Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thoughts on Avatar

WARNING: This blog contains spoilers-- so if you haven't already seen the movie, stop here, get yourself a ticket for the movie and go see it.

Mark and I went to see Avatar in 3D this afternoon. Before I get into what I thought about the movie, I will say that I enjoyed it. It's a good movie. Do I think it's worth seeing 3+ time in the theatre? Not so much. But it's a good movie, and I'll be buying a copy when it becomes available on DVD. If you absolutely LOVED this movie-- go ahead and stop reading now. You're probably NOT going to be interested in what I have to say.

Okay, now that that is out of the way.

It amazes me the advances they've made in 3D technology! Even still, almost 3 hours of it, and when we walked out, I was more than happy to take those glasses off. Mark and I were discussing it, and with HD quality 2D out there, we suspect the 2D version is just as good as the 3-- without the headache.

The movie has been out for 10 days tomorrow. And we went to a 3:30 matinee-- and the theatre was PACKED. It's been a while since Mark and I had to sit side by side with strangers. And it's a completely different movie experience when everyone is in there like comfortable sardines. It's more of a bonding experience-- if that makes any sense. You're all sitting -together-. So even though you didn't choose the majority of the people you're watching the film with, you're all there with each other. An audience that large feeds on each other's responses. At one point, I HAD to head to the restroom-- and when I came back in-- not a single person was moving-- all eyes were on the screen, and collectively, they held their breath, watching.

The first thing that struck me, as the movie began and the voice over by Jake Sully begins, I found myself sitting up straighter in my seat, tilting my head to really LISTEN. What struck me is that Sam Worthington (the actor playing Jake Sully) has the voice of Patrick Swayze. The same accent and way of pronouncing words. After the movie, I mentioned this to Mark and he said, "It's funny because I thought I recognized his voice-- I just couldn't place it."

As we watched the movie, I couldn't help thinking that this is what would happen if Mechs (from Battle Tech), were introduced to Pocahontas and Dancing With Wolves. Don't get me wrong, I like all three. I even liked all three together.

I couldn't help thinking, as Sigourney Weaver's character yelled at the boss for sending out the troops to destroy the tree, and as I saw the pictures of her avatar with the natives, of her role as Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist. When Mark and I were talking about it, he told me that she and James Cameron had worked together on Aliens. And he had flashed back to that movie when he saw her and the mech like machines. It sparked a discussion on Directors and preferred actors, like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, because one of the previews was for Robin Hood-- by the director who did Gladiator (Ridley Scott), starring-- you guessed it, Russell Crowe.

This led to a discussion about James Cameron. With his use of mech like armor in both Avatar and Aliens-- it's a wonder he doesn't look to getting the licensing for BattleTech. But we also discussed that he's done some truly amazing movies/ television shows. His Titanic had the same kind of movie goer response that Avatar is getting-- with people willing to pay theatre prices repeatedly to see it again. Now THAT was a movie I DID pay to see three times in the theatre. But he also did an amazing television series called Dark Angel. It's one of my all time favorites. And as the second season of that show progressed, so too did his fascination with the combination of human and animal. The character Joshua was very tall, and though he was supposed to be dog related-- he looked more like a cat-- especially if you grew up adoring Beauty and the Beast staring Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman like I did. So it was no surprise to either of us that his Na'vi would be very feline.

Previous to seeing the movie, I'd read plenty of articles that ranted that the Na'vi were a bunch of blue, tree hugging, Native Americans with dreadlocks. That it's blatantly anti-war. That it's a statement about American consumerism and how we're the bad guys in the current war. If you want to read those, you can search for them, because this isn't that.

I mention them because I can see the similarity to pre-existing Native American movies. Anyone who's watched television in the last 50 years is going to, when they see very little clothing, feathers in the hair, bows and arrow and horse back riding. Okay, so it's a people who are deeply connected to the world they live in. I don't see anything wrong with that. And I don't know of a single person who looks back on the Trail of Tears and doesn't think it was wrong.

I actually liked the analogue that Dr. Grace Augustine made for their connection to their world being much like a living computer-- uploading memories and able to share them. It makes me think of the astonishing advances the internet has made possible in our world.

Then we almost get to the fight scenes. Yes, his riding Toruk is predictable from the moment Neytiri tells the story of her Grandfather. Yes, from the same story, it's also predictable that he's going to unite all the tribes. But just before the fighting starts, two very interesting things happen.

First, the Na'vi attempt to save Grace by transferring her into her Avatar at the Tree of Souls. I was immediately reminded of the Zar and Guedra bellydances, which are both healing trance dances.

has excellent information on both-- and you may notice that the Guedra is performed by the Moroccan Tuareg, who are known as the blue people. Just sayin' (;

Secondly, JakeSully links to the Tree of Souls to request help from Eywa, the goddess of the Na'vi. But his mate, Neytiri tells him that Eywa doesn't choose sides-- that she only maintains the balance of life.

Then the final battle begins-- and there are a LOT of casualties on the Na'vi side. Then Eywa rallies and all the creatures of Pandora rush into the fight. My -first- thought was, that if Eywa had responded sooner, there would have been way fewer deaths. The whole calvary with bows and arrows charging the guns and artillery was disheartening to watch, even before it began, because, let's face it, it's the whole, "brought a knife to a gun fight" scenario. And without Eywa's addition, the battle would surely have been lost. But then I thought back to what Neytiri had told Jake at the Tree of Souls-- Eywa didn't choose their side. But she DID step in to maintain the balance of life on Pandora.

And in the final scene, as JakeSully lay beneath the Tree of Souls in both his dying human body and his Na'vi form, I remembered a conversation Mark and I had with his 9 year old second cousin on Christmas eve. He was talking about why he couldn't understand why Avatar the movie had the same name, when it had absolutely nothing to do with the last air bender. We explained to him that Avatar the last air bender is called that because Ang is the embodiment of all four elements on earth. And that when you're on the computer, you have avatars-- images that represent you, without actually being YOU....and that was when I returned to the movie and thought, "Unless of course, you have a way to transfer you into your avatar like JakeSully does."

René Magritte would either be rolling in his grave thinking about the modern use of avatars.... or applauding.

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