It was pretty much what I had expected. Overwhelming, really. Scenes of extraordinary beauty, finely rendered to the last pore, hair, and leafy vein. Breathtaking action in 3D had me jumping in my seat. Even an old (in terms of practice) cynic like me was impressed.
Of course, my cynicism is no match for that of Avatar’s producers. Avatar is a technological marvel rendered to perfection by countless processors, using the most advanced digital imaging technology ever, but what does it do? It spools off a story of aggressive cartoon cut-out technology junkies vs peace loving indigenous people (beautiful, naturally, because in Disney-nature beauty equals goodness) living in harmony with Mother Nature, an actual divine being encompassing all living things–people, trees, animals, flowers etc. Through their righteous determination, the goodness of their spirits, the purity of their intentions, and with the help of Mother Nature herself, the evil technology junkies–easily identified as Uncle Sam’s finest–are defeated and Mother Nature, uncorrupted by the forces of technology and profit, continues to prevail in peace and, erm, harmony.
This most enchanted vision of Nature is entirely a high tech pixel storm, using the very same technology that the military uses for flight and battle simulations. An army of tens of thousands of software programmers in Utah and elsewhere in the US are working their fingers to the bone to ensure that, should Uncle Sam ever decide to invade and exploit another planet and annihilate its people, Mother Nature can go fuck itself. The film denounces the blind pursuit of profit, yet is the result of an unprecedented marketing process; its concept includes video games, computer applications, books, and a host of product spin-offs from the start like no other film before it. And, of course, it has become the highest grossing film within weeks.
Cameron & Co could have stolen Alien or Fifth Element or any number of other themes, and I would have bowed my head in reverence. But they chose this, the most outrageous lie possible. Not only do form and content not overlap, they live in different galaxies. It is propaganda of the very highest production “value”, a lie so out there, told with such verve that one is simply overwhelmed by it.
Like oil companies drilling to save the planet, like George W Bush and Tony his poodle announcing “a final push for peace” while they are amassing the largest invading army in decades off the borders of Iraq, like junk food companies sponsoring the Olympics, Avatar is pure propaganda, a patently untrue story that we are desperate to believe. Not believing it is rather more painful.
It is indicative that this is the first major film of its kind. Ultra-expensive, technically without peer, it was never going to bite the hand it serves.
Such laser-sighted commentary, Jan: I share your view; had Cameron chosen another sort of story – a less pious one – all those uncomfortable contradictions re. content versus production wouldn't come into play. At least if Avatar was about a real rainforest tribe, some of the films mega-profits could be handed out in a touchy-feely fairtrade love-fest and consciences salved. I think James Cameron is probably a bit thick – or, more kindly, an adolescent. However, I'm sure in terms of visual splendour, the planet of Pandora blew your red woolly socks off – I know it did me. I also discovered I fancied the Naa'vi a little bit by the end… superficial, moi? :-)How's Berlin?I'm sending out a 'label' file to Phil, who'll forward it to you – a template for creating the labels to go beside/below our work – for dimensions, titles, materials etc.
Thanks, Phil. Of course, it blew my socks off and the big boots, too.I am not sure that Cameron is thick and that the choice of the story was a slightly unfortunate oversight. I actually do think that the choice of story was very intentional. Hollywood tells America the stories it wants to tell itself. As war becomes peace, the exploitation of natural resources in sensitive biotopes becomes "saving the planet", a reduction in wealth for the poorest sells as "raising the value of work", high tech military technology and global enterprise come in the guise of tree hugging peaceniks living in tune with Nature. That is no accident; it's propaganda.Of course, you are superficial; wait for the adult version of Avatar… Give it time, the price of CGI will come down, and you can have your on-screen lovers come any colour and size you want, equipped with superpowers. Render me turned on…
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