Homer Numan

Homer Numan

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar The Movie

Clocking in at nearly three hours, 'Avatar' has one heck of a running time and is one heck of an experience. But is it a good one?

The initial impression for me is that 'Avatar' is a huge magpie borrowing ideas from numerous other films -- the space futurism of Star Wars, the human driven warrior robots of Alien, the good vs evil battle of Narnia, the going native notion of Last Of The Mohicans. And as such, whilst it's pilfering may show taste, it nonetheless also shows a rather depressing lack of imagination on the part of writer & director James Cameron.

'Avatar' is set on another planet in the year 2154, but apparently this 'alien world' is little more than a distortion of the amazon rain forest inhabited by a noble race of blue skinned bipeds at one with their environment. Such human basics as tribalism, the need for food, sleep, mating and even tribal initiation are alive and well. I find it highly unimaginative and vaguely depressing that so much science fiction visualises alien life as merely people with flat noses. For me 'Alien' is one of the few mainstream movie franchises to envisage a creature at least plausibly different from humanity. Existing purely as a lethal, highly intelligent parasite, the alien is both terrifying and utterly inhuman. Whereas the 'aliens' depicted in Avatar are merely blue coloured jungle dwellers.

The first half of the film is highly predictable -- 'marine guy sent in as a spy goes native' sums it up pretty well. By midpoint I was settling for a 4 out of 10.

But then things picked up. Not because of any great leap in narrative, rather due to a phenomenal leap in special effects. For me the first 'Narnia' film was deathly dull up until the awesome White Queen battle sequence towards the end. And so it is for 'Avatar' -- only much much more.

The pitting of the noble jungle dwellers armed with bows & arrows against the awesome might of US gunships 22nd century style is a battle that should have lasted ten seconds. Instead we see incredible acts of heroism, of jungle creatures sacrificing themselves for the land they love, of weapons being turned on their users. We have a tremendous bad guy in the form of a middle-aged general who simply refuses to give up and who actually managed a spontaneous round of applause on his eventual demise.

Cameron throws in some clumsy messages about the power of nature conquering the greed of humanity and even features the line 'let's fight terror with terror', but ultimately this is a big budget small brained sci-fi action flick and purely on that level it works a treat.

Being a 12A certificate probably hobbled 'Avatar' somewhat. The gore quotient was necessarily low and the ending fairly predictable, but in pure CGI terms (we saw the 3D version), 'Avatar' is a stunning piece of cinema and one of the best films I've seen this year (and believe me I've seen a lot).

Now if a future director can marry these incredible effects to a truly imaginative concept, we may yet see one of the best films ever made. (8 out of 10).

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