An African's Anecdotes and Accoutrements
|There has never been a movie like “Avatar”. And I’m not saying that simply because it is the first 3D movie I’ve ever seen. Neither is my love of the fantasy genre the reason I’ve seen this film TWICE in three weeks. “Avatar” is unique, and has set a benchmark for future writers/producers and directors of this genre - a benchmark that is not going to be easy to meet.
Before I continue - my apologies for another review. I’m getting back into my writing mode, and “Avatar” has had a big impact on me. I need to get my thoughts out...
As stories go the basic outline of the film is one we’ve seen countless times before: a disillusioned/weary man interacts with a group of foreigners/aliens, representing the interests of his own corporation/country, which are going to be detrimental to the foreigners/aliens. As he grows closer to the foreigners/aliens he begins to see the horrible truth behind his corporation/country’s intentions, and is caught between the loyalty to his corporation/country and his empathy with the aliens/foreigners.
Nothing new there - right? Sure, but writer/director James Cameron has never been a man to follow the rest of the herd. He has taken the age old, tried and tested formula and revitalised it into entertainment for the 21st century. This may be a fantasy/sci-fi film, but it is believable. The most recent scientific developments are included in this film, and when one considers how many of the characters/creatures in older science fiction films have, in time, moved from fantasy to reality (cue “Space 1999” - living on space stations: today astronauts stay on the international space station) then many of the features in ”Avatar” make the film very probable.
The attention to detail is evident in every single frame of the film... from the footprints that glow briefly on the forest floor the moment the foot is raised to the insects on the tree trunks. Avatar is nature at her finest - the Tree of Souls is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen on screen. The tree the Na’vi tribe calls home is wonderful, and a tribute to the strength of nature. For me this tree symbolises mankind’s lack of consideration and respect for his own planet, and at one point I got pretty upset at the way the humans treated the tree.
What I found most interesting about “Avatar” is how cleverly the film highlights some of mankind’s worst traits and our current issues. I have to be careful here, because I don’t want to give out any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t yet seen the film.
Destruction of Earth’s Environment is never detailed nor documented. However, during the second half of the film the hero tells the Na’vi people that there is “no green left on earth”. Given that the film is set in 2154 it’s safe to assume there are no more forests, trees or wildlife on Earth.
Greed is the predominant human flaw highlighted in “Avatar.” Human beings discover a rare and very valuable mineral on Pandora, a moon of a distant planet in the Alpha Centuri galaxy. They move onto Pandora, and when all efforts at “peaceful” negotiations fail the corporation authorises their security unit/mercenaries to kill and destroy everyone and everything preventing their access to the mineral. This indicates a lack of respect for any other species - to be expected since by this time we’ve obviously killed off 99 percent of the species on Earth.
Arrogance, brilliantly portrayed by not only the tough, archetypical general in command of the militia “protecting” the scientists on Pandora but also by the whiny pen pusher representing the mining corporation - he, not the soldiers, is the most abhorrent human being on Pandora. And he, not the general, is the man in charge.
A few more points help make the future depicted by “Avatar” a bit more believable:
Cigarettes still exist, and have not changed one bit by 2154...
The main hero is disabled through an injury during his service with the Marine Corps, and although medical science has evolved so his paralysis can be reversed he cannot afford the treatment...
DNA is very much in use, and the Avatars used by the humans are created using Na’vi and human DNA...
James Cameron first conceived the idea for “Avatar” back in 1995, but waited until the right technology was available before undertaking the project. I’m so glad he did, and I admire his ambition and patience, because he has given the world a unique celluloid vision and experience.
Last week I read an internet article about cases of “The Avatar Blues” - a number of people have left the cinema feeling depressed because they want to move to Pandora. They are apparently depressed because they now realise what we’re doing to our planet and feel helpless, despairing and, in the most extreme cases, suicidal.
Does this mean “Avatar” just might encourage us to actually start caring about the environment, the way “An Inconvenient Truth” tried to do a couple of years ago? Or have we just become so desensitised to our surroundings that we not longer care, and depression/wishful thinking are the way to deal with it? Me - I’m simply glad to have seen such a fantastic film, and in my own teeny tiny way I do try to do my bit for Mother Earth.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
Carl Sagan, US Scientist. 1934-1996