NOTE: Like most things I write, I’m not very happy with this; but, the ideas I’m presenting, I believe, have some substance to them. I’d love to go off specifically about each one, but, alas, there are not enough hours in the day. And, although I am basically reviewing the film, this piece is more of a string of thoughts about the film in which I’m not necessarily judging it per se. with that in mind, read on.
Watching James Cameron’s Avatar, one starts to understand how its main character, Jake Sully, must feel when splitting himself in two. Just as Mr. Cameron has his protagonist jacking into a new world, a place he could never experience to the fullest without this link, he has audiences plugging into their own separate reality: a new type of cinematic experience.
A film made strictly as a catalyst for the 3D movement, Avatar was destined to be either the messiah of a new wave or the biggest Nelson-style “haha” to the technophiles of the film industry of all time. Now nearly a month after its release, Cameron’s Avatar has grossed more than $1.3 billlion worldwide, making it the second highest grossing film of all time. Sorry Nelson.
Starring Sam Worthington as a soldier assigned to an experimental task force on the planet of Pandora, the film gives a new take on a played story, especially when its applied to the meaning the film has in regards to the future of the industry.
In order to avoid a conflict between the native Na’ vi and the human colonists, Jake is assigned to gain the trust of the Na’vi and convince them to abandon their homeland. In order to do that, Jake is mentally linked with a Na’vi stand-in, his “avatar.” If The Matrix and Pocahontas met at a bar one night and ended up going home with James Cameron and his endless supply of money, this is what would ensue.
The first 30 minutes of the film are barely B-grade material. It’s obvious Cameron’s sense of action is much keener than that of exposition. It is all too clear when we are being spoon fed back story and at some points Cameron underestimates his audiences’ sense of technology. Yes, the future will have touch-screens, big woop.
But once the story catches up to itself and breaks off into the wilderness of Pandora, the film hits its stride. The strange, new planet is marvelous and creative, a place that viewers will crave more of even after the film ends.
Cameron does a spectacular job diverting our attention away from the primary set-up and truly immersing us in Jake’s experience. This tactic is effective when things take a turn for the worse in the second half of the film, when suddenly the place that we have become to know (or, rather, the place that Jake has become to know) is threatened with destruction.
The most awe-inspiring thing about Avatar, however, is not what happens on screen, but what happens outside it. Mr. Cameron has created for us our own avatar program, where we can divide ourselves between physical and mental, tapping our minds into an imaginative new realm, leaving our bodies emptied shoulder-to-shoulder in our local Cineplex.
Granted, this does not infer that every experience is destined to be a great one, that the fundamentals of filmmaking will fall to the wayside once this new fundamental takes hold. In order to complete a puzzle, one must consider all the pieces at hand; it’s only that Cameron has created another piece.
Cameron’s use of the technology as an intrinsic and essential element of his film is what gives the start to the new era of film history such promise. To strip Avatar of its three-dimensions or its high-end computer generated imagery would be to erase the film (quite literally), akin to stripping The Descent of its color or Moulin Rouge! of its song: however watchable, they would not be the same films.
Like it is Jake’s destiny to unite the separate worlds of his two selves, Cameron’s film aims to link the two worlds of film, one rooted in traditional and the other an emerging, mechanized powerhouse. An avatar acting on behalf of this new technologically inclined philosophy, the film wants to convince us that the two worlds do not have to live in disharmony, that tradition and technology can become one. While Avatar nearly suffocates the old in representing the new, the merger is successful.
Avatar is something great. Its ingenuity and success is undeniable, agreed upon by all who see it, and even its flaws, in a way, give it depth, providing us with more to talk about, to discuss, to hypothesize on. At being the topic of conversation Avatar is unrivaled, and aside from a few poor cinematographic choices and a narration that is 95 percent unnecessary, I believe it has the legs to stay that way, provided that popular technology can catch up to it any time soon.
For an out-of-body experience like Avatar, $10.50 is a steal. See this movie.