Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Unit 2: Space - Review - James Cameron's Avatar (2009)

Figure 1. Avatar Poster Art

An apathetic look at tribes and religious deities contrasted with the sinful corporate greed of the metropolis that is the west. In contrast James Cameron releases his masterpiece “Avatar” on the dawn of new visual technology, to immerse his audience into every onscreen action & breathtaking landscape. But strictly speaking if Avatar was stripped down to its nuts and bolts all you would have is a typical Knights tale in which he slays a dragon and saves the princess.

•Directed by: James Cameron
•Written by: James Cameron
•Cast: Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver as Grace, Stephen Lang as Colonel Miles Quaritch, Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon & Giovanni Ribisi as Parker Selfridge.
•Genre: Action, Adventure, Mystery, Suspense, Science Fiction & Fantasy
•Duration: 162 Minutes (aprox)

Figure 2. "Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn't do”

To say that Avatar is anything but visually evocative is an understatement. Each element of every single 3D rendered frame has movement and is in most cases using an extraordinary colour palette so appeasing to the eye that it makes one reach out to grab it from their 3D home theatre. Avatar visually achieves reality and in some cases surpasses it from the pinks and greens of Pandora’s overgrown rural haven to the subtle tranquilities of Pandora’s Hallelujah Mountains. However, at its heart it is no different than the common hero saves the world epitome albeit with some rather impressive 3D polish as Reviewer James Bowman observes:

“It just goes a little further down the same road by putting everything into 3D, so presumably to emphasize the likeness to conventional reality of a film in which almost everything else is deliberately and quite spectacularly unlike conventional reality.” (Bowman: 2010)
Avatar sets a great standard for high definition 3D movies (which have up to now not moved much in terms of quality). One could consider Cameron’s unadorned patience so that the pioneering Avatar could be released on new revolutionary 3D technology, which up and till Avatar hadn’t been seen unless you count 4D rides such as “Honey I Blew Up the Kids” or “Shrek 4D”. One could not help but notice Cameron’s onscreen prescience of Technology (far beyond 3D technology) within Avatar, complete with Holographic displays and adaptive glass pane tablets (Minority Report anyone?).

Figure 3. "Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream”

It is rather obvious that Cameron was trying to deliver a groundbreaking narrative but in comparison to the visual elements it falls a little short, preaching rather obvious colonial rights and wrongs to its viewers. The story still mixes rather well to consider that the West is a capitalizing corporate menace which has time and time again caused global conflict as Reviewer John Morehead observes:

“The story was better than I had hoped, and although the film does critique the West’s unfortunate history of colonialism, the abuse of indigenous peoples, and the plundering of natural resources, for those not overly sensitive to much of the contemporary angst and self-loathing that is expressed in Western self-critique in popular culture, it does not hit the viewer over the head and fits within the current cultural zeitgeist as the West reassess its historic past in interactions with those of other cultures.” (Morehead: 2009)
To consider that we as people developed slowly over time progressing further and further is to say that at one point we were an indigenous culture. Now, how can one not say that if one of these tribes had the history that our culture had that they wouldn’t be the same supreme common wealth corporate machine and that we ourselves would not loath their supreme culture. One could consider that we had options that these indigenous cultures did not, but then if the shoe was on the other foot would they not use their corporate power to protect their culture, to dominate if they could.

Figure 4. "Well, well, well. I'd say diplomacy has failed”

Reiterating back to my previous point one cannot help but feel as though Avatars western corporate greed was aimed at private contractors - sole beneficiaries as opposed to respectable nations. This is expressed rather clearly in Avatar as the “ex”-marine army (mercenaries) now walk about free of noble intentions with nothing but a paycheck as their reward. One cannot help but attribute the soldier’s professionalism to their unsympathetic audience as Kevin Mahoney observes:

“In the actual film, the humans that the Na’vi fight all look like soldiers rather than ordinary colonists, so their deaths are much more palatable, since they’re professionals who very much knew what they were signing up for.” (Mahoney, 2010: 80)
In contrast the Na’vi sport no industrial force armour and have weaker weapons at their disposal as opposed to the Marines assault rifles and mechanical arms. The Na’vi’s armour only consists of war paint which can at best allow them to merge into their surroundings. The Na’vi’s attire is neutral and simplistic, even their facial features exhibit a sympathetic appetite. One could consider that if the marines were in fact colonists the film could be considered a horror with daunting outdoor wildlife.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Avatar Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At: http://imgs.abduzeedo.com/files/articles/Avatar/4154691441_90a5eb36f0_o.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 2. Maybe I was sick of doctors telling me what I couldn't do (com) [Online image]. At: http://s3.media.squarespace.com/production/465215/5307116/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Worthington-Wheelchair-Avatar.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 3. Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream
(com) [Online image]. At: http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100618194547/jamescameronsavatar/images/8/8a/Jake_Sully's_Last_Video_Log.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)

Figure 4. Well, well, well. I'd say diplomacy has failed (com) [Online image]. At:
http://i.cdn.hbo.com/assets/images/movies/avatar/avatar-1024.jpg (Accessed on:15/11/11)



Bowman, James. (2010) Avatar and the Flight from Reality At: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/avatar-and-the-flight-from-reality
(Accessed on: 15/11/11)

Morehead, John. (2009) AVATAR: Probing Beyond Visuals to Culture and Identity At:
(Accessed on: 15/11/11)

Kevin, Mahoney. (2010) the Ultimate Fan's Guide to Avatar, James Cameron's Epic Movie. 1st Edition, Manufactured in the London

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