About Advertise
CGI Eden just another Dick Thing

CGI Eden just another Dick Thing

by Tobina Mackenzie / 10.01.2010

OK so we’re a little behind the curve with our Avatar review. Still at least we got round to it.

Visually Avatar is seamless. The success of the CGI beings and world of the planet Pandora is superlative. The hero, a crippled Marine, who gets to run around and enjoy super avatar strength inhabiting a 7 foot tall Navi being’s body. For me the main tension of the film was the ‘pod’ which was the vessel for him to transmogrify, as everytime he falls asleep in his blue Pandora self, he is returned to being a crippled Marine. Whether this tension was intended by James Cameron, who disappointingly lapses into cliches intermittently, who knows. He may have thought the love interest, or the United-States-dick-metaphor was the main crux, but for me it is the slipping between worlds. And so for the first half of the film the utter fantasticness of the technological achievement of this CGI triumph, draws you into the world and the story. The references are all there, both to other films and to the world stage. The planet Pandora is exquisite, and the detail of the over ripe nature is a veritable garden of Eden (with a hint of the rotten worm also).


The message is that the Navi people live in unity with Mother Nature, and are a peaceful tribe. Yet the females are warriors/amazonians, no Disney princesses. Their bodies and movements are sensual and dramatic. The blue world they inhabit is lit up by luminous floating tendrils and jellyfish type creatures, representing Nature’s blessings. The animals are a bit weak, with antidiluvian references to the jurassic creatures we have in our store of mental images. But the pterodactyl-like creatures that fly, demonstrate the muscle of this primitive yet advanced world. There is some charming suggestiveness and bewitching ideas. It’s the global warming message. The humans destory their world, and are now on Pandora looking for mineral riches, intent on destroying their world in the process. You could see Pandora as Africa, with the colonizers out to take everything. I’m not sure if Cameron has enough sense of self irony to be having a swing at the United States in the Middle East, and if he does, he does it with no imaginative penetration.


For me this is where the film started to fall apart. You are carried along seamlessly, until the last hour when he lapses into cliche. It is his Titanic moment of capsize.

The screenplay breaks down and suddenly you are reminded of half a dozen banal things such as: the Terminator, George Bush’s, “we will fight terror with terror”, helicopters brazening the dream world like a Vietnam jungle, and it becomes a dick thing. I thought to myself – all these computer nerds at their screens creating image by image, drawing some of the motions and the character features of the actor/actresses and putting them into giant blue avatars brilliantly, creating a paradise that is a kind of acid trip at the same time with its obvious Pandora’s box full of surprises. Then suddenly they are creating robots and military airships that could be in anybody’s movie, gigantic sort of lego pieces which move the story away from imaginative brilliance to just making bigger and more action packed same old same old.


Perhaps the movie fails because it cannot make the imaginative leap your mind asks of it once drawn into the magic of this planet. And if Mr Cameron was thinking to make something that raises the bar, or gives a glimpse of movies of the future, he doesnt fully succeed. Except technically. Apparently he promises sequels. But it is a real treat visually and for more than half of the film I was completely impressed by the cleverness of the human mind which has developed computer technology to this degree. You truly start to believe the Navi people are real, and that their world could exist. You go there. It is beyond digital, beyond Pixar, it is magic. The world of the Navi is shamanistic (and at one point the creatures start to have a Navajo feel) – at times there is even a kind of subliminal eroticism. Perhaps Mr Cameron then just reaches his limit as far as a storyline goes. He is American after all.

14   16
  1. der kommissar says:

    ‘fantastic-ness’, ‘banale’ – you really, really need that sub.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  2. Andy says:

    der kommissar from your keyboard to Richie Rich’s ears. (Richie Rich being the god of commerce). But thanks for filling in until we get our shit sorted.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  3. Ruan says:

    watched it in 3D this weekend, dont even waste your time with something else, the CGI was made for 3D theaters. have to agree on the storyline at the end, but the CGI made up for it in a BIG way. absolutely amazing !

