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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar

James Cameron is Hollywood's best special-effects-sentimental geek. From Aliens to Titanic, he's been covering new grounds in getting technology to further his stories featuring maudlin plots and clichéd outcomes but look very good on the screen. Avatar is in line with the era in terms of technology but sinks to new depths in a narration that's a juvenile bash against US foreign policies, corporatism and an anti-green lifestyle. Should someone should tell him that the pure-profit motif he decries in corporate America is responsible for all the technology that made the visuals of this movie so spectacular and the capitalism-believing studio executives funded his $300M project and chain theaters will make him millions as it has before? Well, who am I kidding here?
Here's a brief outline of the story: 2154. Earth is desperately looking for energy resources. A distant space body called Pandora has this rich mineral, funnily titled, unobtanium. Corporations and military send a force to study the natives of Pandora, negotiate a displacement to mine the mineral under their, wait for this, sacred tree. If negotiation doesn't work military might will have to be sought. (Why only the U.S military if the whole of Earth needs energy resources? China already bats towards imperialism. I would have appreciated Cameron if there had been a racial/geographical medley instead of just American soldiers. We see an Asian scientist, but he finally turns out to be a good guy).
I'm not a fan of good vs evil stories painted in broad strokes. You can make a movie appealing to anti-war and go-green activists, but this one is thematically immature to have a meaningful conversation about them when stepping out of the theater. (Ironically though, it has borrowed concepts from The Matrix, Dances with the Wolves and The Last Samurai, all of which do a decent job of getting the audience to delve into their worlds). Spielberg once said that visual effects should help the story, it cannot be the story. He also said that many give credit to Cameron for the technocrat he is but not the story-teller. I agree with the 1st sentence, not the 2nd one.
But go see it in 3-D for the visual orgasms it has to offer. This I like very much about Cameron - being able to realize the surreal imagery in his mind onto the screen. The world of Pandora is spectacularly vibrant, colorful and interesting. The middle segment is spacious and sets up the bond between the hero (a bio-engineered part human part native) and heroine. Cameron's not Michael Bay to throw up an action sequence once every 20 minutes. When there are no fights, there are adventures. We see new things along with the hero. This is a sample entrée in the banquet for my fantasy taste buds: the hero climbing up floating mountains to tame a flying dragon and claim one is a rite of passage in getting accepted into their community.

2 comments:

ohmsdeeps said...

Prasad,
Good one. And you are utterly true about the irony that only this corporate America could afford such an engrossingly expensive movie.

My view.

1.Painstakingly minute details will take more than one time view to appreciate.
2.The stunning visuals are undoubtedly the best ever produced in the screen.
3.The Pandora world, Na'vi people and the landscape with waterfalls in the hanging hills are
just not the CG work but an entire team of ingenious innovations and unbelievable wild imagination.
Honestly, When I watched the Titanic few years back, my brain could not stop revising the clips from
the classic Poseidon Adventure.
But AVATAR , I just could not think of any other Movie with such a high level of presentation and technical precision..

As you mentioned , there are flaws in the movie which I would say is rather minor or could be overlooked.
As far as the story is concerned, even I am not that convinced . But I think the good evil battle with a soft love story has always
been the cinema miracle. I wonder whether Cameroon intentionally coupled the classic with the next generation technology.

We missed it in 3D. Planning for it next week.

Prasad Venkataramana said...

Ohm,
I think it's a matter of taste. As much as I enjoy the technology, without a good story everything else sounds, looks and feels hollow. You cannot discount story and characterizations as 'minor and overlook-able'. Having said that the visuals really pulled me quite a distance in 'enjoying' this movie which doesn't stand the least bit of scientific scrutiny and preaches peace in a childish language. Heck, even Wall-E (another darling of critics) did a better job of bashing corporate consumerism and importance of hugging trees.