Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar: The Cameron Infection

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Call me a perv, but have you ever tried turning back to look at the audience while watching a movie? I did, while I watched Avatar not because of lame curiosity, but because I wanted to make sure I was in a real world that was good old sober and dull. People were sitting with their clumsy 3D goggles, mouths agape in wonder. One guy was dropping his popcorn, because his hand seemed to be heading away from his mouth, smearing his face with the butter. Another whistled for the seventieth time, since he’s evidently excited on seeing breasts (alien or human irrelevant) uncovered on screen, A woman didn’t realize her shirt was getting smeared by the cheese that was dripping off her burger. A little kid shooed away imaginary flies that virtually tried to buzz him through this non-existent cinemascope screen projecting a gorgeous forest that defied the most imaginative visions and the most intrinsic perspectives of our time. Me, I put back my goggles on and continued to try and virtually smell this world of unflinching beauty that literally sprouted out of the traditional, cliched mind of one of the most technically (and financially) gifted fim-makers of our generation. James Cameron certainly had no dearth of funds at his disposal for his decade old dream, after proclaiming himself the king of the world on oscarstage. And to say that he’s put his resources to good use would be like proclaiming Sam Raimi’s franchise-born-Spiderman a perfect nemesis to heath ledger’s joker: Stupid. 
Avatar is a moviegoing experience that swoops you into it’s intricate, myriad layers of red, blue, green and everything in between, brings to screen a visual experience that would set the standards for CG filming, even half a decade from now, and perhaps get recognized as an instant classic in hollywood’s history text books (it already has). Sadly, Avatar stops to a grinding halt right there, in the middle of nowhere, “on a faraway planet called Pandora.” There are characters in this film which would be of little or no consequence. There are marines wearing sleek life-support face masks, there are stoopid decision makers, there is a crippled guy, a bunch of alien-life and a DNA harvested alien ‘body’ in between. Arrange them in the proper places in the human mind’s chain of power and presto! James cameron could’ve narrated his little story through the easy vantage point of a space telescope (feasible, considering the money involved here), and we could still understand what all the bow-arrow Vs machine-warfare conflict is all about. Instead, we are put through 160 odd minutes of corny dialogues and cliched slow-mo sequences that we could lip-sync unaided. We try and mentally shoo the men, their clumsy artillery and navi away, just to take in the beauty of the backdrop locations, the floating mountains, the massive trees, the little ’spirit’ bearing forms, Tree of Souls, Tree of Voices and so on… uncluttered please.
Mr. Cameron’s aliens are designed with only one conception in mind: we humans are the inferior guys, we can never imagine aliens as anything but alike ourselves, we can never conceive of life forms in more dimensions than six, can never conceive an alien that doesn’t communicate by talking, can never accept an alien in a different mass or form. Hence, Cameron’s CG army could come up with nothing but elongated humans in a shade of gorgeous blue, who make phunny noises. They walk like humans, they talk like humans, have families like humans, cry like humans, hell even have sex like humans! Do we really need an alien to look sorrowful, scream, howl and cry transparent tears in order to make us emote? Peter Jackson brought warmth into his aliens who looked nowhere as gorgeous as these, more like interstellar prawns. Too bad he needed only 30 million, a tenth of the budget Mr. Cameron had at his command for Avatar. Probably then, District 9 would’ve had the chance to get a best pic nomination among this year’s ten golden globes nominees.
The very concept of humans making an effort to invest moolah into an expensive DNA project, just for mere socialization, in order to lay hands on the unobtanium (we dont even know why the fuck we need this mineral, just cuz it could sell at a cool 20 million a kilo?? Or make bombs, ofcourse) is plain ridiculous, especially when the typical display of menancing firepower comes and we wonder why all this ‘avatar’ effort when we’ve already harvested enough bombs to tear apart entire planets and sufficient science to dissect each rock that comes out of this mess? And no disrespect to the fairer sex, but why put in an alien woman? Why not just an asexual alien? Jst cuz we’d have a lame-ass alien-human love story?
If we were meant to feel angst at the sight of the warships felling a giant tree while a horde of aliens howled, sorry James..we know you’re just taking your time showing off.. And what’s with the metaphorical felling of the symbolic tree (monolithic) and the ‘revenge’ that the Navis take out on the men in the only way possible: by annihilating them? And what about the stupid stoopid hulking commander scar-face who seemingly takes things so personally that at one final point of time, he literally envelops the whole physiology of his army, like he’s a human Goliath? Is this all a feeble reference to the felling of the symbolic twin towers and America’s blast of fury by unleashing it’s war on terror, ultimately climaxing in the capture of the stupid stoopid dictator? Obviously these are coincidences, or a minor tweak in the American director’s psyche (like it’s okay to kill one life form, but not another). We might probably know in the collector’s edition DVD interviews.
The animals looked menacing alright, even the raptor-like birds. The moment they show some kinda mythical superior among these winged creatures, we instantly know our man is going to get that birdie and make himself warlord, and ‘protect’ these aliens. And there’s going to be that scene where he’s gonna walk among a crowd towards his alien lady-love and there are awed faces all around him, revering him blah blah..  Yeah right! Ain’t THAT subtle? Sarcasm.
Avatar was a visual feast oh yes. It’s grandeur makes you feel small, but still one with the world of immense beauty and color that is Pandora. But sorry James, you’ve just created another cliche ridden 3D fern-gully with grand views of armies charging, desperate for that earth-shattering rohirrim battle-charge effect in the return of the king. A 3D installation of Pandora alone could’ve held us in awe. You’ve just spoilt it with your unquenchable thirst for grandeur and good ol’ romance.

By Fazil (at PassionforCinema.com)
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