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  4. No Wonder Its Mahala - Who Would Pay For this Crap says:

    Get a dictionary! My god – who writes this shit! Use the word superlative properly, or don’t use it at all! For F^%Ks Sake – Im sick of people pretending to be writers, and spouting unbridled S#!T into the blogosphere. Who the F#@k do you think you are to misuse the English Language like that, and then claim to have ANY journalistic integrity. Go join a group of twelve year olds on MXit and leave proper writing to the grown ups.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  5. Lame Review says:

    lame review. your personal issues are overbearing and boring to read – leave them at the door and then attempt to write about film. I agree with the comment above – no wonder its mahala.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  6. Freaking frustrated says:

    I agree with the main thrust of the review – the plot line was lumbering as hell, the technical production was rad. (Did anyone else notice that SFX from Jurassic Park were used? Avatar horses = Velociraptors)

    That being said, get some real writers, dammit. Ladies and gentlemen, let this be a lesson in media production. If you plan on producing a magazine (digital or otherwise), you better plan on paying your writers. You really do get what you pay for. If your writers are paid, you have leverage to demand a certain standard, and a degree of quality is be maintained.

    If a piece of writing doesn’t impress you to the degree that you’re willing to part with money for it, then the writer doesn’t deserve a space in your publication in the first place.

    Get your shit sorted, Mahala. This is bush league.

    A paid writer, from Cape Town.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  7. Freaking frustrated says:

    Ha, the irony. Here I am bitching about the quality of writing, and I post “a degree of quality is be maintained”. How about we leave out that “be”.

    Too bad the review is still dross.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  8. Andy says:

    Jislaaik people, such vitriol.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  9. blue monkey says:

    I would have preferred a review from someone who’d immersed themselves beshroom’d into this 3D wonder world, blamed the humourous American-dick crap on the fact that someone (ie. american dicks) had to fund the film, and rejoice in the fact that James Cameron finally took enough Ayahuesca to make a film worth watching. But then again, that was my experience so I don’t really need a review…

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  10. what do you know about film? says:

    Tobina Mackenzie, your review was so fucking boring I really struggled to read half of it.
    Just for interest sake, what sort of film critique background do you have that brings us Mahala readers to be subjected to your shitty review?
    If you could reply I’d love to know.
    For evreyone else who hasn’t seen this movie, don’t read this crap – go watch it and you’ll see that this “Tobina” person shouldn’t be writing reviews for Mahala…

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  11. der kommissar says:

    Here’s a thought, Andy-person. If it’s not a regular writer the calibre of Brandon Edmonds, why don’t YOU read the piece more carefully and make a few judicious alterations before posting the thing? If you’re already spending a fair amount of energy keeping mahala afloat, this shouldn’t be too much extra effort and the amount of benefit that it would afford your site’s reputation would be well worth it.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  12. G says:

    I are with you Blue Monkey!

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  13. simona says:

    oh, wow, i’m shocked at the bitter level, bad taste of this comments more then the review or anything else at the moment, is this what you have to put up whith Andy?

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  14. simona says:

    …ups …with…english is just my third language… better tell before there can be onother attack… ;o)

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  15. bryan little says:

    i agree with simona, i think that these comment threads can at times bring out the worst in people as they are safe behind pseudonyms. even though i agree that the film review is pretty poor and generally misses the point, what i believe is my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own, this i think is something we all cherish.. however once i had read all the comments i no longer felt the inclination to have my say about this particular article even though i do feel strongly about this film and as a filmmaker i believe i might have had something valuable to contribute to the discussion.

    for me what makes this online mag work is that the communication in not one way and the ‘consumers’ for want of a better word can then add another dimension to the stories.

    i don’t know if it is reflection of who we are at the moment but unfortunately many people feel the need to be aggressive in their disapproval (which is totally fine) but sometimes people can get really insensitive and forget that there are real people involved and tend to treat people in a way that they never would if they were face to face.

    i have seen this all over the net. On youtube – pages and pages of hate speech and idiocy. if you search for the site that has the 100 greatest images ever photographed you would be amazed at the imbecilic comments that stream below what are truly incredible and sometimes genuinely devastating moments of our collective history. what is it about new media and the web that creates this culture? is it anonymity that allows the beast to run free? this ‘behind the toilet door’ style commentary is a plague online and even though i enjoy big fat cocks on the back of toilet doors i dont believe that this style of expression adds anything to the online experience.

