Ten years in the making and boasting a budget comparable to the gross domestic Product of a medium sized South American Country, James Cameron’s Avatar is finally upon us. The Celebrated Director had shown a select few fifteen minutes of Computer generated footage from the film six months ago which had Fan boys on the various film forums literally ejaculating with excitement.
If you believed the hype, the film would usher in a new revolution in CGI technology and blurr the line between what is real and what is Computer generated. At a cost of 300 million pounds, Cameron and his Effects team have spared no expense in inventing new 3D cameras and software programs to make the CGI as realistic as possible.
The film centres on a race of beings known as the Navi who inhabit the planet Pandora. They are a peace loving race who are at one with nature. To such an extent in fact that one can be forgiven for thinking that they spend their days singing ‘come by yar my lord’ to each other whilst hugging trees.
Earths interest in Pandora stems from its own energy crises and the solution coming in the form of an extremely rare mineral called Unobtainium ( Come on James, you could have given it a more original name!). Unfortunatley, Pandora is the sole location of Unobtainium and to make life a bit easier for the screenwriters, it lies directly beneath the Navi village.
The humans have set up a base on Pandora but do not fancy carrying out a bit of ethnic cleansing and as a result have instigated the Avatar program. This involves the planting of human consciousness inside the minds of home grown Navi bodies. The plan being to infiltrate the Navi, gain their trust and negotiate a resettlement.
Sigourney weaver, in her full headmistress mode, plays the chief Scientist, but the film really belongs to rising star Sam Worthington. He plays paraplegic ex marine Jake Sully who is hired by the military to gain the trust of the Navi in the hope of providing valuable intelligence in the event that the negotiations fail and a military solution is called upon. However, the more interaction he has with the Navi, the stronger the bond he forms with them and not surprisingly he begins to question his mission and his romantic entanglement with one of Navi further helps to cement his views.
This then is a battle between the scientists and the Military for and against the use of force. The military is led by the chief bad guy Colonel Miles Quaritch played by the excellent Stephen Lang, replete with a menacing facial scar. (Any self respecting Hollywood baddie these days is just not evil enough unless he possesses a facial scar the size of the grand canyon).
The six million dollar question is, is the film any good? Fortunately, the answer is a resounding yes. To everyones relief, James Cameron has created an epic that more than justifies the hype.
The planet Pandora with its exotic blend of trees and vegetation and a menagerie of different life forms is as beautiful and real as anything on earth. A mean feat considering it was all created inside the memory of a computer. The Navi themselves are blue 10 foot tall humanoid creatures with sharp pointy ears and long tails, all created using computer animation, yet they are living breathing creatures. Every facial mannerism and expressions have been catered for and in glorious 3D there realism is further enhanced.
To James Camerons credit he hasn’t allowed the technology or effects to overwhelm the film. A situation a lot of people were dreading. Instead, the Computer generated effects and action sequences are subservient to the flow of the story and only adds to the strength of the viewing experience.
Zoe Saldana ( Star Trek) is excellent as Jakes love interest, A Navi princess named Neytiri, while Giovanni Ribisi and Michelle Rodriguez are good in strong supporting roles.
Mention must also go to Director of Photography Mauro Fiore and Film Composer James Horner. The film is as beautifully shot as any I have ever seen in a long time and Horners music to is perhaps not as good as his earlier work, but a slightly off par Horner is still as good as most composers working in Hollywood today. Editing, sound, art direction are all excellent too ( as expected from a Cameron film ).
The story has been criticised by some people for being the weak link in the film. I would most heartily disagree. The story can be enjoyed on different levels. Some may prefer the romantic subplot, others may just sit back and enjoy the exhilarating action sequences while the more demanding viewers, will no doubt find some message about the potential environmental harm we are doing to our own planet allied with a critique of the forced relocation of indigenous peoples throughout our own history.
My advice would be to watch the film in the cinema, put on those 3D goggles and just enjoy an immensely enjoyable rollercoaster ride.