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January 16, 2012

Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
Actors: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

Avatar (250×250)

Synopsis: In a far off planet, Pandorum, paraplegic, ex-marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) undergoes the ‘avatar’ process of becoming a na’vi. He soon becomes caught between helping his new people and assisting the colonialist humans who want to mine the planet for a precious mineral.

Review: Given that it was one of the biggest film ‘events’ of all time, it’s actually quite instructive to watch Avatar a couple of years after its release, to unpick its true worth and legacy away from the immediacy of its hype. Alas, without that hype, Avatar is actually a bit of an anti-climax, and a fairly transparent vehicle for Cameron’s ‘boys toys’ fetishism. Dare I say it, but the story at times appears to have been an afterthought, and Cameron’s simplistic and infantile tone really does a disservice to the film’s seemingly powerful themes of environmentalism and anti-colonialism. If anything, in terms of its plot and aspiration to something trascendentally profund, Avatar is a rip-off of the infinitely superior Terrence Malick movie The New World. Both films feature colonial soldiers who ‘go native’ and with the help of a beautiful daughter of the tribe leader, learn to reconfigure their spiritual world. Where Malick homed in on the poetry and grace of that journey, Cameron seems stymied by his CGI obsession and the need to create spectacular images to befit the film’s 3D remit. In mitigation, the film does have something interesting to say about how our virtual lives may soon come to supplant our actual/physical realities (hence the title ‘Avatar’), but the rest of the film is otherwise familiar and forgettable fare. (January 2012)

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