So Avatar has been out for a couple of months now and I had been resisting seeing it for all of that time. The reason? In my mind I was convinced it was just another gimmicky 3-D film with tomahawks and arrows coming straight for you out of the screen. I could not have been more incorrect.
The movie in and of itself does not use the 3-D in the old way, having arrows or sharks coming straight for you. It is filmed in a very natural 2-D sort of perspective **but** the 3-D adds perspective and depth in a way that would be hard to imagine otherwise. In every scene one feels as if you are in the scene, taking part (or observing) the action or conversation. Visually you soon forget about the glasses you must wear and are totally absorbed in the environment. I say environment because it feels just like that, every detail rings true.
Did I mention that the detail is amazing? It truly is, you see animals, birds, sparks from a fire, landscapes even Na’Vi which your logical self tells you are CGI but your eyes tell you there are real, they have depth, physicality. All of the movements, emotions, facial features are so real to life they could not possibly be computer generated. Could it? It is beautifully shot, full of incredible surreal scenery, fantastical creatures, heroes and villains playing out a story that is captivating, believable and full of import and truth.
The most basic level of the story is that of the mega mining company stripping the land and killing the indigenous people to get some rare and ultra expensive mineral they want. That however is far and away too simple a way to describe this movie. The indigenous people, the Na’Vi, by intention or not seem to have a lot in common with native North American peoples, being in harmony with their environment, believing in the spirit in all things, in Mother Earth. Every life is sacred to them, every spirit is part of Eywa, hosted in the flesh for a time, returned to Eywa at death. The Na’Vi live in total harmony with their environment and can bond with it joining their spirit to that of the animals, trees, taking only what they need to survive.
The mining company (and it’s mercenary GI’s) on the other hand are in total disharmony with the environment, with two distinct goals in mind. First to move or make extinct the indigenous people, animals and other obstacles to the second objective, strip mining all of the rare mineral unobtanium. There is a very distinct parallelism here to the way North America was colonized, to way we so often treat indigenous peoples and our environment. Obviously not all of the newcomers are evil, else we wouldn’t have much of a story.
The story itself, as told by the movie is exciting, non-stop, at the same time moving, sad, encouraging and happy. It has some of the most moving and memorable scenes I have been witness to in a movie and because of the magic created by the 3-D, you are a part of those scenes not just an observer. In several places I was moved to tears, amazed, thrilled and tickled with laughter. This movie really draws the observer into it, the second time round it is even better because you get over the 3-D thing and really see the movie. I can not recommend it highly enough, anyone who has not seen it has missed something special. Something incredible. James Cameron and company deserve all of the kudos they will get for this movie, they have set the bar very high indeed.