Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Avatar is Extraordinary
I saw Avatar yesterday afternoon with some family and friends at the local theatre. This film resonates for me in several ways and echoes the glowing reviews I have read.
- The story: Yes, this is a rich multi-layered story. Set in 2154, the U.S. is involved in a mining mission of a rare, precious mineral on the beautiful planet, Pandora. The armed forces are there with gung-ho marines, pilot armoured hover ships, and a napalm loving commander direct out of Apocalypse Now. Pitted against brute forces of economic and military might are the Na'vi, a blue-skinned, golden race who are deeply in tune with the rich environment around them.
- The main characters: The hero Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic who has been recruited because he's a genetic match for a dead identical twin. In an avatar state he can engage with the Na'vi people to try to understand their culture and ultimately try to persuade them to leave their homeland. He meets the beautiful Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of one of the Na'vi tribes, and she patiently teaches him their valuable, sensitive ways.
- The emotional appeal: This film is so much more than simply, action and adventure. Throughout the film one is touched by the nuance of character, the multi-textured setting, the opposing mindsets that the ultimate confrontation in the climax deeply matters.
- The special effects: Much has been written about the huge expense of the film and John Cameron's economic and intellectual investment as writer and director. He has also utilized the next level of 3D technology convincingly which has transformed movie viewing. (As a side note, I saw the film without the digital 3D projection. Talking with the small town theatre owner he said the investment for the projector in his theatre of over $100,000 was a prohibitive cost.)
- The allegory: The film touches upon perennial themes including the devastation of aboriginal peoples and their culture, the insensitivity of global superpowers, and the threats facing pristine nature.
Roger Ebert writes, "Watching Avatar I felt sort of the same as when I saw Star Wars in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his Titanic was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film..."