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Avatar: Oscar Contender?

I finally made it to the cinema to see the movie that has people talking: Avatar. A spectacular sci-fi/fantasy action movie with an Aussie, Sam Worthington in the lead and the ‘King of the World’ director, James Cameron, at the helm.

I now see why it has people excited. Beautifully shot, using state of the art cinematography and CGI, it transports the audience onto the planet Pandora and into the lives of the indigenous population, the blue-skinned, ten feet tall, Na’vi.

The hero of the movie is a disabled, wheelchair bound marine, a ‘grunt’ named Sully who, in a decision based on economic rationalism, takes his dead brother’s place in a scientific research team. This means, he inherits his brother’s avatar – a ‘native’ grown from human and Na’vi DNA which the marine can ‘insert’ himself into. Not only does he have control of his inert limbs in his new form, but he finds a freedom with the Na’vi and on the planet that his military training (brainwashing) did not allow.

Instead of a patriarchal and capitalist system, Sully finds a culture in tune with its deity and nature – who are, in essence, one and the same. The environmental thrust of the movie is apparent; the significance of the female is too, not at the expense of the male, but working in tandem. Something Sully learns to appreciate. Romance flourishes in this fertile world – and not just between the characters. Audiences will find it hard not to fall in love with the world portrayed and feel protective about what is threatened. I also enjoyed the moral superiority of the scientists… doesn’t happen all to often in this genre!

Eyes and the notion of ‘seeing’ are strong motifs and themes in this movie and the central character, Sully, has his eyes opened to a whole new world – literally and metaphorically. So do we. Cameron’s planet, Pandora is a beautiful, lush place, imaginatively realised but, like its namesake from Greek mythology, its colonisation by humans with the intent to profit, opens a box of trouble…

Whether or not Cameron will win a Best Picture or Director Oscar for this film remains to be seen – no doubt, it will get some technical nods. It’s hard to imagine the Academy awarding a film that represents the military in such a negative light or uses the still raw memory of the collapse of the Twin Towers in an analogous manner to evoke a visceral anti-US response.

I really enjoyed this film. What did you think? (Oh, and I know that I am late seeing it – for health reasons – but I still tried not to put any spoilers in – I didn’t, did I???)

Comments: 2


  1. You make excellent points and I’d be hard pressed to refute any of them.

    I would bring up an additional point, though, and that’s Cameron’s tendency to craft the plot to suit his exact message (and he’s far from alone in that). What I mean is, we see nothing of what the (10 billion, was it?) humans back on earth are enduring, suffering which would be alleviated if the ore could be obtained.

    But Cameron seems utterly intent on showing humans in the worst light possible. The mining technology already, in our time, exists to allow horizontal mining which would have allowed the humans access to the ore underneath the big spirit-tree-thing, without harming it. Also, I find it REALLY hard to believe that spacefaring humans can make a human-na’vi hybrid, yet they can’t develop a gas which would render them unconscious. So we are ‘forced’ to engage them in a manner that was more akin to WWII/Korean direct assault methods than hypermodern warfare.

    And PREDICTABLE… gah! Tell me you couldn’t see the whole thing coming, from start to finish.

  2. LOL! Of course I saw the whole story unfolding from start to finish, but I took pleasure in that too 🙂 Hey, I am a sci-fi buff and, while I am not sure about Cameron as a person – at least the way he interviews and some of his narcissistic statements, I give him credit for his cinematography and techniques and for casting relative unknowns (well, at that stage, complete in Sam Worthington) in the leads. He’s a risk-taker at a time Hollywood plays it so safe.

    But having said that, I completely agree with you about the humans looking bad – the only time they were ‘good’ (apart from the scientists and the helicopter pilot – a female) and by ‘good’ I mean on the side of the Na’vi which means engaged in preserving the ecology and a religious system that, instead of being based on faith was tangible and biological, was when they were effectively Na’vi. And I did wonder about the human/Na’vi hybrid, but hey, I suspended my disbelief 🙂 Coleridge would be proud 🙂

    It’s a far cry from his Aliens, where the military and their ‘shoot first ask questions later’ attitude are heroes though.

    I love your points, Michael – well observed!

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