4. Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Laz Alonso, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore
On its way to breaking every box office record in existence, James Cameron’s massive Avatar was met with endless praise for its technical achievements, which we’re not about to argue against. Visually, it’s undeniably breathtaking, employing new, state-of-the-art effects and justifying the usage of 3D better than any movie before or after. It’s not easy to have audience members sit in a theater for nearly three hours with uncomfortable plastic glasses on their heads and keep them entertained from start to finish—we get that.
But what’s not given enough lip service is Cameron’s paper-thin script, his unimaginative mash-up of Ferngully and Dances With Wolves. The central thesis of Avatar is simple: the white man (Sam Worthington) must save an indigenous tribe of foreigners (here, the very foreign alien race known as the Na’vi) from evil bastards hell-bent on destroying the natives’ land for financial gain. Cameron’s tired message of “whitey saves all” is masked by Avatar’s science fiction coating and CGI wizardry, but anyone with half a brain, or at least a slight grasp on racial issues, should be able to see right through the façade.