Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I'm as big of a fan of South Park as anybody. Heck, I'm probably a bigger fan than anyone. But I don't think that Matt Stone and Trey Parker would be happy if they made America into a bunch of South Park yeasayers, if South Park became some sort of political party. And yet that's what I thought when I talked to people about what they thought of Avatar. Some months before James Cameron's Avatar arrived in theaters, South Park aired an episode titled "Dances with Smurfs," suggesting the upcoming film Avatar was nothing but a rip-off of the 1990 film Dances with Wolves. Maybe Matt Stone and Trey Parker had a sneak preview of this film, or maybe they made an episode that pre-determined the opinion of thousands of Americans simply because they thought the trailer for Avatar looked silly.
This was one of the first times I noticed a certain fad in amateur film criticism. Movie watchers have a tendency to read reviews of the films they watch so that they can sound smart when someone asks them, "What movies have you seen recently?" It sometimes gets to the point where people will tell me everything that was wrong with a film without ever seeing the film. I'm forced to ask the question, "Are films made so that people can watch them and be entertained or are films made so that critics can watch them for us and we can paraphrase Ebert and Roeper and gain +7 moviegoer skills?" I believe it is the former.
If you don't fall into this category then I am certainly not criticizing you. While I found Avatar engaging throughout and easily the best-written film I have ever seen in 3D, two of the most important people in my life simply didn't like the movie. And if you're going to hate on the movie, why stop short at comparing it to Dances with Wolves? I prefer to compare it to FernGully: The Last Rainforest (which is far superior to Dances with Wolves) or perhaps even Norse legend. Have your own opinion. Then you can start your conversations with, "You know, Gene Shalit was way off when he said..." It sounds much smarter than, "Heh heh, Smurfs... Dances with Wolves..."
(It should be noted that I am not criticizing South Park. It is one of the best television programs that I have ever seen. I am criticizing mindless fans who just want to have something to say so they use someone else's voice instead of their own. That is all.)