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Reflections on “Avatar”
Let us start with an undeniable fact – this film is visually quite stunning with ground-breaking and superb visual effects which help create exciting action sequences and enhance the touching character development and interaction scenes.
James Cameron is without any doubt a most gifted story teller, combining big action with more intimate themes of personal growth, leading to the discovery of the bigger picture and purpose beyond self aggrandisement.
There are some very interesting themes struggling to be noticed in this film – being at one with nature, balance in nature, the circle of life, respect for others and nature, love, care for the environment, the arrogance of the human race to think it should take priority over others, greed and personal advancement, to name but a few.
The storyline allows human frailties and strengths to reveal themselves clearly in interaction with another species, allowing reflection on nationality, race, creed and colonial mentality.
Technically, as a piece of action/sci-fi film-making, this film is unsurpassed – the attention to detail is quite breathtaking. That said, I cannot say this is a great film. If it were to be taken seriously in terms of its “message” rather than an exercise in entertainment, there are several flaws and holes in the script which should have been ironed out before filming began – quite ironic, given the gap between conception and production. Of course, we may yet be treated to an improved director’s cut when it is released to DVD!
The “science” behind the creation of the avatar remains unexplained throughout the film. The “hero” claims to be incapable of understanding it, therefore it is assumed either that the audience would be equally incapable, or it is considered unimportant for the storyline. This may be true, but it is a fundamental weakness in convincing the audience of the verisimilitude of the story. Without this, it remains a fantasy piece and this weakens the basis of the purpose of the film.
Why would the Pandoran natives accept Jake’s avatar in their midst? Much more persuasion and justification (beyond being "the chosen one") is required here. If they regard humans as their enemy, why would they not be insulted or suspicious when they are clearly aware that this is a human in their form (who speaks English!)? If he is accepted as such, why is there a surprised accusation later in the film that he is a demon in one of their bodies?
In several scenes, we see Jake “returned” to his fellow humans discussing future strategies. What happens to his avatar in the meantime?
I found the complication of the avatar being based on Jake’s brother’s genes quite bizarre and underused. The fact that Jake can’t walk is vastly underused and could have been exploited as a reason for his desire to join the others permanently.
Apart from Trudy Chacon, are we really to believe that no other Earthling was horrified at the genocide in which they are engaged?
It seems to me that a number of amendments and explanations at script level might have taken this film up a level to great. The best science fiction films engage the mind as well as emotion. This one undoubtedly engaged the audience’s emotions and sympathies, but failed to support its own storyline with feasibility and thereby lost much of the persuasiveness necessary to truly carry its message.
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