Friday, 21 May 2010

Avatar: Micro Review

Inbetween polishing off a review of another James Cameron license, Aliens V.S Predator (2010), and dissolving the bodies of my homeless victims in a vat of sulphuric acid I have decided to write down my thoughts on Avatar, since recently many have eagerly asked what these thoughts are – this must be how those in religious authority feel. Personally I found the experience to be ambitious but a letdown which is probably how Michael Bay’s wife feels every night. Not angry enough for you? Fine I’ll bite…

So Avatar, a film concerning Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic former Marine who decides to betray his entire indigenous race because of his love for a bipedal azure feline - Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), or as the film tries to convince us a member of an alien race called Na’vi. This may be a testament to the whole love conquers all fortune cookie business but it makes me worry for the pets in Mr Cameron’s house. The story is simply yet another take on the whole Pocahontas scenario so realistically the promotional posters instead of reading ‘James Cameron’s Avatar’ should have read ‘Michael Blake and James Cameron present’ because Avatar is essentially Dances with Wolves if the hue was cyclically shifted to 240.

However all the lovers have tried to silence haters such as myself by describing the film as a visual extravaganza, worth watching for the groundbreaking effects alone. And yes it is extremely pretty and Cameron has indeed managed to create an immersive world, but all it does is serve to distract the viewer using its beauty from the fact that it hasn’t actually achieved anything other than mediocrity; a technique that Megan Fox has perfected. The 3D has amazing level of scope, which shows the geography has been intricately planned to maximise the draw-in, and even if you didn’t get a chance to see it in all it’s glory at cinemas it is still worth watching on blue-ray; though when the Na’vi are stood side by side with the non-CGI human characters you get a slight Roger Rabbit effect. And even if your are forced to slum it and watch the film on a standard DVD player at least it will be considerably better any of the Na’vi based porn that is bound to be lurking around on the internet like a nerd outside of Skywalker ranch attempting to get his screen-play published.

It seems that when Cameron wasn’t busy finding novelists to plagiarise, he was stealing ideas from the ultimate think-tank…nature. Every living creature on Pandora is a compound of existing Earth bound creatures, Q.E.D Humans and Cats to create the Na’vi or the Hammerhead Titanothere - a combination of both Rhinos and Hammerhead sharks. So did he think of any original ideas? Judging by this quote “When you see something that reflects your id, it works for you.... Right from the beginning I said, 'She’s got to have tits,' even though that makes no sense because her race, the Na’vi, aren’t placental mammals.” I would say he has one over on nature.

I know I’ve touched upon the story already, but I want to dust it up some more. Following are a list of points I raised during the film:

• The colonisation of Pandora is based around obtaining the ridiculously named valuable mineral ‘Unobtainium’. How did the RDA Corporation gain permission to go raid a naturally rich moon of its resources? And more importantly since the entire expedition is financially motivated the sheer amount of resources and money that would have to be injected into the project just to get it off the ground, let alone maintain a colony for years, would probably mean it would hardly be worth the effort. After all I am sure the old moniker “you have to spend money to make money” doesn’t apply to raping a healthy alien world.

• Must the juvenile fantasy that anyone can instantly become the most awesome member of a society or clique that they aren’t a member of by merely flexing their muscles continue? Because as Offspring’s ‘Pretty Fly For a White Guy’ proved all the baggy trousers and undecipherable tattoos in the world won’t change the fact that you’re always going to be the middle management type.

• Why do military personal and executives never listen to scientists? It’s not just a problem limited to Avatar but the science-fiction in general. In any narrative were the military or a corporation are dealing with an unprecedented situation, whether it be discovering uncharted territory or a breakthrough of some nature, they understandably employ a team of scientists to help them make sense of everything. However after they somehow manage to create a thesis despite dealing with overwhelming pressure and unknown variables, the big bad wolves will inevitably scoff at this declaring they know better than the highly educated geniuses. What possible qualifications does Colonel Miles Quaritch have to discuss Ecological matters other than the fact he has access to serious firepower. How different would our modern scientific understanding be if Richard Taylor (SLAC), Henry Kendall (MIT) and Jerome Friedman (MIT) had been shoe-horned out of the picture by Dirty Harry?

• And bows, arrows and guerrilla tactics trumping over technology that would make even Iron Man flee for the Victorian age? I appreciate the sentiment Cameron, after all the theme is spirituality rising above dirty capitalism, but I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a cinema feeling as though I had just paid to have bullshit shovelled down my throat until this film. Even revealing the titanic to be a transformer that morphs into its true form and carries the survivors to safety would have been less of a cheat. And to continue this donnybrook, did Cameron ever plan on adding an iota of tension to the film? There are brief moments during the skirmish scenes that could be misconstrued as tension, but because the characters are generally undeveloped (due to focusing on Jake's development as a person through his falling in love with Pandora and Neytiri) or played by Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez, and therefore unlikeable. From start to finish the whole experience is as taxing on the nervous system as the My Little Pony series.

The acting is perfectly adequate and so it should be, you could have the best designed fictional universe in all of entertainment history but it counts for nought if the actors’ acting abilities are below haemorrhoid cream commercial levels. And they do a commendable job when you consider that the script was probably written on toilet roll to compliment its nature…I’m tenuously stating that it is shit. At roughly 162 minutes the film is a good length, especially as we are given plenty of time to breathe in the beautifully designed environment. I do feel however that the last act that was pushing 1hr should have been 30minutes at the very most, because while the battle between the species provides a nice change of pace and appeals to my gung-ho sense of conflict resolution, it is mercilessly drawn out to the point of frustrating agony like being forced to watch Tom Sizemore’s home video collection.

In conclusion Avatar is narratively and thematically an average film at best, with its only saving throw the groundbreaking special effects that can’t even be fully appreciated at home with current technology. However it is a film that you must see before you die, which in our cruel modern world could well be right after this very sentence. The majority of critics seem to take this stance that the plot is a critique on America’s imperialism, militarism and abuse of capitalism as well as highlighting the fight to save our natural environment. And while I’ll argue that these elements are clearly there, especially pantheism, I think what we need to remember is that he simply wanted to make a film about a race of felis catus which gain dominance over lesser creatures by forcibly inserting their tendrils into it. A lesson we can all aspire to.