Avatar: Things You Need to Know
Movie Event or Event Movie
The movie event and event movie of the year, "Avatar," James Cameron's inventive epic, is an enjoyable, all-immersive expansive experience, heavily relying on state of the art visual and sound effects.
World-premiering in the U.K. on December 10, "Avatar," the most eagerly-awaited film of the decade, opens a week later day and date around the globe.
A spectacle of sights and sounds, the eagerly awaited movie offers an amazing feast to the eyes and ears. That said, the film's major weaknesses are its ideas, narrative and characterizations, all recurrent problems in most of Cameron's work. Even so, most viewers don't go to a Cameron picture for intellectual provocation or for stimulating ideas.
Most expensive Film in History
The most expensive picture in film history, with a production budget of about $300 and at least $150 million spent on global marketing, "Avatar" should recoup its expense, but it remains to be seen whether its box-office grosses will match those of the 1997 Oscar-winning "Titanic," still the most commercially popular movie ever made.
Up and coming Aussie star Sam Worthington is a talented, handsome and masculine actor, but I doubt that he would have the same romantic appeal that Leonardo DiCaprio had on teenage girls during the lengthy run of "Titanic." In fact, "Avatar" strikes me more as a male adventure, which means that repeat viewing for this film may be driven by boys, though there is a love story that might attract viewers of both genders.
Shorter and Better than Titanic
Despite its shortcomings, "Avatar" is a better picture than "Titanic," lacking the old-fashioned tale that occupied the first hour of the 1997 film, which to us came to life once the ship began sinking. The last hour of Titanic" was bravura filmmaking in every respect.
Shorter by a good half an hour than "Titanic" (which had the excessive running time of 194 minutes), "Avatar" also represents an impressive collaboration of the best crews in Hollywood.
Cameron: Better Filmmaker than Storyteller
Cameron has always been a better filmmaker than a scribe or a storyteller, a fact that's evident in "Avatar." Nonetheless, to his credit, he is a shrewd filmmaker who knows his limitations as a storyteller and also knows what narratives serve best his grandiose schemes. In "Avatar," perhaps more than in his previous enterprises, he functions as a creative orchestrator of numerous elements of a huge production in size, scale, and scope, overseen with meticulous attention to detail
The most challenging film he has made, "Avatar' is in many ways a logical follow up to "The Terminator" movies, "Aliens," "The Abyss," and "Titanic," all of which mixed visual spectacle, reasonably engaging narratives and compelling characters, and above all, technical wizardry resolutely in service of a core old-fashioned emotional story.
Cameron was looking for a way to take alien character creation into the 21st century. In 1995, Cameron saw the rapid advances in CG characters, and thought that his dream project set on another world might be possible to make. Having already created CG milestone characters in "The Abyss" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Cameron wanted to push the CG arts to new heights, and so "Avatar" was written. But when the treatment was broken down by CG experts, Cameron realized that the technologies required for photo-realism were still years off, and the project was shelved.
Cool Hero: Jake Sully
In "Avatar," the protagonist is Jake Sully (Sam Worthington, who was so good in the latest "Terminator: segment), an everyman who unexpectedly rises to become a hero, as events draw him deeper into a clash of civilizations, between the Earth corporations bent on "developing" Pandora and the indigenous Na'vi. A former Marine, Jake is a classic American hero, an inner-driven man who places honor above all, but finds himself in a conflict that forces him to choose between his personal duty and conscience, defending what he believes is right, and his formal duty, dictated by other forces that have tasked him with a challenging mission.
Mythic Tale: Back to Nature
Inspired by quintessential American myths about "Pure Nature" versus "Modern Civilization" (and its discontent), manifest in books and movies such as "The Vanishing American" and "Dances With Wolves," Cameron has created a familiar adventure, set in an unfamiliar environment called Pandora, a place of great beauty but also danger. Pandora is a moon with an Earthlike environment that orbits a gas-giant planet called Polyphemus in the Alpha Centauri-A star system. At 4.4 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the nearest stellar neighbor. When it is discovered that Pandora is rich in a rare-earth mineral called Unobtainium, a brutal race begins to mine the planet's resources. The story establishes that Unobtainium does not exist in our solar system, and is the key to solving Earth's energy crisis in the 22nd century. Thus, the Resources Development Administration (RDA) is willing to spend billions of dollars to mine the distant world.
Set in 2154, three decades after a mining colony was established on Pandora, a land of great beauty but also danger, "Avatar" is the classic tale of a newcomer-outsider to a foreign land on an alien planet. Corrupt activities encroach into the territory of the indigenous Na'vi has created, increasing the tension between the two species, which might lead them down a path to inevitable war.
Ecological and Environmental Issues
The tale gets a bit clunky and schematic, when a twist of fate, the death of his twin brother, thrusts Sully into an unbearably tense situation, as the newest "driver" for the Avatar Program, an attempt by scientists to create a "bridge of trust" with the Na'vi by using genetically engineered avatar bodies to walk among these alien giants in familiar form. Conflict escalates, when Jake is co-opted by Colonel Miles Quaritch, the colony's head of security, to infiltrate the local clan and learn how to control and defeat them.
Quaritch occupies a strategic position: He's the commander of Secops, the private security force that defends Hell's Gate against the fierce predators of Pandora and the equally fierce Na'vi. A scruffy but well equipped mercenary army, Secops possess heavily armed tilt-rotor aircraft and "AMP Suits," huge exeskeletal fighting suits. As a result, Jake becomes the "wrong man," placed in a volatile position. Torn between loyalty to the Na'vi and obligation to the RDA forces, which are bent on destroying their ancestral home of 10,000 years, Jake needs to take action.
There are always strong female characters in Camero's films, and in "Avatar," there are two, played by Sigourney Weaver, who had first collaborated with the helmer over two decades ago, in "Aliens," and by Zoe Sladana, who made a strong, sexy impression this year in "Star Trek."
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