It seems a common problem in most, if not all, debates on the Internet these days. An idiot, and I am not naming names here because there are far too many examples, will write that X is better than Y, but never any specific reason why, much less a credible one. In my previous post, a sort of description about the wonders of having the Alien anthology on Blu-ray Disc, and in a comment I posted elsewhere that I do not care to talk about right now, I stepped very much in the wrong direction in this regard and made an attack upon the view of one writer that could be considered somewhat ad hominem.
For those who are not familiar with logical fallacies or the terms used to describe them, ad hominem is basically a Latin way of saying “attacking the arguer rather than their argument”. It is a childish thing to do, and usually suggests a serious loss of temperament or self-control on the part of the person doing it. Considering that this occurred over a statement made about a pair of films, it does not really bode well for my ability to argue a point in front of an educated audience. But anyway, the point I felt a need to make in this writing is about how presentation of one’s argument is just as important, if not more so, as the argument itself.
The main reason, as I recall now, that I erupted in indignation about the writing in question is because the writing in question proposed a view of the two films, Alien 3 and Aliens, without really giving it adequate support. In previous writings of my own, I have asserted my desire to take a “prosecution”-like approach to critiquing the films. Even when I do not explicitly say I am doing this, I do it anyway, even about the films that I love to bits. This is because, speaking as an individual that people write ghastly things about and expect it to be taken as fact on a daily basis, I am incredibly thankful that modern societies have a justice system based upon an adversarial process. The entire burden of proof, irrespective of how daunting the assertion may be to prove, rests with the person making the assertion. Now, the case stated on this review I am speaking of, whilst very contrary to mainstream opinion, in my view failed from two perspectives. First of all, when a person asserting a position makes that assertion, they must support the assertion with sufficient evidence. The original author is free to disagree with me about it, but I feel they did not offer sufficient support of their assertion, and the manner in which the assertion was presented thus prompted that admittedly excessive reaction. In my comments concerning said writing, however, I presented my case very badly. I believe my side of the argument, that good films of the kind the Alien series happen to be are good because they develop the characters well as opposed to presenting the titular slasher in the manner that is to someone’s liking, was presented more effectively in parts of my writings about the Alien Anthology set on Blu-ray Disc.
Rather than go over that old argument again and poke at an argument I would rather leave behind, I am going to go into my belief that James Cameron should hang it up and go work in children’s television as an example. I am not precisely sure when I saw The Terminator for the first time. It was probably around the time I was spending most of my days at home sick from diabetes or pneumonia (I had a very rough year that year). The Terminator is still one of my favourite Blu-ray Discs. If you think Brad Fiedel‘s score sounded awesome, just wait until you hear the opening credits theme in 5.1 channels of uncompressed PCM. Knocking your socks off does not even begin to cover it. But once the visual spectacle effect died down from Avatar and I had a bit of a think about the story I had seen, my reaction was not dissimilar to the one that Plinkett demonstrates in his rather hilarious review. It takes him just over forty seconds to say “…and to advance movie technology further in the wrong direction”, which is another reason I would enjoy shoving one of my boots into James Cameron‘s asshole one inch at a time. He is like the Autism Speaks of cinema. Cinema and theatres need an advancement that will give viewers a reason to come back again (hint: more resolution, better rendering of motion). He gives us a rehash of a cinematic device that failed to lure audiences away from the television not just once, but at least four fukking times now. Calling Cameron an ego with too much money and time at his disposal is being kind. Hence, I laughed myself senseless when the Academy Awards snubbed him and his piece of shit resurrection of eye pain inducement as an “incentive” to come back to theatres in favour of his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow‘s far better, far more compelling film, The Hurt Locker.
In fact, fukk it, let me directly put the review into this entry since it is a bollocks (in style) review of a bollocks (in everything) film. But there is literally a cavalcade of factual errors concerning the native peoples of America that Avatar regurgitates like a child who has just been given a pair of cameras and a quarter of a billion dollars to throw up in the air.
Now, I have made statements about this several times, and I want to say it again. If a person from any culture, regardless of who they are and what they do, introduces themselves to me with the words “You are like a big baby” with the words “big” and “baby” spat out in the manner of a six year old telling another six year old they are not normal enough, I am going to shove my boot so far up their arsehole that my recordings of them screaming for it to stop will play around the world like a Top 40 record from the early 1990s. Cameron‘s attempts to justify this with the clumsy mistakes of the protagonist in a body he is having trouble controlling will not wash, either. In the colonial eras, Europeans opened up avenues of friendly relations with various native tribes in North and South America without needing to resort to any kind of trickery concerning who they really were. And the idea that the natives in North America were a bunch of fruit-munching simpletons is effectively destroyed by the fact that such ideas as women being allowed to vote, and indeed the entire concept of elected representation with rights and responsibilities for all was taught by the “Indians” to the colonists, not the other way around.
