Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In which I find myself rooting for blue people...

Never in a million years would I have thought the following would occur:
  • I would willingly purchase tickets to a James Cameron film.
  • Use an oh-so-precious Friday night to watch a 2 hour and forty-odd minute film.
  • Sit through a 2 hour and forty-odd minute film about 10-foot tall blue cat people.
  • Become emotionally invested in these blue cat people and cry when their FernGully gets blown up.
  • Actually like one-dimensional characters and a dicey storyline.
  • Get seasick at the movies.
I know there are many folks who hatehatehate James Cameron (Shug included) and rightly so. I am still one of the three people left on the planet that hasn't seen Titanic. And I was one of the three people left on the planet that hadn't seen Avatar.

The technical beauty and groundbreaking animation of this film cannot be overlooked. Seeing the world of Pandora (dumb name, agreed) felt a lot like watching Planet Earth on mergatroid steroids. Scene after scene of floating mountains, glowing spindles of trees, and fluorescent seed pods, in 3D IMAX no less, left me a little nauseated and utterly amazed. The reverence and care taken in creating this world was evident in every little detail, from the Latin names every plant was given to the premise of chemo-receptor communication (mirrored after the human brain) between all living things.

After being bludgeoned with the message to take care of our own planet (which we absolutely should), I really started to enjoy the subtext of other messages the movie had to offer...I'm sure these messages were purely accidental since Cameron is about as subtle as a nuclear bomb. Case in point: the precious ore the humans were raping Pandora of was called Unobtanium...yes, unobtainable Unobtainium. (Dumber name, agreed.)

BUT, some of the less obvious messages the movie conveyed were downright spot-on.

From a feminist perspective, the importance of a matriarchal society, deity, and leadership was awesome. The female characters in the movie are important because of their intelligence, hunting prowess, leadership skills, and groundbreaking research, not their beauty or cup size. My newly engaged friend, Supermodel, pointed out that the interface between the indigenous people of Pandora and all other living things is a very asexual connection shared my male and female inhabitants alike. The bodies of the main female characters are lithe and strong, and while under-dressed by human standards, the males wear just as few clothes.

I also really liked the examination of our connection to our bodies in a digital age. Jake Sully, a paraplegic, is lucky enough to embody an agile avatar of himself. Much of the movie is spent following Jake through a celebration of movement and tactile sensation. He cannot NOT touch plants that rebound from his grasp, he cannot wait to run and feel the dirt between his toes when he first synchs with his avatar, and he follows his indigenous guide off of treetops and branches to the forest floor. There was rarely a moment in the movie, while in his avatar, that Jake is still.

I wondered why Jake was paralyzed and how this was important to the film. We are forced to join Jake as he struggles with his wheelchair and atrophied legs. We join him in conversation about getting "fixed" in return for the secrets of the indigenous culture he's infiltrated. While in his human form, he refuses to let people touch or help him, he is an island. While many would see his paralyzed state as a bargaining chip for information, we come to find out he embodies American culture - a hooah, an answer-to-the-man drone, a sedentary creature, without personal connection or physical interaction. Only when he begins assimilating into the indigenous culture does Jake let touch and physicality occur with others while using his own faculties and heart to make life-changing decisions.

There are some MAJOR issues with the story and plot-points of this film, but you know what? I ceased to care. I let the fact that Cameron is a megalomaniac that creates one-dimensional villains, the white-man-saves-everybody plot twists, and horrible one-liners roll off my back.

Why? Because this was the most beautiful movie I have ever seen.


  1. Wow! Reading your review is blowing my mind! You HATE almost everything and I would never think you would let alone write about, but actually LIKE a James Cameron film! Well, I guess I will have to check this one out.

    PS I am amazed you have never seen Titanic since your lil sis' watched it one million times, and half of those were in the theaters. . . and half of those I was with her. . . where were you?

  2. i love this! the movie was great, and i didn't even really think about why.

  3. Wren! great review!

    I am questioning if the anonymous person is trying to be negative or not...sounds like my ex-boyfriend ... John, is that you?



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