DIR/WRI: James Cameron • PRO: James Cameron, Jon Landau • DOP: Mauro Fiore • ED: John Refoua, Stephen E. Rivkin • DES: Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg • CAST: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Sigourney Weaver
Holy hype – Avatar’s here. James Cameron’s story of the evil that imperialist military men do and rebels engaging in interspecies bonding (that old chestnut) had to wait 12 years to be made. Depending on which internet rumours are to be believed, this was because Cameron had to wait until the technology was right to make this futuristic spectacle; or because he discovered the script in a draw where it had been left years beforehand and forgotten about; or because he stole it from a time traveller from the future causing such a massive rift in the space-time continuum that we’re all doomed to obliteration in the year 2033. Whatever the case, Avatar is set to blow everything else out of the cinemas this Christmas and keep Cameron’s cellar-imprisoned, money-counting minions very, very busy.
A human base is located on the planet Pandora, populated by the Na’vi – a kind of rack-tortured collection of sexy long-smurfs. The film comes in 3 acts: the human characters are introduced; the alien natives are introduced; and the humans try to blow the living shit out of those pesky aliens who have the gall to inhabit this resource-rich land. The avatar refers to the creation of a group of scientists (headed by the always watchable Sigourney Weaver), who are trying to build a relationship with the Na’vi – the scientists have harnessed a technology that allows humans to take on the alien’s form and infiltrate their race in the hope of negotiation. Jake Sully, a soldier, is placed among these scientists in place of his deceased scientist brother so that they can continue to use his avatar. Sully is a paraplegic who through his avatar finds legs and love. With the power of these, he leads his adopted race into battle against his birth race. Hooray.
The plot is fairly basic and the muddled eco-nonsense is not worth discussing (trees as a life support mechanism for memories, life-bonding with flying lizards, etc.) in a story as unsubtle as this. Cameron keeps the narrative fairly compact to ensure everyone knows who to cheer for and avoids the trap Lucas fell into in his Star Wars prequels of misusing the Force to bore people towards the Dark Side (i.e. sleep).
However, it is in the second act where the film comes to cinematic life as we’re introduced to the Na’vi and their world. Here’s where the wow-factor comes into play as Cameron’s visual imagination and skilful direction take the viewer to places rarely realized in fantasy cinema. The CGI maintains a surprising naturalness and functions well to bring the viewer into the story rather than isolate them from it – as is so often the case with directors of fantasy who become onanist rich monkey-boys with their techie toys – and here Cameron blends all the elements together to create a stunning landscape, populated by a vast array of life beautifully realised.
Unfortunately, in the third act, it all descends into a sense-pounding overlong battle that beats you into submission. It’s a relief when it’s over. Yet all in all Avatar is an interesting experience and one people should just let themselves buckle up for.
James Cameron…in 2009…with an estimated budget of $300 million. It could have all gone horribly wrong. It didn’t. In a world of downloading, watching films on ipods, and that evil filth-huckster Michael Bay on the loose; thankfully Cameron has given the masses a good reason to go to the cinema. And they will.
Avatar is released 18th Dec 2009