Friday December 25, 2009

Movie review: Avatar (James Cameron)

Posted by Karthik

Very few films are worth complete suspension of disbelief – Avatar surely is one.

It is beyond any point to discuss Avatar’s seemingly simplistic storyline or its alleged resemblance to myriad other films like The Last Samurai. Nor is the allusions to American invasions down history, the endangering of planet Earth etc. To reiterate, that is not the point.

The point is about creating an exhilarating cinematic experience!

Think about it!

As the man behind the most successful film ever, what should James Cameron have done next? Another epic-scaled film with a strong emotional undercurrent? That’s pretty much what he did in Titanic. What else?

The answer lies not in scripting yet another film, but in conceptualizing something bigger, better. Avatar fits the bill. Perfectly.

While it seems like a rather straight story of an outsider winning the trust of the locals (Tamilians take note…this is too close to our heart – MG Ramachandran, Rajinikant…), what really matters is how it all pans out.

Cameron throws all conventional 3D gimmicks out – those sharp-objects-poking-in-your-eyes, that-sand-in-your-face variety 3D is not what Cameron has in mind. Avatar is far beyond those trivial experiences – instead, he plays God, by creating a world so convincing that one wishes to betray the ‘Sky People’ and add an apostrophe bang in middle of the given name, just to show support to the Na’vi!

That…precisely is the masterstroke. You cheer for the outsiders and not for your brethren. And boy, do they look brilliant. And only now do I truly appreciate Danny DeVito’s enthusiastically risque tweet 😉

Pandora is created painstakingly well, with the attention to detail completely blowing your mind away. Every cue for the 3D’s effects to hit you works wonderfully well – you reach out to touch those anemone-like luminous floating things; you move dramatically and uncomfortably as a really mean, huge animal chases Jake; you get mild acrophobia as Jake finally hops on to a humongous flying animal (bird? Nay, doesn’t look like one!). These 3D experiences are new – not forced, never obvious, but is so incredibly and subtly merged into the narrative. That is what makes Avatar such a great experience.

Before watching it, I was considering how great it would be to 3D’ize other films like Matrix or Lord of the Rings – I now think they’d plain suck. 3D needs stuff…rich, imaginative stuff. Matrix and LOTR has them, in tons. But, it also demands that one needs to rethink the narrative, to incorporate that breathtaking level of vision in every scene. That is what feeds the thin script in Avatar, across every single scene – there’s always something that stands out, literally, thanks to 3D and stuns you with its ingenuity!

Such films happen very, very rarely. Even Cameron may not have the patience to make one more like this. But, his biggest victory is in getting people out of their homes; to get them to spread the buzz that the 3D version is worth every penny. 3D films happen rarely. Yes, we’re in for more than a dozen next year, but hats-off to the visionary Cameron who cooks up one of the most exciting, sci-fi mumbo-jumbo spectacle in a l-o-n-g time.

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