We See You - Avatar captures global mood
When a motion picture story makes $1.12 billion in its world wide box office in the first week of release you have to believe there is something beyond technology at work, drawing people to see it. And after two viewings of Avatar, flatscreen and 3-D, I'm impressed with the storyline for these reasons: 1. Its main protagonist, a relatively powerless ex marine with a spinal injury, discovers how to live fearlessly for the sake of a greater good than his nationalism. 2. Avatar offers a better future to our real world that's changing fast through the dynamic of globalisation (the new imperialism) and its reactionary response, terrorism - from Avatar we learn to see people who are utterly different to us as deserving of our respect, our attention, and our friendship. In the movie this happens both ways.
My friend Bruce Herman, an artist, put it this way: "It's so timely. By the numbers turning out to see it, ordinary people around the world are agreeing that they're sick and tired of imperialism that breeds terrorism. It's such a tired cycle." I've found myself in agreement, the story of Avatar has this amazing appeal.
And yet, it's not a well told story. It's clumsy, it lacks subtlety and I regard it as a story in reaction to the Bush administration. Too many lines are direct slaps at private armies like Blackwater, and a policy of pre-emptive war. And it paints a picture of glorious indigenous life that has never been true in the history of this planet. It's fiction yes, but it needs to be credible. Since it's metaphorical message is so unsubtle, it can't get away with caricaturing "civilization" while at the same time romanticizing native life. Ultimately, it is the technology used to tell the story that lifts it to the heights of enjoyment.
It's a beautiful world that James Cameron has created, and the 3-D experience is not to be missed because we are seeing the future of cinema. The power of it is proven to me. Forty eight hours after seeing the 3-D version I am still revisiting Pandora in my imagination as if to see the friends made and their landscape explored in that three hour excursion. I re-enter scenes like I would return to any place I've actually visited before. Because, in 3-D the sense of being in the film as the invisible observer is extraordinary. This was not my experience after seeing it first on a flat screen.
The limits of the technology also appear. Particularly in the scenes of the marines meeting in the briefing room, or in other confined spaces, the images of the people rather than seeming 3-D appear two dimensional, like card board cut-outs placed in a three dimensional space. So there are frontiers for this technology yet to conquer.
I have one more reservation, the same as expressed by Ross Douthat in the New York Times - there is no resolution for the world in returning to animistic religion, which our ancestors abandoned for good (and forgotten) reasons over the past three thousand years. Yet this film's naivete is its suggestion that hope might be found in such a proven dead-end. In this sense I think the Avatar storyline is too much Hollywood, and culturally regressive.
My next post will outline a story that is not reactionary to contemporary US politics, a documentary that is in pre-production - that happens to touch the same issue of breaking the cycle of violence by seeing the other. The protagonist in this real story is still being celebrated by a nation foreign to him three hundred years after his arrival on its shores.
Tags: Film Review , Avatar , We See You , Chris Gilbert , Lamp Post Media
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