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Sunday, 3 January 2010

Film – Avatar – directed by James Cameron

Star rating – 7/10

There are a couple of questions worth pondering about this latest James Cameron blockbuster, firstly, does it justify the long wait, the reputed $230 million it took to make, and all the hype; and secondly, is it any good as a 3D movie (and indeed are 3D movies themselves a worthwhile medium).

So, as someone with little expectations of the film, and who had seriously not been waiting for this ‘movie event of the decade’, but just went along out of curiosity, then the answer to the first question is that it is a genuinely impressive film, not so much for its storyline, which is engaging enough, but for its fantastic use of CGI, its special effects, and its breathtaking landscapes.

The basic story line, for the record, is that a paraplegic former marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) plays a wheelchair-bound war hero who is selected to take part in a top-secret mission. He is sent to an extraterrestrial moon called Pandora which is inhabited by race of humanoid aliens, the Na’vi. Sully has to become one of the Na’vi, and finds himself a torn between the scientists (led by Cameron old girl Sigourney Weaver) who want to discover the secrets of Pandora, and the mercenaries who only want to plunder the precious minerals there. But Sully starts to question the legitimacy of his task, partly thanks to his romance with the warrior princess Neytiri.

And Cameron introduces a welcome political element to the action, for those who wish to explore it, which admittedly will not be all the Avatar audiences. But there are clear parallels to be drawn with the American role in the current Iraqi/Afghanistani conflict, which don’t take much deciphering. Cameron also makes more than a few nods (some might say shamelessly steals) from Michael Mann’s 1992 ‘Last of the Mohicans’ in at least four scenes. Indeed he even uses one of the same actors, Wes Studi, in the role of Eytukan, the father of princess Neytiri who is understandably reluctant to endorse his daughter’s choice of life partner at first.

The action is first rate, even if the film is a little overlong, although admittedly not as long as some other so called blockbusters. But it is a great film, and it has to be said that it is refreshing to see a hero in a wheelchair whose disability is not really made a big thing of.

And so to the second question, is it any good as a 3D film – well, once you have got over the initial novelty of seeing objects in this added dimension, as they come hurtling towards you out of the screen, I don’t think that there is really much point in having the movie in 3D at all. Sorry and all that – but the special effects would stand up for themselves in their own right without the dark glasses – amusing though they are to wear with your fellow film goers. It just does not seem to be really necessary or add much to the experience. So, although I enjoyed Avatar, I agree with the Mark Kermode view of 3D when he says ‘the future is flat’.

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