Also worth noting is that contrary to what James Cameron asserts in his childish, goo-goo-gaa-gaa film, the native populace that the Conquistadors found in America was a bloodthirsty bunch. Those big temples in America that documentarians once regarded so much wonder and awe? They ran red with the blood of sacrifices when the Conquistadors found them. In fact, that is the major theme of the sixth serial in Doctor Who (the real Doctor Who, I mean). The Doctor and the original three companion characters find themselves in Mexico during the fifteenth century. Barbara, the more idealistic of Susan’s teachers, is mistaken for a reincarnation of the ancient high priest called Yetaxa. It is a bit of a task to explain why the group does not simply hightail it out of there as quickly as they can (in fact, attempts to find an alternate entrance to the tomb in which the TARDIS has materialised form a part of the plot). But the pertinent point here is that Barbara, as a bit of a history buff, feels compelled to attempt to talk the Aztecs out of their ancient practice of sacrifice. Her belief is that if sacrifice is abolished, they will be spared the genocide that occurred at the hands of the Spanish. Being that the time period being depicted is long before the advent of mass communication, Barbara’s attempts prove to be futile, but she persists in them anyway before a sympathetic local allows The Doctor and Ian (the other teacher in the group) to know of an alternate means to get back to the TARDIS.
This Doctor Who serial, The Aztecs, is available on DVD, and serves as a very good example of just how different television was during its earlier days. But the point here is that in contrast to James Cameron‘s oh-so-superior portrayal of a metaphor for the natives of the Americas, the grown-ups in the Doctor Who crew chose to make a true cross-section of one of its societies. Hence, we get a High Priest Of Sacrifice who wants to subject Barbara and his people to a gruesome and bloody death, a High Priest Of Knowledge who begins to see the truth in what these odd visitors from another world either try or try to avoid telling the people, and several characters in between. Given that James Cameron apparently expended a quarter of a billion dollars making Avatar, and every Doctor Who episode from 1963 to 1989 appears to have a collective budget of about fifty UK Pounds, the fact that the latter is far more grown-up in spite of early seasons having been conceived with the aim of being an educational show for primary school children is a serious mark of shame upon Cameron. Yeah, I will take my entertainment to go, Mr. Cameron, along with a big side-order of babyfication, thank ye very much. (Picture me rolling my eyes and using a voice that makes Zoe Saldana‘s first utterance in the film seem like something that does not make your average Powell type want to knock someone’s head off when I say that. It helps.)
In case you were wondering where I was going with all of this rambling, it is here: in a healthy, informed world, things are contrasted and compared to one another. Generally, the arguments made by the person doing the comparing and contrasting can be judged by their depth. As this Plinkett character does with Avatar, there is a fairly huge pointing out of the fact that maybe the people being metaphorically placed on pedestals were not, in fact, that great.
When my sister and I went into the theatre to see Alien 3 way back when we were still legally children, you had better believe that we wanted it to be at least half as good as we felt Aliens to be. But what we did end up seeing is one of many reasons why my expectations were extremely low and guarded when I went to see TRON: Legacy. I suspect I will be having low and guarded expectations when I do get around to seeing Prometheus, too. And it is worth noting that in contrast to what is often the case with online reviews, where so-called critics write about how good (*cough*) or bad certain films are solely because that is the expectation among the grapevine, people from all over the planet, in multiple different media that was almost completely and utterly unconnected, pointed out exactly the same problems I do now with Alien 3, all of which are independent of any connection with Aliens. That is, not only are the establishing scenes in which the groundwork of the plot is laid out as flat as a tack, but the poor development of the characters robs the scenes that were intended by the creative team to be exciting, in other words the payoffs, of any real excitement. I do not care what your preference is in terms of action versus drama, but when at least half a dozen characters are killed in one scene and a home video reviewer describes the manner in which they die as “perfunctory”, that is a good sign that something went wrong in the writing stage.
What I have spent a long time blathering on about unrelated subjects whilst trying to touch upon is that making an assertion entails a certain responsibility. I have spent far too many words already on one aspect of what I mean by responsibility. For instance, I assert that Avatar sucks donkey shit through a small flesh tube. By comparing one of its worst storytelling aspects (specifically, unwashed natives good, everyone else baaaad) to one of the best Doctor Who serials, I believe I have established a case for Avatar to answer. I will not go on again about the Aliens to Alien 3 comparison, but I do intend to cement this point further with a study in the character developments between the real Dawn Of The Dead and the aimed at retards remake. I might even bother to rewatch and write about The Hurt Locker at some point, but I believe I have already covered the point I had to make in doing so quite abundantly, that I am not touting Aliens as one of the best films ever made or in its respective series simply because I have any love of James Cameron. In fact, the James Cameron who made The Terminator and Aliens seems to have died and been replaced with a stand-in who used to direct episodes of Play School.
So, in closing, I would like to urge something of my fellow writers both online and in print. Treat your ramble, critique, or whatever you wish to call it about any given subject as if you are giving a political speech to an audience with the power to make crucial decisions based on your words. Because when your audience is scattered across the entire world, you can bet that someone in that audience eventually will. And yes, I am well aware that that means bad decisions may end up being based on my rambling like I have sniffed too much white powder. I accept that, unlike a lot of people who write similarly dissonant things and should be expected to know better.