    Andy, i am sure you have considered this but wouldn’t it be worth looking into people having to use their real names when leaving a comment?

    perhaps the heat attracts traffic? perhaps it would make people less inclined to comment if they have to log in? perhaps the net is actually revealing what we are all really like underneath the social conditioning and therefore is valuable if not pretty?

    just a thought

    much love tobina (even though i disagree with some of your article)
    if that film doesn’t change the way we see ourselves and our relationship with this planet and each other then i don’t know what hope we have except the big red RESET button.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  16. der kommissar says:

    Bryan, the cool thing about commenting behind a pseudonym (and occasionally changing that as well) is that readers hopefully pay greater attention to WHAT you are saying rather than who you are. I do agree that there is an unhealthy degree of vitriol on the web and especially in South Africa, largely driven by a discomfort with what is being expressed rather than an honest effort to contemplate it and formulate a more reasoned response before putting fingers to keyboard. Hence the plethora of personal attacks that you see on this site rather than substantial and properly focussed rebuttal. Play the ball people, not the person.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  17. tara says:

    to say you dislike something nicely is quite an art.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  18. Amused by internet rage says:

    The internet is serious business! I wonder if the ranting loons posting here are News24 users…

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  19. Scott says:

    I watched the movie.twice.
    First in regular and then in 3D.
    I must admit that if you watch it this way you WILL spoil it for yourself.

    Truth be told, it’s not a bad movie altogether but it’s overhyped.I have yet to watch anything in the science fiction genre made after the matrix that proves to be groundbreaking.Even plugging into your avatar is reminiscent of the matrix.

    It’s just entertainment fodder peeps.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  20. Tara says:

    alright alright. despite the continual head-aches ever since, it was incredibly pretty to look at and whoever did the forest scenes had a great grasp on the imagery of amazonian nature.
    The film also very nearly served up a valuable lesson, excepting that it was so utterly neonly amplified, that it is just too damn easy to know what is good and what is bad. a film that has no subtlety cant really teach us what to look out for. The colonialism we experience more often than not comes in a more subtle form. but i suppose hollywood is so much easier to sell.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  21. Tara says:

    also, im not sure if it made people feel more of an affinity with forests as so many are saying, or if it made people like looking at moving pictures of forests from a daylightless single seat with airconditionaing and msg salted popcorn.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  22. dMtDave says:

    @ Andy – It seems the general profile of a Mahala reader is that of wannabe writers (or at least they’re the ones commenting on a regular basis) and I stress the word ‘wannabe,’ ‘cos 9 will have you 10 the quality of writing in most of the comments that have been made are piss-poor too.

    The film review was boring – a simple deduction – I read 1 and a 1/2 paragraphs and then went straight to the comments – which, as badly written and stupid as many of them are – were still more entertaining than the actual opening paragraphs of the review.

    @ all the nay-sayer commentators – this is FREE content and clearly Mahala is making an effort to do something their way. I fear most Mahala writers are trying to “out-write” each other and be cooler or clever than the next guy which is a tad transparent. Nonetheless we keep coming back to read their stuff don’t we?

    PS: I love the guys who really let rip at badly used language or grammar yet can’t string a few simple comments together without doing the same…..

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  23. TnT says:

    careful dMtDave.
    a) what are you trying to say?
    b) are you a wannabe writer?
    c) check your grammar and sp. before posting.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  24. We're not just fans 'cos its free... says:

    The clumsy use of language in a published article hints at possible laisser-faire attitude from the editors of this site. If you believe your writer has potential it can be damaging to both mahala and the writer to put something of this standard out into a public domain. I admire the initiative behind this site and have been looking forward to a Mahala take on Avatar for some time now, but the lack of intelligent insight offered by this article and non-existent turn of phrase are extremely disappointing. Avatar is an important if not milestone film for the moment and your readers are hungry for an informed critique. Train your younger writers by all means, but is it necessary to actually publish sub-standard content?

