Friday, March 5, 2010

Na'vi Ennui

Moviegoers who found themselves wrapped up this past year in the emotional powerhouse that was Twilight: New Moon, are no doubt part of the worldwide audience that has swooned for James Cameron's tiny little film called Avatar.  An audience that has helped catapult it into cinema box office history.  In fairness, this is money Cameron didn't need after his last forgotten work Titanic -- the former highest-grossing blockbuster of all time.  The most important thing is that in this difficult economy, investors as diverse as  David Beckham, Andrew Lloyd Weber and Guy Ritchie were able to recoup their investments and even claim a healthy return.  

Oh, to have attached your name to such an important and revolutionary film.  The craft on display here deserves special mention, for rarely have I seen such a meticulously choreographed synchronicity of mechanical moving parts.  The explosions, the gun-fights, the clash between man and nature.  Anyone who admired the subtlety and nuance of Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel or Paul Blart: Mall Cop, is bound to get a lot out of it.  In the midst of all the hype, I was so certain I missed something the first time around, that I went back tonight on Oscar weekend to delve deeper into the story and try to uncover it's hidden layers.  

Watching Avatar the second time, I learned two valuable lessons: 

1) Money and land are the twin pillars of civilized society and they must be obtained ruthlessly, even it means plundering natural resources and displacing thousands of people. 
2) The Iraq war was necessary and humane -- particularly for all the innocent civilians who were caught in the crossfire.  Note: only discerning viewers will be able to pick up on this hidden allegorical subtext. 

On Sunday night Avatar is certain to win a well-deserved Oscar for Best Visual Effects and probably also the trophy for Best Picture.  The movie has aptly been compared to D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation -- a film that introduced moviegoers to a new kind of cinematic spectacle, but the comparison ends there.  Birth of a Nation now rates as one of the most searing, politically incorrect, films of the early 20th Century while Avatar in contrast is a model of liberal values. James Cameron's empathetic portrayal of the Na'vi tribe is bolstered by a deep relationship to his computer generated characters who in turn have a deep relationship with their genetically matched human counterparts in the film.  

Instead of falling back on that pedestrian and (let's face it) predictable phrase: "I love you," the characters in Avatar look into each other's eyes and exclaim with the utmost sincerity "I see you."  A more succinct and incisive look at love has not been captured on film since Hayden Christensen joined hands with Natalie Portman in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and proclaimed:  "I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth." This is the kind of writer that James Cameron has matured into.  He even created his own language for the film -- which rarely sounds like gibberish and only occasionally sounds made up.  The man is a visionary.  

Cameron dreamt up this entire world and he alone deserves the credit for those glorious blue people and their pet dinosaurs, not to mention Sam Worthington's "now he's Aussie, now he's American" accent.  This is attention to detail at it's finest and great movies are all about the details.   At this point you may be picking up on a slight undercurrent of sarcasm, so please, let me assure you with absolute sincerity from the bottom of my heart:  Avatar is not one of the best movies of 2009 or any other year.  It's an over-hyped, over-blown, over-indulgent b-movie that takes itself too seriously to be enjoyed for what it is.  But please, I implore you to buy a ticket if you haven't already.  David Beckham and Andrew Lloyd Weber need your support.

Besides, the world needs more movies like this.  In time, perhaps we can even learn to replace those cloying moments of intimacy that we must all suffer through in our daily lives with the razzle-dazzle of larger-than life, stereoscopic, indulgence.