On the big screen whether viewed as 3D technical masterpiece or just a damn good story Avatar reaffirmed James Cameron’s imaginative filmmaking genius - it was just a pity it took quite so long to tell the tale.
2D Avatar is a little shorter than the 3D version and without the fancy 3D visuals, makes it harder to miss Cameron’s potent anti-war message. Despite no 3D version on DVD Avatar sold 6.7m copies in the first four days topping Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight’s and making a cool £86m for film maker Twentieth Century Fox.
Ten years in the making and costing an estimated $280m Avatar came with the usual dose of hyperbole. True to form, as if it really matters, Avatar was trumpeted as the “most expensive film ever,” but Twentieth Century Fox needn’t have panicked about recouping their investment. Fans already hooked by Terminator, Titanic, King Kong and the Lord of the Rings didn’t need much convincing to re-enter the Cameron cult and Avatar was an empathic and well deserved sell-out at the box-office attracting both mass audiences and disciples alike.
Set in 2154 the story begins when ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is inserted into an alien planet Pandora. Half man and half alien Jake Sully is on a mission to secure natural resources to save the earth from imminent collapse. The forest dwelling Na’vi tribe, peeved about the threat to their idyllic way of life, fight back and the plot develops into a psychological battle between the proud Na’vi and what the indiginent Pandorans call the “Skypeople”
Straddling the divide between the military-backed corporation (Skypeople) and the Na’vi is the brilliant Sigourney Weaver of Alien fame, torn between advancing her environmental study of Pandora’s unique biology and genetically engineering Avatar’s to infiltrate the Na’ vi to cheat it of its wonder-fuel “Unobtanium.” Weaver as Dr Grace Augustine is the brains behind the project combining human and Na’vi genes that ultimately, by creating an Avatar with the mind of Jake Sully, blows up in her face.
Instrumental in the plot to rob the Pandora tribes people of its raw materials is the inevitable and implausibly convenient romance between the chief of the Na’vi people’s daughter Neytiri (Zoe Saldana) and our lead man Jake Sully. If you listen carefully, towards the end of the movie you can here ingenious bits of soundtrack that triggers what suspiciously feels and sounds like something out of Titanic. This seems corny at first, but in the end it sort of worked.
Along the was Avatar introduces a whole host of weird and wonderful alien wildlife, what looked like skinned black panthers (Viperwolf) flocks of immense incandescent dragons (Mountain Banshees) and herds of Hammerhead Titanothere, rhino-like creature than manage somehow to stay in tune with the forest where the Na’vi people live “as one”.
Cameron has borrowed much from American Indian Culture in Avatar. Ideas of earth as the original mother and of peoples living by the four simple commandments of the “great spirits” the Na’vi people call “Eywa”. The Na’vi value system, grounded in respect of our fellow man, individual freedom and mother earth are naturally rejected by the murderous Skypeople intent of robbing Pandora of its treasures. Personified by an unholy alliance between pig-headed Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) whose sole purpose in life is to serve his country and mercilessly crush anything and everything that gets in his way. Quarich is also the muscle behind the company’s operational chief played by drippy Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) who played dozy Frank Jnr, the brother of Phoebe, in Friends.
There are some truly spellbinding moments in Avatar and despite the final thirty minutes degenerating into ludicrously implausible Transformer like battle Avatar is convincing enough. Overall, despite its inventive graphics Avatar, in essence, is a digitised and futuristic version of the Last of the Mohicans or Dances with Wolves that depict a US dominated earth that prowls the universe plundering other worlds and capable of annihilating anything and everything that questions its right to take what it needs.
Without the overwhelming 3D graphics to distract you Cameron’s pacifist anti-capitalist dialogue comes through powerfully, but 2D Avatar lacks that captivating virtual brilliance that hits you on the big screen. Out now on DVD Avatar is definitely worth a look, but don’t expect to get blown away as you were by the 3D version.
Production year: 2009
DVD Release: April 2010
Cert (UK): 12A
Runtime: 155 mins
Director: James Cameron
Cast: CCH Pounder, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Zoe Saldana