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  25. Pauly says:

    The flick did win a bunch of golden globes. no awards for the crits

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  26. Devon says:

    Cool Article, You make some valid points, and some of you people who leave comments can be super rude, and over something so small. i do believe that movies are here for our entertainment and that we look into them way to much. i found it entertaining but thats just my opinion. Bring on Iron Man 2 😛

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  27. David Steynberg says:

    Yeah dMtDave. What are you trying to get across with this drivel: “…and I stress the word ‘wannabe,’ ‘cos 9 will have you 10 the quality of writing in most of the comments that have been made are piss-poor too.”
    Andy, I have to agree with the points of many of the comments made above regarding the quality of specifically the movie reviews. I frequent this site at least three times a week and am a huge fan of what you are doing here, and I know the quality control is an issue if you’re unable to pay for good subs. But at least if the story submitted to you is poorly written and at times doesn’t make sense (I haven’t seen the movie yet so I really can’t comment on whether or not the review is accurate), just send it back to the writer and ask them to fix it and resubmit.
    Again I stress my respect for what you’re doing here (as I’ve told you personally before), so I’m not going to trash the entire project.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  28. David Steynberg says:

    And another point. I’m sorry, I’ll leave it after I’ve said this.
    Seems to me the guys defending the poor grammar and sentence construction are the guys who themselves are too lazy to punctuate their own comments or to properly check their spelling.
    Bad writing actually distracts the reader from digesting the points that are trying to be made by the writer. Being a brilliant movie critic or a rocket scientist who knows their shit, does not automatically make them equally brilliant writers.
    Writers work damn hard to make their information accessible to even the most illeterate of the populance.
    Writing is a life-long skill that has to be worked at, continually. While you never master it completely, you do respect it and recognise its power to influence.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  29. Minati says:

    I totally disagree with you Avatar is the best movie ever!
    You also talk way to much!
    P.S. horrible website for kids!!!!!!!!!

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  30. Andy says:

    Gee Minati I hope you feel better now that you’ve got all that off your chest.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  31. Ric says:

    I just want to say that this should not be a place for you to take your anger out on someone else if you have constructive criticism then share that. does it make you feel better to put someone else down when we all should be helping one another and supporting your neighbors passion, I’m sure many of us would expect the same treatment in return. I do think that whatever is written should be ‘proof read’ by at least two people with proper experience, most of you read it anyway.

    Take your minds out of the gutter.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  32. Charly says:

    Spelling and grammar, yes, these are important anywhere, also in the comments section if you wish your contribution to be taken seriously. As for the review, I agree with Tobina: everything about Pandora is sublime. And yes, the story-line contains a number of interesting subplots that weren’t explored/exploited, and oh yes, the battle at the end is run-of-the-mill average. I don’t agree with her that the film will make people think about forests differently; they’ve moved on to the next bit of fantasticness by now (unless of course they’re stuck here, taking fun pot shots at reviewers and at one another).

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  33. Anonymous says:

    He is Canadian dickweed

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  34. robin williams says:

    you guys who have time to waste writing snarky posts should just sign up for Huffington Post or 2OceansVibe..cos you not doing #Mahala any favours….@BowsMackenzie

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  35. robin williams says:

    Mrs Doubtfire/Good Will Hunting …erm What does “He is a Canadian dickweed mean?”
    CLEARLY you have never travelled…..#KHWILLIAMS #RIP

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  36. Tobina says:

    I laugh now at all the expert critics of my film review. As a digital content editor I do warn my publishing , writing, offspring that things like Likes on Facebook are still the cause of very creative and sensitive individuals hanging themselves. Mahala is a great initiative and Andy Davies has created something that ‘stands out’ …is an ongoing endeavour against mediocrity. However everyone who posts comments and dissing ones without any film review indexed sources as a back up (a reading of Pauline Kael film reviews and references, for example) could do with a little self-irony (the thing most lacking in South African society) and less pseudo intellectual tossers.
    Andy I think you should have an online editor. This last comment against KHWilliams is abhorrent.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  37. CurtisHamS says:


    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  38. CurtisHamS says:


    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0