia”
[6] I warned you!

2 Responses to “German FAZ Sets Avatar’s International Reception in US-vs-PRC Synopsis”

  1. Barry Marcou Says:

    Throughout the film, I was momentarily jarred by most of the same things that have been mentioned here, but for the most part, I dismissed them as my expectations continued. Even the heavy-handed expression of commercialism or the over bearing were accepted as being a critical part of the film.But there one technical thing that (oddly enough, I guess) irritated me. I had no way to go back and watch it after, but I’m pretty sure that when the Colonel was killed, he took his hands off the robot controls, trying to remove the arrow/bolt. Yet, with the Colonel’s death, the robot TOPPLED OVER! I would have expected such a machine just to simply stop moving and stand there.

  2. oliver Says:

    Thats funny! From a certain perspective even dog shit looks like fine nougat chocolate.
    This film is just a collection of nice effects combined with a story so simple and stupid. The actors? Akward. The Oscar nominations apart from the effects – a joke. But money drives oppinions. And there is a lot of money in this “investment”.

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