Thursday, April 11, 2013


I would go anywhere as long as Ripley covered my back!

Avatar | A Constantly Racing Mind
I saw Avatar in theaters, in order to get the big-screen experience; and I wasn't disappointed and won't be either. Although this is a story about an alien civilization, the themes are familiar, repackaged for a new audience, in this new age. To explain the plot in this review would be a disservice to the film and to you. I will discuss some of the themes that writer/director James Cameron retells for us in this two hour forty-two minute action-adventure, sci-fi, romantic epic of a story. If you are a science fiction fan, you will buy the DVD. If you are an action-adventure film buff, you will buy this DVD. If you are a war film fanatic, you will buy this DVD. Even if you are not a James Cameron fan, you will go out and buy this DVD. However, don't rush out on April 22nd (Earth day) and get the highly touted DVD and Blu-Ray version; as it will not include special features. Wait until later in the year. Let me tell you why.

Avatar" is a story we have all seen before. If you live in the planet Earth, I guarantee that you have seen this tale told hundreds if not thousands of times before -- and that is why it works. If you have seen Dances with Wolves, you have seen this theme before, the white man migrating into territory of the American Indian. Alternatively, you have seen the man of two worlds theme with Shogun, or The Last Samurai, or once again, Dances with Wolves. We have seen the indigenous peoples of Pandora in the Amazon. I have always maintained that the best stories, the ones we remember the stories that ring true those stories are the ones that are part true, and part lie. Cameron does this well, by taking a subject, and reworking it into something, usually more attractive than before. I said his stories were more attractive, not necessarily better. In Titanic, we have a true story mixed with a totally fictional account of two lovers. In Terminator, a story inspired by earlier authors, reworked and reshaped in to the franchise we know today. In "Avatar," we see remnants, of the style of hardware and aircraft we saw in Aliens another story Cameron took and reworked. Taking the truth of human history, the archetypal heroes and villains, and adding some embellishment, creates a story that becomes legendary. Unfortunately, the authors of these true stories on which Cameron based "Avatar" on are the same people who brought us Christopher Columbus and the conquering of the New World -- Hernan Cortez -- and the exploitation of the Aztecs -- Francisco Pizarro -- Captain John Smith -- Lewis and Clark -- English East India Company-- Virginia Company and any other conquests and genocides that you care to mention. All these figures were searching for the one unobtainable prize that will make them wealthy, famous, and immortal. For Ponce de' Leon it was the fountain of youth, Columbus’s search was two fold, open up a trade route by sea to the Indies, and to find the Garden of Eden. Cortez and Pizarro, their search was for gold. Whatever humans find unobtainable, we want it. James Cameron even mocks us with the name Unobtanium for the resource that the humans want but the Pandorans have. We are also fascinated with the mythology as we dig back into our primordial memory of the two trees in the Garden of Eden, represented by the Home-Tree and the Tree of Souls. We harken back to the Greeks with the concepts of Mother Earth and oneness of the land and the life it sustains. We look to the Judaism, with the name of Eywa, perhaps the female Yahweh (awye).

James Cameron provides his cinematic baby with "Lord of the Rings" imagery. He shows us the moon Pandora, with its vast landscapes, beautiful waters, and luscious rain-forests  all filtered with subtle shades of blue, and depicts the innocence of what the Earth once was. Directly from "The Golden Bough," Cameron guides us through the aboriginal rites of passage with his main character, Jake Sullivan (Sam Worthington), a man ready to be reborn into Pandoran society. Like "The Matrix," in many ways this is a social documentary on civilization, and the rush to destroy ourselves. The Pandorans represented by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), reminding us of Mariko from "Shogun," a woman who mediates between the hero and her people, trapped in a role that naturally forces the theme of forbidden romance. Neytiri represents Artemis the goddess hunter, assisting the hero during the battle and coming to his rescue. We can look at "Avatar" as allegory or metaphor for ourselves. Like Narcissus we are in love with ourselves, we want to watch people like ourselves and hope this time we don't screw things up. Wes Studi plays the tribal patriarch Eytukan, a role that I am sure Studi is familiar with as he is famous for his part of Magua in "Last of the Mohicans," yet another film about culture-class, domination, conquest, and forbidden love.

The music for "Avatar," is remarkable. Composer James Horner provides a memorable score that reaches deep into your emotions and helps move the story, accent the wonder, and emphasize the destruction. Utilizing over fifteen visual effects companies, ILM and Stan Winston being the most notable, the effects are nothing less than spectacular. Except for first forty minutes or so while James Cameron introduces the setting, the characters, and the context of this story, the remainder of the film are a fast-paced roller coaster ride. To create a language that sounds alien yet somewhat familiar Cameron hired Paul Frommer to create the language of the Na'vi, which, like Klingon and Elvish is taking off on its own.

If after reading this review you don't go out and buy the DVD it is probably because of the lack of bonus material. We all saw this coming from merchandisers back when Lucas released his gold version of "Star Wars," then re-released and re-released etc. I can say the same thing for "Lord Of The Rings" and the "Alien" movies. Special editions, director cuts and re-cuts, any way to get their hands in our pockets for recurring cash. This is a great movie for your collection. Just wait until the distributors have everything on one disc... Then don't be surprised a few years later when the "lost footage of "Avatar" makes an appearance.

Movie Data

Genre:  Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Year:  2009
Staring:  Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
Director:  James Cameron
Producer(s) James Cameron, Jon Landau
Writer: James Cameron
Rating: PG-13

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