Substance over substance

I finally got to see Avatar in 3D recently: it really is amazing. It’s been a long time since I’ve become fascinated with a film after viewing.
The human based 3D character animation was incredibly accurate; the animators managed to record and recreate facial micro-gestures. From the close-ups and body animation ‘mannerisms’ I knew it would have to be based on real actor footage, and a further browse through youtube shows exactly how they achieved this. These clips also highlight the professionalism of the actors through difficult circumstances: conveying believable emotion dressed in special suits and rigs, and with an absence of environment.

What made the movie outstanding for me personally was this was the first movie I had seen in 3D glasses! I cannot over emphasise how much the effect enriches the typical cinema viewing to all new sensory levels.

I totally forgive the tried and tested plot line (Dances with wolves, Fern Gully (apparently) etc). I can also [at a push] forgive the lazy font choice.

James Cameron has such a fantastic concept of the future military. I think the reason Aliens was so widely accepted as a successful sequel was he didn’t try and out-play Ridley Scott at his own game; he instead set out to do something else – an action movie based with a strong theme of the military of the future. I also think its ok to be a pacifist yet still be fascinated by the grandeur of military and its mass structuring, repetition, order and graphical markings. Dialogue-wise some lines such as ‘fighting terror with terror’ and the labelling of nations who sit on a resource as an enemy I found to be close to home.

The film seems to nod to surrealist illustrator Roger Dean for inspiration, but also draws reference to Camerons earlier work with the ‘Amp’ mech vs the Alien (but with the audience rooting for the other side this time.) Giovanni Ribisi plays a carbon-copy character of ‘Carter Burke’ in Aliens (essentially a metaphor for corporate mentality or the darkside of the human heart), and the Chief military character was just a cliche idiot – a pantomime villain for the kids. It also has to be said that the final act battle scene had hints of the battle of Endor.

I think the essential ingredient to creating a science fiction masterpeice is addressing a fundamental philosophical concept. The film does contain a philosophical idea such as transfering the human mind and soul to a new host, which in turn opens the door to a huge amount of interesting debate. However I would be hesitant to label the film a masterpeice because of the unoriginal plot; I think the term ‘benchmark’ sits better.

…There is so much more to write about this film, but to summarise this is one of those rare moments where plot can successfully take a backseat to method of story telling (in this case technology) and yet due to the sheer intensity of visual stimulus and richness of experience, not leave you feeling short changed. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope they don’t make a sequel.

Leave a Reply