Movie Seen! Is Avatar the new face of cinema?
So I went to watch Avatar, the highly anticipated movie by James Cameron this past weekend. This is a film James Cameron has worked on for 14 years, well not literally, but he has had the dream in place for that period of time. He was unable to realize that dream until now because the technology simply wasn’t in place to fulfill it. He was so determined that he travelled to Sony in Japan to request them to develop (or invent) the technology capable of realizing Avatar on screen. He also worked with WETA Digital, the same production company responsible for the CGI in Lord of the Rings. For more on this check out my previous post “I Wish Kenya Had IMAX.”
Avatar is set in the year 2154, and is about a paraplegic ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) who embarks is brought to the planet Pandora to embark on research. He is chosen to replace his dead twin brother because of their DNA match, and is thus able to inhabit the Na'vi body his twin used to navigate. At the same time the military wants to mine Unobtanium a highly precious mineral from the planet and to do this they have to get the native Na'vi out of the way. This creates a conflict between them and the Na'vi, and Jake Sully has to choose between the Na'vi and the military demands that he persuades the natives to get out.
So let’s get to the big question; did Avatar live up to the hype or not? Well, I’ve learned not to get caught up in such hype because it raises the stakes to mostly unattainable levels. I’ve discovered that when you temper down the hype and just go there to enjoy the film you enjoy it much more. If there is anything spectacular, well then that’s just an added bonus. The hype surrounding Avatar has made it sort of the Detox of movies (i.e. it’s way too much.)
With that said, the story is really quite good and involving. One thing I have to give James Cameron credit for is that his movie has hit all the right buttons at the right time. It was like perfect timing that Avatar was released in the middle of the Copenhagen Climate Conference. The world of Pandora is simply beautiful to look at with lush vegetation and wildlife which is in danger of being destroyed. Don’t be surprised to see Avatar winning awards because of its environmental message; the movie is like one long environmental ad that ends up being more effective than the many you see on CNN and other channels.
The acting in the movie is good, with Sigourney Weaver(Aliens) playing Dr.Grace Augustine, a lead researcher and Michelle Rodriguez playing marine pilot Trudy Chacon. Miles Quatrich is a genuinely menacing as hoorah-jarhead type Colonel played Stephen Lang. As for the aliens O.K let me just get this out of the way, the female Na'avi Neytiri (Zoe Saldana)is the hottest film alien ever! Yaani if I was a Na'vi, I would so date this alie-chick, she is just so strong and so graceful. The Na'vi and other creatures in the film are very well animated; it is very fluid and unnoticeable. The love story between Jake Sully and Neytiri is probably the best CGI love Ive seen yet.If James Cameron was trying to achieve lifelike creatures that were indistinguishable from real people, he has very nearly achieved it here. There are some very beautiful creatures in the film (my fav are the spinning luminous ones). The scenes where the Na'vi are interacting with the other creatures are unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The graphics of the film are definitely a step-forward. Check out the computer generated foliage and how it is blown by helicopter blades during landing; very well done! The water effects are dazzling too with waves splashing onto the rocks very realistically. But not only that, the sand and soil effects are minutely accurate; and this is an area where James Cameron has outdone any previous efforts. The way in which the movie can go from an epic scale with mountains and rain forests, to the tiniest detail of a foot in soil or sparks from a burning forest is really spectacular. You can tell a whole lot of work, time (and money) went into the creation of this world, and the results impress.
As for the message I got from the film, for one I couldn’t help wondering if earth once looked similar to that and what humans have done to story it in their pursuit of development. Avatar has made me question the idealized notion of industrialization; why does development have to involve destroying everything in your path? Why do humans have to live in concrete environments devoid of most animal and plant life, couldn’t humans adapt to the environment around them and live in harmony with it. Is it necessary to clear a forest to create our habitats? The anti-war message was also a very prominent theme, with unmistakable similarities to Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S military (whether intentional on Cameron’s part or not) ends up looking really bad in this film, something we rarely see in Hollywood. As the marines arrive on the base, the Colonel tells them that they will have to "fight terror with terror" and carry out "pre-emptive strikes," obvious George W.Bush references.The American corporations want to make their money and the U.S military is how they are going to do it, the native populations lives be damned. I think voices like Cameron’s could hopefully wake up more Americans to the destructive policies their elite have wrecked on the world. James Cameron however can’t help in promoting more "American-as-the-hero" notions with his protagonist, something unfortunate we also saw in The Last Samurai.
Avatar is a good movie which will probably get repeated viewings just too see that beautiful world again, and the action sequences are also well executed. For all its coolness, Avatar fails to top Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy which has become the Star Wars of its generation. With Avatar however James Cameron has managed to demonstrate that film still has new places it can go and it hasn’t hit a ceiling. With some of us who were becoming bored of not seeing anything groundbreaking in film, Avatar has given us hope. And if that’s James Cameron’s only accomplishment with this film, I say mission accomplished!
::KC Blog Rating:: 5 out of 5 Stars
"Sure to become a classic if only for the bar it has raised for CGI films. The messages against environmental destruction and U.S aggression are very relevant."