Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar: Trees Are People Too

The Distinction between "what" a movie says Vs "how" it says it is more visible in Avatar. Avatar's breakthrough technology reminds us of the impact Terminator 2 had when it was released in 1991. Seeing liquid metal dynamically pour into rooms, floors and faces, one got a feeling that movie-making technology had broken into a new dimension. Avatar gives you the same feeling. I watched this in IMAX 3-D and the special effects was so fantastic that I felt motion sickness at the end of the movie. This is truly a movie where special effects blends very well with the story and wows you when needed and stays silent when not. From purely a special effects point of view, I have never been so swept off my feet. This movie will entertain you. Regardless of your scepticism on the overly positive reviews/peer-fanboy-gush that this movie seems to be getting, you will feel that this movie is a landmark event in the history of movies. And no amount of praise feels enough for the spectacle that it is.

Now to the 'what'. The story is mediocre. It reminded me of a sugary chick-flick called Titanic. Almost every plot point, turn and twist in Avatar is predictable. First generation Star Trek episodes were filled with plot lines such as these. Where Kirk & Co refused to tamper with planet natives but situations sometimes forced them to get involved. Very similar to one of those episodes, this movie's story involves Earth people invading planet Pandora for a piece of rock that sells for $20 Million back home. The director explores all the usual cliches of clear cut black and white heroes and villains. There are no shades of grey. There is a bold marine in a scientists boots and the movie brings out the contrast between his casual recklessness and their careful timidity. There is a falling in love part with a native, a conflict in mission, and finally an action showdown with a clear-cut villain - who is just a bad.

The dialogues (especially the ones by Army men) are just plain bad. That's the only part that reminded me of Star Wars. Some plot holes are too gaping. The natives aren't rally as scary as the initial war briefing made them out to be. The Na'vi, who like vedic rishis believe in a 'brahman' like life-force that pervades all beings, surprisingly take Scully into their confidence, train him, do upanayanam for him (twice-born) and finally get betrayed. There seems to be no scrutiny on him because he is the "chosen one". Cameron was once this bold director who employed, a forceful plot line, violence, unique characters and gave an incredible adrenalin rush to the viewer. You sat on the seat-edge wanting John Connor to live although you knew he will live. You get this edginess when Jake is on the loose and is being hunted down on his first night alone in the forest. But this feeling gets diluted over time. When the trees were attacked and natives killed, I did not feel anything for natives. The empathy was never established. Post Titanic, the effemination of Cameron is indisputable. Playing to the gallery of "Green" lovers is the last straw. "Green" has become a religion unto itself where people seem to appreciate anything around this as "noble". I now suspect that the favorable movie reviews for Avatar is colored by it.

The review might seem a tad negative probably because no movie can surpass the unbelievable expectation one has built up in mind for a Cameron movie. The unbelievable visual ecstasy this movie offers matches every expectation you may have built up. My father, while walking out of the movie hall mentioned that he felt transported into the world of Na'vi and wondered how movie technology had changed from 'parting of the nile' days. This is really true. You feel like one among them. The scene where Jake tames and adopts a flying-dragon thing is a fantastic scene. Avatar will thrill any teenager or child and fill their mind with endless imagination. Just feels like I was given dessert when I went in expecting a 3-course meal.

11 comments:

Prasad Venkataramana said...

The screenplay is pregnant with fruity touches once the initial awe of Pandora fades off until the (un)manly final fight. In a recent NewYorker profile of Cameron, the writer explores the feminine side of him - not just how strong his female characters are, but how he works sentimentality and emotionalism almost poetically into his scripts. Maudlin elements in Avatar comes close to paying homage to Indian movies.

Modeling the Na'vi after native Americans and Neytiri nodding off Pocahontas and their lifestyle of harmonizing with nature and the Americans (just whites, I don't remember seeing any blacks or hispanics) shown as war-mongering capitalist villains - such cardboard characterizations comes close to buffoonery.

You wrote: /The review might seem a tad negative probably because no movie can surpass the unbelievable expectation one has built up in mind for a Cameron movie./

You say the story is mediocre & predictable and the dialogues are plain bad, but somehow you throw the burden of expectations on part of the audience for the movie slipping down. Isn't it self-contradictory?

DILLON said...

