Thursday, 14 January 2010

Cinema: Avatar - 1D in 3D?


I don't usually do event cinema. It's not that I'm a misanthrope. I like people, I just don't like to be among them watching a movie. Maybe it's why I prefer obscure foreign language films in back street art houses at odd hours of the day. It's the nose bags of popcorn that do it, the troughs of ice cream - I just can't concentrate with all that scoffing going on in my peripheral vision.

Avatar is a foreign language film. Much of its dialogue is in Na'vi - the tongue of the ten foot blue aliens that are the heroes of a plot that turns the old cowboy flick on its head and gets you rooting for the Indians. It's easy on the ear and is already more developed than Klingon - your friends will be speaking it at dinner parties next week, thrashing around their long blue tails.

It is also so beautifully visually realised, some among the millions who've spent 160 minutes in its 3D world have been depressed ever since, yearning to get back. No wonder many return to reimmerse themselves in its phosphorescent deep forest setting. If you've seen 3D film before, you'll be expecting all the scenes that show off its technology - the chases and battle scenes - but this is the first time I've sat back and pleasured myself on pure visuals. In the quieter moments of the movie you suddenly realise that you feel the close confinement os space travel or a science lab, and that's before we've even entered into a foreign body on an alien world when the adventure really begins.

There are two kinds of Sci Fi fans: the freaks who read books in their own private worlds and the geeks who watch films and attend conventions in costume. As a kid I read plenty of space opera and fantasy novels, but was deprived of video or cinema, never even seeing a Star Wars film, which makes me a bedroom freak, with only a record player for company. There's not enough going on upstairs for you Philip K. Dick lovers. You might see Pandora in your dreams but your brain matterwon't be troubled too much. This is one for the Trekkies and Jedi but it's also girl-friendly enough for the geeks to take their mums to.

All surface, some feeling, what meaning? If you don't expect anything other than a join-the-dots plot then you won't be disappointed. The crippled marine who becomes the na'vi super-being is standard hero material, and after his wheelchair entry he's blessed with very long and flexible legs. There's a star-crossed lovers storyline that will be familiar enough to anyone who's watched James Cameron's Titanic, not that I have - that was released in 1997 and he's been working on this ever since, although two sequels are on the way to capitalise on the investment. This film - its spin-offs, products and sequels - will keep the industry buoyant for some years to come. And there's no point in seeing it on the small screen - its a must-see movie theatre 3D experience.

Although this could have only been made in Hollywood, it has a subtext that is riling the American and Christian right. With the USA still fighting two wars on foreign shores, it's not short of innuendo about neo-colonialism. Although the marines of the movie are mercenaries in corporate employment, their flag is no less the Stars-and-Stripes than that of the East Indies Company was the Union Jack. The human heroes, whether in their own bodies or in Na'vi incarnation, are US citizens too of course, but its those big blue tree hugging hippies that are the good guys - if they're American, they're native and pre-Colombian. And if Avatar the movie has wound up both Fox News and the Vatican, James Cameron must be doing something right. That commie bastard is probably a Canadian.

As for those bad boys in the green berets - robot suits and gunship space choppers - greed is their motive, cultural awareness not their strong suit and spiritual sensitivity entirely absent from their jar-like heads. Mean time, the alien folk are so tuned in to their environment and each other you could be in Totnes. The capitalism vs the jungle plot is reminiscent of The Emerald Forest but while in that eighties Brazilian braves versus bozos in bulldozers version the good guys could only lose, on Pandora they win and send the marines home without the hoard of precious energy-giving metal they'd come for. Damn, I've given the ending away - but then you'd guessed it already hadn't you? Let's hope in part two Uncle Sam returns to nuke the place. Or Pat Robertson curses them voodoo blue zombies with a Richter 7.3 earthquake. That'll shake them Satan suckers out of their sacred tree.

1 comment:

  1. I like neither na'vi nor klingon as the future global language. Especially when you have to dress up for it :D

    We also need a future international language. One which is easy to learn, as well !

    And that's not English! Esperanto? Certainly yes!

    Please look at