Undeniable likeness of being.

av·a·tar  (āv’ə-tär’)   
n.  

  1. The incarnation of a Hindu deity, especially Vishnu, in human or animal form.
  2. An embodiment, as of a quality or concept; an archetype: the very avatar of cunning.
  3. A temporary manifestation or aspect of a continuing entity: occultism in its present avatar.

Having an overly rational mind sometimes leads me to rebel against hype. I often find myself missing out on the simple joys of life, due to my inescapable obsession to analyze and verify everything I see and do. When I watch a movie, or read a book, for instance, I first have to consciously talk myself out of re-writing the story, and talk myself INTO just enjoying it for what it is.  This illusion that  I present to myself stands hard, but only for a short period of time, before it mists away and my brain begins twisting what I know into what I wish I hadn’t discovered.

This was the case while watching Avatar a week ago.

This movie has been hyped as the greatest of its time. Years of promotion and speculation built the public interest into a frenzy. And crushed any hopes I had of enjoying it. The more an event is hyped, the more likely I am to turn from that hype. The greater the frenzy, the stronger my feelings are that there is something amiss.

I will grant that the cinematics are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. A third of the way through the movie I found myself wondering if this was really CGI, or if the world had been deluded and what we were watching was actually actors in costume. I generally don’t like CGI in a movie, it takes away the fantasy of it all, ironically. Watching Spiderman 2, in all its CGI glory was a horrendous adventure, dissolving all of the “superpowerness” of the hero. It made it hard to believe that Peter Parker was in fact a “superhero”…I know that a computer generated hero can do anything, what I wanted to see was a stereotypical young geek capable of the extraordinary.

Avatar was the first CGI film I’ve watched that actually made me feel as if this was something I’d never have the opportunity to witness in real life. Now, you may say that Spiderman is not something one could truly witness in real life, however, there certainly are stereotypical young geeks accomplishing the extraordinary on a regular basis. What the CGI did was make me wonder, if what I was watching wasn’t in fact real, real actors, real makeup, real costumes, real settings.

For once, the CGI was believable, and it was the story that lacked luster for me.

The story of Avatar is not new. It’s one that can be found in the absurd. Take Zelda-Ocarina of time…here we have the story of a young hero, Link, who is an outsider in a village, the Kokiri Forest, built under the Great Deku Tree. As an outsider, Link strives to become a member of his chosen people by setting out to abolish their oppressor, with an underlying motive of saving the life of the princess, thereby ensuring his perfect assimilation into the people. Sound familiar?

The spiritual connotations in Avatar go almost beyond discussion. The idea that all things are explicitly connected, running on the same life energy and never divisible is the basis of my being. Watching Avatar is like experiencing a shrink-wrapped mushroom cloud of religion. It’s safe to say that every faith will find something to connect to in Avatar, if one so cares to look.

So, that leaves me wondering, what was James Cameron up to when he wrote Avatar?  He is noted for placing symbolic relationships in his movies. His stories are  littered with the lessons he wishes  the viewer to learn. Or is it just people like me…those of us unable to see something for strictly what it is? Is there the off-chance that Cameron made this movie, and all his others, simply because he could? Simply because he was boxing clever, and able to re-imagine the accepted standards of film-making?  Was it purely for our entertainment? Unfortunately for me, no.

Cameron had a purpose. My only wish is that his purpose fit the hype because  the hype surrounding the”originality” of the movie promised a revelation. I went into this viewing with the idea and understanding that Cameron was going to change the world. The hype informed me that what I was about to watch was a brilliant new concept, not only in the cinematics, but also in idea. In the past, I walked away from Cameron’s movies with something fresh to think about, something new to wrap my head around. With Avatar, I find myself largely disappointed with the lack of newness.  As much as I herald the ability present in the movie to manipulate CGI in a previously unseen manner, I recognize it as something that was inevitable, the next logical step in its developement. And the story is previously written in any dogma, any sacred text, any belief structure, from Hinduism to Islam, Witchcraft to Freemasonry.

The mundane has become original. Basics of life, human nature, have become the phenomenal, yet still, we rely on the predictable to enlighten us.

I can hardly wait for the sequel, in which I’m sure the Na’vi will spend three hours becoming assimilated into the ways of their new saviour.

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12 Comments

  1. Lisa said,

    April 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    I didn’t watch it, b/c I hate sci-fi and didn’t really want to see a film about mutant smurfs. Blah!

    If you dissect Titanic, you can see lots of historical discrepencies and then you’re like Rose would be dead from all that time in the water.

    • April 30, 2010 at 7:43 pm

      Lisa, I can comfortably say that if you never see this movie, you won’t be missing nothin’!
      And the best thing about Titanic were the clothes! And when Rose and all the drunks dance a little jig.

      • Craig said,

        August 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm

        OH MY GOD.

        Ever thought that all this navel gazing trying to discover something original was why you may not have got out of the movie what you expected? Sometimes expectations can wreck a movie’s impact, and for me as far as cinematic pop-corn entertainment goes and wow visuals and great action set pieces – Avatar was a masterpeice. Original – is anything anymore? But done well – for damn sure!