I have watched many movies and I have hardly watched any movie twice, and that too in a cinema hall, and As for Avatar is concerned I really was impressed by the amount of effort that would have gone just into making it.
The Story Writer for the Story, and the People Behind The Scenes For Recreating Those Effects and To Make Them As Real As Possible Must Be Applauded.
I would Say A Big Time Hat's Off To Everyone Responsible For The Movie. Trying To Make A Movie For A Duration That A Movie Usually Lasts And To Make It As Entertaining, Really Takes A Lot Of Pressure On Creating It, for which the Director And His Crew Take The Heat.
I am definate that if they had planned on making it a making a kind of trilogy, a saga or something like that, then they would have done better justice to the characters and the fantastic locations developed by the people behind the making of the movie.
I am definate that a game will evolve out of this and carry on as parts involving more interaction and encouraging people to value life as the Na'vi.

Sreekrishnan said...

watched this twice and i agree to the point where the story carries a lot of cliche's. But that said, if you are bringing in Brammandam, you cant confuse with a complex screenplay its got to simple... just like Shankar movies that build one one liner. That said the content to scene conversion rate is what matters. I doubt the execution brilliance if you had more content - ex: Dasavatharam. You are trying to say more than what you can do. I think thats where James C. makes a brilliant decision.

The poor dialogues didnt actually matter as i was looking at the 3D and the visuals ...

i too found too much of Hinduism related stuff there ... and infact - you could relate it loosely to Lord Krishna and that avatar story. Adharma, Blue, fighting for the side which was driven out - the other earlier avatar [ the marine a.k.a Balram] working for the other side etc etc ... was good !

Srikz said...

spot on man. this has gotta be the most accurate review about avatar.

ms said...

way, way back i read a novel "the white dragon" and the story is about this young boy who discovers and finally bonds with the last of the fire-breathing dragons. then i read "dune", then the "ring" trilogy. i am all fantasy-ed out!! i found a deeper message in "transformers" and "ironman", and all of spidey's movies. superman left me cold since he was the most namby-pamby of all superheroes. and now, avatar. let me tell you, disney has been ahead of all this, they had similar stuff almost 15 years ago. also, seen "the dark crystal"? i don't know why when adults are confronted by tired fantasy films, they are awestruck. the kids take them in their stride since even the most basic of video games offer a more challenging hypothesis.

Sreekrishnan said...

Just updated my blog too on something i felt more connecting !

While thinking deeper into the Hindu connection i did note that the resemblence goes more than few points

This was called Avatar – which I would assume Krishna Avatar. Blue resemblance to Krishna , fighting for Pandavas [ The Na'vi] who were driven out of the place by kauravas, The first avatar – Balram fought alongside of Kauravas – though the Marine here fought for the army. And ofcourse the Garudan – the divine Eagle as the vahanam. Aswathama – the Lady in the Chopper and Chakravyuh as the formation of the army.

Vishnu as Eywa which protects the balance of life, the Namam worn by the Avatar and Na’vi, the Tree = AalaMaram/Arasamaram connection,

ms said...

"ferntree gully" was the animation film by disney in the 90s. same theme. in many fairy tales, creatures from forests and oceans are blue/green. stories by wilkie collins also talk about fantastic creatures and descriptions match those in "avatar". trying to link indian mythology with hollywood creations is very strange. do we see the connections between chinese mythology and indian? both have gods and demons, dragons.

I said...

It is a typical Iyengar/Vainava tendency to equate everything with Perumal.

Sreekrishnan said...

ok, Disney was way ahead in creating it as an animation ... not like avatar. I still awe thi s movie for a technical excellence. Practically Subramanipuram director can make this movie with 2 Communities in TN or The Bengalis make it with Tata Vs Singur. So it dosnt really matter

I did not "Try" to equate - but wrote exactly a story i knew already. As i said, bengalis can equate this to TATA Vs Singur !

Finally Mr I, Enna thappu athula?

Anonymous said...

looks like at least two ppl feel similarly
try the review on satishandkshama.blogspot.com
Hilarious....

Venkat said...

we need to be a little pragmatic here,one cannot expect to have a complex plot line packaged with visual splendour and then expect it to be lapped up by the audience without confusion especially when 460 million $ have been invested...
James cameron has made a decision that i am happy with....plotline to take a backseat.......doesn't quite make him effiminate,rather smart....that's harsh evaluation!