Every time I hear of the word Avatar, I can’t help but associate it with that anime, where everyone has these elements they can harness and they fight evil… So when I was asked if I wanted to watch Avatar, I didn’t immediately feel interested. And then I watched the trailer and was blown away by the possibilities.
So I went to watch it today.
It. Was. Amazing.
It was an epic of a story. And so realistic. The Na’vi people and the world of Pandora are breathtaking. Envision a lush forest landscape, a very very very old world where there are trees embedded deep into the earth and reaching to pierce the sky. Floating islands, curls of mist… harmony. Eden.
Delicate creatures twirl and float in the moist air. Luminous flowers open and close at the lightest touch. Creatures, too. Both familiar and strange (since Pandora is very similar to Earth?). And a vast network of roots ancient as the planet. It fills you with the urge to tread deep into the middle of a jungle/forest and feel the heartbeat of the earth. Especially those scenes where delicate tendrils of life itself envelop you and you feel something that acknowledges your presence within the cosmos. Sorry, I like being abstract. Well, just watch it, will you?
The Na’vi, “synthetic” as they are, were very convincing both as aliens and as reflections of human beings. Every nuance of expression looked natural, I think they did a good job capturing the complicating current of emotions that can pass through a human-like face in an instant. I did some major gushing over the way the Na’vi people move, – with such elegance and strength. They were true to the “humanoids” they are, moving like how people living in tune with their environment would move. Especially how they shoot those arrows. Wow. It looks like they’re dancing.
Whenever you talk about “The New World” and learning about it and making friends with the beings and life forms in it, there’s going to be friendships, romance, tensions and tentative trust which can be dashed and reformed. Think Pocahontas. The main character, Jake Sully, is an interesting character. His twin brother was a scientist involved in the “Avatar” project. This project consists of building a Na’vi body that is compatible with a human so that a few select scientists can further their studies on the Na’vi culture and the biology of Pandora. They connect mentally with a biologically engineered Na’vi body that also contains twists of the human genome. Basically, they plug themselves into something which can transfer their consciousness to the biologically engineered Na’vi-like body. I guess, think Matrix? But, into a different body instead of into the matrix. Anyway, these Na’vi bodies are expensive and take years to develop, so, when Jake’s brother dies, Jake is the next best replacement, since biologically, he’s very similar to his bro.
Jake himself has been paralyzed hips down due to time served in a war on Earth. So, to be able to move again, to be able to run again – of course, it’s fantastic. Except the more he “inhabits” his Na’vi body, the more he feels like this is who he truly is. He is no longer the Jake who is crippled waist down, who is weary and cynical of life, listless…lost. He’s kind of found himself again, found his own importance and vision of life. It’s very touching and dramatic and epic.
Of course, there were some kind of stock-type characters: there’s a half-crazed-going-on-fully-nuts Colonel-type character complete with scalp scars, a greedy-high-strung-indoor-golfing-corporate dude who calls the shots on the whole Pandora project, a tough-girl-army-chick with her wits and morals about her. But they weren’t too stock. They were some untold stories there.
There are so many themes running through the movie. The destructive powers of human consumerism. The insane possibilities that technology can open up. The intricate web of life and man’s relation and awareness of his role within it. More abstract themes that deal with the concept of the human spirit and the circulation of energy… the soul, perhaps? Sitting in the dark theatre, I collected all these sensory experiences and melded them together and felt like I needed to search past all the nice wrappings and accessories I put around my life and get back to the core of it. It’s a nice feeling.
Here’s an interesting quote from James Cameron (the director and script-writer) I found from reading the Wikipedia article about the film:
“the Na’vi represent something that is our higher selves, or our aspirational selves, what we would like to think we are” and that even though there are good humans within the film, the humans “represent what we know to be the parts of ourselves that are trashing our world and maybe condemning ourselves to a grim future.”
In essence, it really is great storytelling and entertainment. Easily takes the title of “Best Movie I’ve seen this Year”.