Director: James Cameron
Cast include: Zoë Saldana, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore
2hr 42min – Rated 12A – Action/Adventure/Fantasy
Answering the obvious question first; yes, I did wear the 3D spectacles and yes I did peak over them from time to time to see what difference they make. Having not seen the 2D version it is hard to compare and assert whether it is worth investing the extra cash in a 3D experience but I will say that sometimes it did enhance the spectacle visually and others its impact was less obvious.
Avatar has been receiving rave reviews and plaudits with some justification. I wouldn’t call the plot original or ground-breaking; you have your evil corporation motivated solely by profit (RDA) your peace-loving, nature worshipping natives (Na’vi) and in the mix the pure-hearted but a little rough diamond military types, scientists and the clunking-fist, vaguely fascistic military types.
In the absence of original narrative the movie is heavily reliant on powerful characterisation and stunning visuals; both of which it achieves with a reasonable degree of success. Sam Worthington does well as Jake Sully though some of the dilemmas faced by his character are never fully explored (like, for example, how he is empowered once his disability vanishes not by positively overcoming it) but nonetheless its a creditable performance and his insistence he is ‘from the Jarhead clan’ is worth a little laugh.
Of course, for every ‘rough diamond’ there must be the other side of military power and that is present in Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang). Quaritch’s insistence that you should ‘fight terror with terror’ and the negative portrayal of organised military power in general (as opposed to heroic individuals) shows how cultural discourse is increasingly angled against the whole ideological construct of the ‘war on terror’. Often this is said to be criticism of the war in Iraq but it see ms odd to me that you can critique one but arbitrarily not another.
Science meanwhile gets off relatively lightly as a neutral; quasi-benign investigative force. The dis-juncture between the scientists appreciation of Pandora and the Na’vi’s wholly different one is again something that is never really discussed at great length; basically they are presented as being so in sympathy that they are natural allies.
Cameron has said that he viewed the Na’vi thus
“the Na’vi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, what we would like to think we are”
It is an interesting comment in itself that in Cameron’s eyes our idealised vision of ourselves harks way-back to a pre-Enlightenment closeness with nature which is established on a level that is spiritual and therefore much more than an observational respect. In 2012 science and technology was presented as the salvation of humanity whereas Cameron’s view is clearly different.
At the very least he sees the solution is being through an active engagement and appreciation based on more than a desire to control and survive. It will be interesting to see how much this discourse shapes environmental politics and policies in the years to come…