Archive for the ‘film’ Category

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what makes you different from us?

January 14, 2010

I finally saw Avatar the other night (in 3D), and I must admit that I was impressed.  After reading some reviews and comments prior to seeing the film (while avoiding spoiling too much), I went in to the theatre fully expecting to hate it.  After complaints about the cheesy dialogue, clichéd story and inaccurate science, I was anticipating that my over-analytical brain wouldn’t be able to stop nitpicking and just enjoy the movie.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  Not only were the visuals stunning, but the story was incredibly moving and I found myself blinking back tears a couple of times.  In fact, the first thing I wanted to do after the movie was go home and sob.

When I first heard about Avatar, I was expecting a dark sci-fi epic along the lines of James Cameron‘s previous movies Aliens and The Abyss.  When I first saw the trailer, I was all, “Tall blue jungle-dwelling aliens?  A love story?  Seriously?” and was having second-thoughts about my excitement for the movie.  Thankfully, Mr Cameron has restored my faith in his film-making abilities, which I’m sure was keeping him up at night.  Avatar truly is an epic film that fits this zeitgeist perfectly, despite being conceived and written fifteen years ago.  There probably isn’t a better time than now for a film like this that addresses the political, environmental and spiritual themes that the film portrays.  If it had been made fifteen years ago, when times were better, when the economic and political landscapes were rosy compared to today, and when global warming was but a glimmer in Al Gore‘s eye, it’s entirely possible that the important messages that the film contains could (and would) be overlooked.  And that, to me, is the amazing thing – here is a much-hyped action blockbuster that actually contains valuable messages, if you can just look beyond the gorgeous visuals, epic battle scenes and rehashed storyline.  This is a film that will undoubtedly be seen by an enormous amount of people, including those for whom war, racism and environmental destruction are things to support, or at least ignore.  It is my hope (as I’m sure it is Mr Cameron’s) that this movie may help people open their eyes and perhaps change their way of thinking.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m aware that all the themes in Avatar have already been thoroughly covered in other (sometimes better) movies – but very few of these other films have the opportunity to be seen by such a large and diverse number of people*.  Those walking in expecting simply sci-fi eye-candy and some big explosions may walk out with more to think about.

So if you haven’t seen the movie, that is what I implore you to do.  Sure, enjoy the beautiful landscapes, chuckle at the corny dialogue, ooh and aah at the 3D, and perch on the edge of your seat during the climactic battle scenes (you may have to – after 2 and a half hours, you’re probably going to need to change positions).  But most importantly, allow yourself to be moved by the message.  We should all envy the Na’vi and the harmonious relationship that they have with their planet and their god, who is merely a representation of the interconnected energy of all the planet’s organisms.  Compared to them, it is humankind that is truly primitive.

On a side note, during the previews my friend Nadia made an interesting observation that we were not unlike people watching motion pictures for the very first time way back in the early 1900s.  Everyone in the theatre was oohing and aahing over the 3D trailer for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland the same way that people well over a hundred years ago would have been gasping at the first moving images – except the Cheshire Cat floating above the audience’s heads would have been a grainy black & white train hurtling towards the screen.  And the way I asked Nadia if she had seen much 3D was reminiscent of people in the early days of cinema asking their friend if they had seen many movies.  Just like the people in the olden timey days, we are experiencing the birth of cinema – except this time it’s in 3D.  Neither James Cameron nor IMAX pioneered 3D films – they’ve been around since the 1950s – but they have become more commonplace.  It’s not uncommon for there to be at least one 3D film playing at any given time, and many films (such as Toy Story and Shrek) have been re-released theatrically in 3D to take advantage of evolving technology.  With 3D television sets already on the market, many people are predicting that 3D will soon become the norm.  It’s only a matter of time before we turn to our friend and ask if they’ve seen any good holograms lately.

*Last year’s District 9, which also features aliens and could rightfully be called an “action blockbuster”, dealt with xenophobia and segregation very thoughtfully – however, it’s possible that due to the appearance of the aliens, it may have been difficult for some people to empathise with them.  Some may argue that the character design of the Na’vi in Avatar lacks imagination – they are, after all, basically tall blue people with tails – but to Cameron’s credit, it is their very human-like appearance that helps the audience relate to them and their plight more easily than to the “prawns” in District 9.