        • August 18, 2010 at 8:46 am

          No, I’m pretty sure that my expectations weren’t what wrecked the movie’s impact. What wrecked the movie’s impact was James Cameron. Perhaps if he had touted it as “cinematic pop-corn entertainment” instead of spending 20 years proclaiming it to be a movie of such great importance, one that took years to produce because the story was so great that the technology didn’t yet exist to portray it, then I’d give him a little more credit. He promised a phantasmagoric juxtaposition of nature and spirituality, and what we got was an animated recap of every major biblical and religious teaching, with absolutely none of the “new ideas” he was promising. Cinematically, the movie was amazing, but Cameron didn’t come up with the cinematics, 1000 other people did. My point is simply that the storyline was not fantastic enough to warrant all of the cinematic work. Nor all of the hype. My error was not in expecting the “movie” to amaze, my error was in thinking that finally, James Cameron had come up with something worth ANY expectations.

  2. April 30, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Cost too much. Delivered too little. Think how much ACTUAL rain-forest, tribal culture and rare species could have been saved for half a BILLION dollars spent making this derivative bombast.

    – and on the technical side of things, for me the 3D worked, but the CGI didn’t. The Na’vi didn’t appear to have any actual weight. Their hands and feet moved all Gumby-like, not like appendages with muscles or connective tissue. Everyone’s face looked like it had been recently botoxed. I’ll admit, their teeth looked very realistic.

    Of course the biggest problem was the script, which was poor, trite, even amateurish. A robot suit does not need a robot knife. If the atmosphere is poison, that means to you too, Colonel. Jake also says yes to Colonel Nutcase BEFORE the guy tells him he’ll get his legs back. Assembled natives in religious ceremonies should not do “jazz hands”. “UNOBTANIUM?!” – oh, please. Cameron is suffering from Stanley Kubrick Syndrome, where a filmmaker gets total control and then they assume they can do anything, when in fact they can’t write. Both these filmmakers had early films written by others that brought success, then when they write their own scripts, the scripts are BAD.

    • April 30, 2010 at 7:38 pm

      I did not watch the 3D version, wonder if that plays a part in the difference of opinion regarding the CGI. After seeing a short preview playing of the 3D version I did not think I could sit through it comfortably and therefore bought the standard view.

      Of course the biggest problem was the script, which was poor, trite, even amateurish.

      Yes, exactly. Which is why I was hoping that it was made solely as mere entertainment. I shook my head so often that finally I went looking for Cameron’s intentions in the hopes that I would find there was “no hidden agenda”. What I found was quote after quote of Cameron explaining his deep motives, his inner meanings, his symbolism in the movie. As if he was releasing never before imagined ideals. What a farce! Not that I was expecting Cameron to lay bare the meaning of life, but c’mon! give me SOMETHING.
      Which brings me to my other problem…perhaps I should not be looking at the underlying elements, like storylines, and just learn to oogle the pretty flash in the pan.

  3. Pie said,

    May 5, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I had no intention of watching Avatar and having read your post it looks like I was right in my original assessment. Like you, I generally run away from anything that is over-hyped, because if you have to shout that loud, you probably don’t have much to offer. Having said all that, I did watch ‘A serious Man’ at the start of the year, which was pushed fairly hard because it was the fashion designer Tom Ford’s first film. There much said about the beauty of it and that it was a credible debut. It was beautiful to look at, but it was also a well crafted meditation on love and loss. I was not disappointed.

    I’ve lost my interest in James Cameron films since Titanic, which is a shame, as I liked Aliens and the first two terminator films. I’m sure he believes what he says, but I also believe my money will go to better things than a three hour CGI fest featuring blue people. As a side note, I was beyond happy when Kathryn Bigelow, his ex wife, cleaned up at the Oscars. Bombast doesn’t always get through.

    One of my favourite films of all time is Westworld. A perfect adult playground created by man, set some time in the future, goes terribly, terribly wrong. Although it was made in 1973, it stands up as a film that totally engages and scares you, without excessive bloodshed. Yul Brynner as the gunslinger is possibly one of the most terrifying characters on celluloid because he makes flesh the nightmare we all have of being relentlessly chased by something that cannot be destroyed, made all the more real by the fact he’s a robot made in our image. Yul’s impassive, harsh features were perfect for that role, as Arnie was for the Terminator. I hope they never get to make the remake that was rumoured long ago. I just know that the plot, such as it is, will be thrown out of the window for CGI a go-go and pretty boys will play the various characters. Who would they cast to play the gunslinger? Shia LeBouf? One of the Jonas Brothers?

    • May 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm

      I’m intrigued now by the films you’ve mentioned, thanks for the great descriptions Pie.
      I can understand how you feel about remakes…the only one I was really happy with was Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Everyone thinks I’m crazy, but Depp played Wonka EXACTLY as I pictured him when I read the book as a child. Gene Wilder’s rendition always made me furious whenever I watched it…it was the one movie I waited a lifetime for to see re-made. The original lacked so much imagination for me, I was very satisfied with Burton’s version, it felt like finally, the book had been done justice.

  4. Pie said,

    May 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    SBC, I made a mistake. The Tom Ford film I was talking about was ‘A Single Man.’ ‘A Serious Man’ is a Cohen brothers film that I’ve not yet seen.

  5. mshamanm said,

    May 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I have finally seen this (actually about 2 weeks ago), and Although the story has been done to death (Dances with Wolves anyone?) it was a beautiful movie. I like you thought, with all the hype it would be a HUGE let down, but i think the whole nature thing and how they were utterly connected to it hit home hard (being wiccan). Anyway, reading you blog gives me a headache, you are too smart for your own good LMAO

    /hugs
    M

    • May 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm

      Hehehe…..gee, thanks, Mel, next time I’ll leave some advil behind for that headache! LOL
      (Are YOU Wiccan? Or were you referring to me?) There was definitely a lot of religious context going on in the movie, a little for everyone I guess.


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