Sunday, December 27, 2009

Avatar Review...








Paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent to infiltrate and win the trust of the Na'vi, the blue-skinned native inhabitants of Pandora, a planet containing a valuable mineral. The twist? In order to complete the mission, his consciousness will be transferred into a new body, an 'avatar' closely resembling one of the locals. Trouble strikes when he falls for warrior princess Neytiri

First and foremost, Avatar, as promised, unquestionably represents the best visual use of performance capture and 3D technology in cinema to date. It has also been treated to one of the best marketing campaigns. Somehow, the phrase that found its way into every pre-release report, article or outright puff-piece was game changer - and that was before anybody had seen any footage. To get everybody talking about your latest project as a film that could change the face of cinema is a difficult thing, but not nearly so difficult as living up to the expectations that bravado creates. 'King Of The World' James Cameron does love a challenge.

So, is it or isn't it? Has 'the game' been changed? The answer really depends on what game you're playing. If we're talking about what a film can achieve visually, Avatar is unequivocally a game changer. If the game you're interested in is the older art of storytelling, character and dramatic narrative, it is not. Looking back at Cameron's own oeuvre, the experience of reading the scripts of Terminators 1 and 2 and of Aliens is engaging in its own right, before you add any visuals. The same can't be said of Titanic and True Lies, but they do undeniably provide great opportunities for some spectacular action set pieces. Avatar, while more ambitious, leans slightly towards spectacle over script: the story is no dud, but you will come out of the cinema talking about what you've just 
seen, rather than quoting the instantly classic lines of Terminator/Aliens.

It may not be crammed with soundbites, but boy, does Avatar ever look good. The 3D technology is the best it has ever been, and unlike gimmicky 3D where an audience might lean away from something that appears to project out towards them, 3D in Avatar is overwhelmingly used to create a sense of depth - we're looking into an open window on another world, stretching out in front of us. And what a world it is. The fruits of Cameron's audacious imagination could not be more psychedelic and eye-boggling if Mother Nature decided to reboot our ailing planet with some lush, trippy creations and commissioned a prog rock cover art specialist to make it so. Planet Pandora is awash with colourful critters and a forest of flora straight out of a botanist's acid trip.

Wonder at the bio-luminescent forest, culled straight from James Cameron's deep sea diving expeditions. Boggle at the six-legged horse beasts. Thrill to the glowing pink tree, guardian of ancestral memories. Sigh over the motile dandelion spores, giant touch-sensitive plants and rainbow pterodactlys. Coo over the many-hued sunsets. Then of course, there's the stars of the show, the blue, environmentally low-impact Na'vi whose land is threatened by a nasty corporation. If it all sounds one crying unicorn away from New Age poster art, that's because it is, but not in a bad way - most of the time it looks so glorious the sheer beauty of the thing browbeats your cynicism into submission and leaves it lying battered and bruised, face down in a pool of shimmering ethereal phosphorescence.
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