BLUE/ORANGE CONTRAST! DO YOU SEE IT?!?! :@
Ten years in the making. James Cameron put his imaginary universe away in a drawer and waited for technology to catch up to the manifestation of ideas he was creating. It's been touted as a revolutionary game changer to cinema, utilising photorealistic imagery to create an awe-inspiring experience. Was Cameron's baby really worth all the hype? The simple answer: yes.
Leading up to Avatar's release date, I was constantly bombarded with Avatar advertising. Sure it got a little annoying at some point but I was still really curious to see what James Cameron was offering. Cameron stated that if Titanic was a chick flick then Avatar was a geek's dream. Naturally this would only arouse excitement from someone who was a fan of Terminator and Aliens. At 8:15 on December 22nd, 2009 what I witnessed something truly incredible - something unique.
The story of Avatar isn't all that different to something like The Last Samurai or Pocahontas - it's a formula that we've all seen before. Jake Sully (a paraplegic marine played by Sam Worthington) is asked to take over his twin brother's position on the moon planet of Pandora. From there, he is assigned to the Avatar program. The concept behind the program is to sync his mind and body into a biologically engineered vessel of the alien natives of Pandora, the Na'vi. While his job with the scientific department on Pandora is simply to adapt to the natives' culture and learn more about them, Jake is asked by Colonel Miles Quaritch to befriend the Na'vi and persuade them to pack up and move away from their home. Coincidentally, the natives' home rests on top of the largest deposit of unobtanium (nice name, haha), a mineral that sells at 20 million per kilograms back home on Earth. As I said, the story has been done before but fortunately for James Cameron, it's a story that's never been told in this way before. The plot may fall to the wayside due to Cameron's focus on the beautiful moon planet of Pandora but it is in this deliberate diversion from the plot that he makes the overall story all the more engrossing.
The best part about the film was how Cameron was able to create a world of his own and bring Pandora to life. Every small piece of Pandora is rendered to the point that it's realistic. Pandora felt like it existed. Actually no, for the 2 and a half plus hours that the movie ran for, Pandora WAS real. Everything from the flora and fauna of Pandora was painstackingly made to create detail and it showed. The visual effects were incredibly beautiful and so gorgeous. Pandora in the daytime reminds you of a thousand Amazon rainforests stacked on top of each other, with lucious greens surrounding your sight. At night Pandora becomes a neon coated dream filled with pallets of aqua, pink, purple and blue. The movie employed great use of colour to heighten my experience.
The photorealism that Cameron so highly spoke of was everything that he had promised. The Avatars and Na'vi carry just enough features to look like their human counterparts. The CGI characters all looked incredibly real that you could've sworn that there were prosthetics done to the actors. Truly another achievement in visual effects.
As one dimensional as Stephen Lang's character was, I loved his badass military persona - it's exactly what a movie like this needed. His character wasn't cartoony, I don't wanna give you that impression, but he was just your standard and generic military badass. And a person like that, especially in this kind of movie needs it. Sam Worthington turns in an admirable performance as Jake but it's Zoe Saldana's CGI captured performance as Na'vi princess Neytiri that steals the show. Possibly the second best thing to come out of Avatar was the inclusion of this fierce and powerful character. Also, the blooming chemistry between Jake and Neytiri was strongly felt - credit goes to Worthington and Saldana for making that feel believable with CG characters.
While everything in Pandora sure looks pretty and very well made, there are some things from Avatar that should not go unpunished. The script to Avatar was written by Cameron and it is pretty bad. Some of the lines from various characters in the film are just awful and very cringeworthy. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the lines that were excecuted. Cameron may have a good vision, a good sense of storytelling and direction but his writing in this movie was bad.
While talks of a sequel are no doubt being held, I believe that there is no need for a sequel or another entry into the Avatar universe. I can't seem to see a storyline being made for future movies. I could probably hazard a guess or two about possible entries of continuity in James Cameron's universe but I can only see them being a bit disappointing and not as good as the product we have now. Like Neill Blomkamp's wonderful debut feature, District 9, I wouldn't want a sequel to made because the movie was perfect and just how I had expected it to be and more. That isn't to say that I won't shell out my money for the sequel if there's one made, believe me. All I'm saying is that right now, I don't see a good sequel being made, not after how it ended. I can probably trust Cameron or someone else to come up with a good follow up but I like Avatar the way it is.
As far as cinematic escapism goes, Avatar offers plenty of that in spades. Comparisons to fanboy favourites such as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings can definitely be made to Avatar and while Cameron may have changed the game for visual effects, I can't help but wonder what kind of effect this would have on blockbuster movies. There has already been talks of remaking the original Star Wars trilogy in 3D. I'm all for seeing Star Wars in a new light, believe me, but at the same time I like to preserve my memories - preserve what I already know and love. Will every film from now on be a carbon copy of Avatar? But I digress.
While it is true that the plot does fall by the wayside a bit due to the focus on Pandora, I didn't let that deter my viewing expierence because this movie was pure escapism - I wanted to experience more of Pandora. If there is a sequel in the works then I can only pray it to be as good, if not better than the one we have here. Excuse my language, as I go from formal to informal but what can I say? James Cameron fucked my eyes into submission with visual eye candy and wonderous storytelling.
Sidenote: This didn't really bring down my experience watching the movie though it did annoy me. When me and my friends were watching Avatar, the packed audience that we watched it with laughed at some of the most outrageous things. I know I tend to be masochistic and laugh a lot at scenes that people would otherwise find as disgusting or disturbing but to laugh at poignant moments in the film or even moments in the film that didn't require laughter had me and my friends puzzled. I guess you had to be there.