Last week, a Cuban movie critic became the last person in the world to see Avatar.
His verdict: meh.
In a review in Granma, the official daily of the Communist Party of Cuba, Rolando Pérez Betancourt pooh-poohs the money-minting, Oscar-nominated movie as a dumb action flick:
"Dramatically speaking, Avatar is predictable and lacks imagination in plot development, as is expected of many others of its ilk conceived in Hollywood."
Zing! Unmentioned in the review is how he managed to catch the 3-D spectacle. Are there state-of-the art IMAX theaters in Havana we haven't heard about? Was it a gift from James Cameron to Fidel Castro, from one trend-bucking, iconoclastic dictator to another?
One can only assume the guy saw it on a projector powered by a couple of hungry, wheel-spinning mice or through a scrambled TV signal like bad porn. Sans 3-D glasses, of course.
The cranky critic, who for the past 30 years has penned a weekly movie column called "Chronicles of a Spectator," continued his review with this little nugget:
"Though impressive in its special effects and the motion-capture technology it uses to replicate actors' gestures, Avatar is, on the other hand, very simplistic and reiterative in its argument."
Read: You guys, it's totally like Fern Gully. Of all the pans we expected — from conservatives who called it a tree-hugger's Trojan horse, for instance — this is the most surprising.
After all, here's a film that rails against the insatiable appetites of imperialist overlords and, most relevant to El Supremo, imagines an avatar machine that can keep people alive in perpetuity as blue holograms.
But Betancourt, who once told an interviewer his favorite pastime is watching Last Tango in Paris with a glass of rum in hand, was unimpressed with the tentacle Na'vi sex:
"Halfway through the film, I had the impression I was watching a story about a cowboy of confused human values who goes to live with a tribe of Apaches and then falls in love with the chief's daughter... And then I read that James Cameron was a fan of Dances With Wolves, and all was explained."
Ouch. Maybe it's just the movie hit too close to home. Lately, Fidel has become the ultimate avatar, appearing only in still photographs or the occasional TV interview.
A Spanish wire agency, EFE, reported the Cuban government pirated the three-hour epic and broadcasted it on national television.
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Reached for comment, suits at 20th Century Fox, which released the movie, were not happy with the pan or the illegal screening, which they certainly had not approved.
"We take piracy very seriously and don't condone it in any format or for any reason," said Chris Petrikin, senior vice president of communications.
Whatever. It would affect the studio's bottom line only in the tens of dollars. The executive had this parting shot: "Surprised they panned it, maybe because one of the themes focuses on the evils of militaristic societies oppressing indigenous people?"