Friday, 26 November 2010


Avatar is a film directed by James Cameron about a paraplegic marine named Jake Sully who, after his brother's murder is invited to take his place on the Avatar programme. This programme is based on the planet of Pandora where the humans there aim to harvest a rare and expensive item called unobtanium. The only problem is the home of the main tribe of Pandora is right on top and the company involved would prefer to find a way of moving them in negotiating terms. This is where Jake comes into play as the Colonel asks him to report back to him on his findings when Jake is invited by the Na'vi tribe to learn from them in return for Jake to receive new legs. Jake begins to learn from the Na'vi but becomes attached to Neytiri. The Colonel becomes agitated and from Jake's infiltration realises the tribe will not move with negotiations and sends in a strike to force them out. Jake has to choose his race over the lives of the Na'vi and stop the crimes against them.

Pandora is an incredible world created by Cameron, full of life and very extravagant. The use of CG is incredible and nothing within the film looks out of place, it all seems so realistic and so integrated it is like the audience is transported to Pandora. Unlike many other films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy the environments have been created by CG so it is something completely new and Cameron's sole envisioning but it never seems artificial. 'By contrast, Pandora is a whole new world of breathtaking beauty, exploding with wild new life forms that give soar, spark, prowl, pounce, gallop, and graze. Borrowing heavily, and brilliantly, from what he’s seen in deep-sea exploration, Cameron has built the most enchanting magic kingdom since Dorothy first stepped into Technicolor Oz. The first hour feels like something Terrence Malick might film in a rain forest in a galaxy far, far away.' (

The problem however with Avatar seems to be that it casts out story for these CG effects. The acting is pretty average and story is so familiar (Pocahontas in space?) which is the reason why this film isn't the unique film that a lot of the critics believe it to be. 'Cameron’s screenwriting weaknesses are in dire evidence in Avatar. He peppers his story with ludicrous terms like the aforementioned Unobtainium and then oversimplifies the love affair and the social and military tensions in the film. The story isn’t terribly original, nor is it particularly well crafted, but if there is one benefit that comes out of a film as successful as this, it’s that if the diluted concept affects any of its audience and causes a shift in tone, then the film as a whole could be considered a success.' ( Therefore it seems that the triumph of Avatar is the use of special effects drawing the consumer in with a story tacked on.

The problem is that are we becoming fixated with the use of special effects to beef up the look of movies in exchange for a tacked on, generic storyline? Philip martin believes the film exploits our infant like characteristics: 'The chief importance of Avatar is that it’s yet another signifier of the infantilization of our culture. We shout and bray at each other, and consider thoughtfulness a weakness. We are entertained by crudespectacles and bored by adult conversation. We are mostly children these days, petulant and rude and convinced of our own specialness.' (

Avatar is a wonderful experience, Pandora is beautiful but it comes with a warning. The story is generic and let's not hope this becomes the norm of films with them casting out narrative for shinier effects otherwise we will lose the independent side of cinema where the audience can concentrate on the acting which conveys a message.

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