Last night I watched James Cameron's Avatar for the first time. Yes, I know. Talk about otherworldly powers of procrastination! I managed to put that one off for even longer than I'd dared imagine. My friend Daniel had to re-watch it for a piece of writing he's doing about the film, and knew he could count on me to be glass-half-empty and grumpy about it. Little did he know I hadn't seen the film before, so it wasn't remnant or vestigial but First Encounter grumpiness! The Real McCoy!
We watched it, and I have to say it: I was bored. It was yaaawny. Boooring. Sure, there were pretty scenes and cool special effects, but the film itself was snooze-inducing. Yaaaaaaawn, stretch, yaawn. I nearly died when the DVD stopped at one point and a helpful note came up to invite us to watch the rest on the second DVD. The second DVD!? This was cruel and unual punishment!
Oh, but it wasn't. It was cruel, yes, but not unusual. Not unusual at all. Actually one of the main sources of boooooredom was that this wasn't unusual in the slightest. Other people have already written many deep and clever and witty things about the horrendousness of Avatar, paying special attention to its not-even-veiled imperial structures (human vs 'indigenous', 'aboriginal,' 'savage'; a white man 'going native' and falling in love with a local woman; militaristic technology vs spiritual eco-connection; yadda yadda)... so I won't even bother to go there. This, to be honest, is why I hadn't ever watched the film: I never found the hours (hours!) of my life or and dollars in the bank that I wanted to kill off by seeing a movie that I already knew was going to make me grumpy.
Enter: Daniel and his DVD and a quiet night with tasks to avoid. The scene was set.
So, what's this got to do with butter chicken?
Well, Daniel and I ate delish Indian food before watching the movie, and when I woke up this morning I walked to the fridge and pulled out one of my favourite leftover meals in the world: leftover curry and rice, heated in the microwave. YUM. As I ate my bizarre but scrumptious breakfast snack, I allowed myself to fixate for a little while about just how much I love leftover butter chicken. It's second only to leftover chicken tikka masala. Yum. So there I sat, enjoying my food and thinking about leftovers. Leftovers. Leftovers. Avatar, Leftovers. Mmmm... I started to think about how Avatar had mobilised the cliche of the imperial story (which rendered the entire movie a total waste of time, narratively speaking, which meant the flash effects had to do a job that was ulimtately beyond them - keep someone's attention for hours on end - because from the very first moment when Jake opened his eyes he was destined to open them in the final scene as 'an indigenous' - yeah, don't even get me started on the grammar!)... and I started to think about how reusing an old story isn't itself the kiss of death for a film; many films rework old storylines much like the reheating of butter chicken. It's richer for having tasted it before, and it's a treat one gets to enjoy beyond the first intended experience. Yum!
But no, Avatar is not reheated rice and butter chicken. It's more like leftover rice when it has spent the night in the fridge and hasn't got any sauce: bland, dry, and - it's true - painful.