Sunday, 20 November 2011

Film Review: Avatar (2009)

James Cameron's Avatar has a visual concept that uses a strong colour palette, highly eye catching bioluminescent flora and fauna and landscape structures that will release the right amounts of dopamine required for healthy functioning. However, as the history of science fiction/ fantasy films goes,(Ridley Scott's Legend 1985, Joseph Kosinski's Tron: Legacy 2010, Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the moon, 2011) the plot revolves around the freedom struggle of a local alien planet against it's human invaders. As reviewer Rebecca Murray rightly states, "(Avatar) didn't have a plot and was all about the effects." Murray, Rebecca.(2009) Film Review.
It is also highly inspired by the Hindu Myth of Lord Krishna who has blue skin and is an Avatar (sanskrit for 'form' or 'representation/image of') of God.
Fig 1: Avatar Movie Poster
 The story does focus on human reactions to situations very accurately; what with the military reacting to the alien planet Pandora's indigenous population and their anger towards the humans' presence.
The movie does give light to the cold, corporate driven decision making of the American military.
Avatar focuses on the character of Jake Sully who is an ex-marine who has lost the functioning of his legs due to some damage being done to his spine. His brother T. Sully was a scientist who was working on an alien planet by the name of Pandora on a project called the Avatar Project. This project involves the creation of beings by combining human and Na'vi DNA. Each scientist involved in the project has their own Na'vi counterpart or Avatar which they can inhabit mentally at will. When T. Sully is tragically murdered in a mugging, his brother Jake is asked to fill his place due to the high costs of the project and the convenient identical genome that he shares with his twin.
For six years, Jake sleeps in a state of suspended animation on his journey to Pandora. Upon waking up to the planet that very suspiciously resembles Earth, Jake joins in with the scientific team but only serves as the brawn due to his Marine history.
Fig 2: The Landscape of Avatar
The well known Sigourney Weaver (known for her role as Ellen Ripley) comes back in Avatar as the
strong and no non-sense Grace who is the head of the scientific research team of the Avatar Project.
With a typical nerdy character such as Norm and a masculine army girl called Trudy, this team is well equipped for any fatality.
On a research trip into the Na'vi forest, Jake is chased by a Thanator (something between a black panther and a frilled neck lizard.) and separates himself from the rest of the team. He then meets Neytiri, a local Na'vi who does not kill Jake as she is stopped by the spirits of Ewha (the mother of all that is life according to the Na'vi). She takes him to her tribe after saving him from a bunch of hungry Viperwolves. The Clan Chief (who happens to be Neytiri's father) is amused with Jake as he has never met a human who is a warrior before. The ones that they have come in contact with were all scientists. He assigns Neytiri to teach Jake the Na'vi way of life.

Fig 3: Neytiri

The humans require an ore of metal known as unobtanium. It sells for 20 million a kilo. The largest deposit of this ore in under the home tree village of the Na'vi clan. It is the only deposit available closest to the human military base.
The Na'vi refuse to move base and since Jake just gained access to their ways, the situation could not look better for the humans.
As Jake Sully is an ex-marine with no functional legs, the Colonel Miles Quaritch requests him to report to him with information regarding the Na'vi's Achilles' heel.
So begins the process of Jake learning the Na'vi way, the scientists envying him for his first hand access to the Na'vi culture.
But as the story must progress, Jake begins to develop feelings for the Na'vi, especially Neytiri and falls in love with their ways. This ends with him regretting his decision to report to the Colonel.
He then joins forces with the clan and brings the humans down by uniting all the Na'vi clans throughout Pandora. He achieves this by riding The Last Shadow- a flying pterodactyl that is the king of the sky. The Na'vi believe that the rider of The Last Shadow, brings the people together in the time of great sorrow.
The Na'vi believe that all energy is borrowed and that one day it has to be returned. Much like the Magic of Chaos- a South American belief of magic where objects are created by borrowing energy from other existing objects.
The Na'vi triumph in the end, with the help of Ehwa, who Jake summons with a plea to assist him in a war against the humans. He is rewarded by the Na'vi- they transfer his living soul from his human body to his Avatar body so that he may be a Na'vi in the whole.

Fig 4: Jake Sully being touched by the Ehwa spirits

 A small but interesting thing about this film is that the title is revealed only in the end.
Also, James Cameron had a camera developed for the shooting of the film, if put simply, it consists of two cameras strapped together to provide a distorted view of the world in the way the human eye would see it. According to Eddie Wren, "But these advances are different - the entire screen has depth, taking on the appearance of a window through which the viewer is watching a 'world' on the screen, with a distinct foreground and background, rather than a flat, moving painting " Wrenn,Eddie.(2009).Daily Mail Online Film Review. How James Cameron's 3D Film Could Change The Face Of Cinema Forever.

Avatar is a delicious visual treat that can be enjoyed even on mute. It took 12 years in the making and those years have certainly paid off as far as the look of the film is concerned and according to reviewer Jonathan Romney "The film is like an anti-Darwinist's wet dream of intelligent design, with Cameron as God with a Bible full of algorithms." Romney, Jonathan.(2009. The Independent Film Review. Avatar, James Cameron, 163 mins, (PG)

Bibliography and Illustration List:

Wrenn,Eddie.(2009).Daily Mail Online Film Review. How James Cameron's 3D Film Could Change The Face Of Cinema Forever. Available online at
(Accessed 20th November 2011)
Romney, Jonathan.(2009). The Independent Film Review. Avatar, James Cameron, 163 mins, (PG) 
Available online at (Accessed 20th November 2011)

Murray, Rebecca.(2009) Film Review. Available online at  Available online at (Accessed 20th November 2011)

Fig 1: Cameron,James. (2009).Avatar

Fig 2: Cameron,James. (2009).Avatar
Fig 3:Cameron,James. (2009).Avatar
Fig 4: Cameron,James. (2009).Avatar

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