Subhuti goes for a swim with Jim Cameron.
“The thing about happiness: it can vanish in a heartbeat!” warns Jake Sully, the central character.
Well, of course, it had to, didn’t it? Otherwise, the plot of James Cameron’s long-awaited ‘Avatar 2’ would have simply disintegrated. Cameron needed the dramatic tension of love versus hate, good guys versus bad guys, to attract the movie-going public and finance his $400 million production bill.
I simply had to go and see it, selecting the nearest movie house with the biggest 3D screen to make sure I could drown myself in the wonders of Pandora, the mythical planet on which this story unfolds.
Film critics, bless their poverty-stricken hearts, are doomed to be impotent spectators, using what little power they have to take pot shots at other people’s creativity. But they can also be amusing, especially when trying to cope with a blockbuster like Avatar: The Way of Water.
So, let’s look at some of their comments:
One that made me smile, if only for his use of colourful imagery, was Robbie Collin of The Telegraph, who lamented “the sad sight of a great film maker reversing up a creative cul-de-sac,”
Collin added: “Do you know what would be more evocative of the wonders of nature than a lot of $400 million computer-generated fish? Actual fish!”
Well, personally, I’m not too sure about that. I love David Attenborough’s documentaries, but I was also charmed by Avatar’s awesome creatures.
Critics complained about the “coyly sexualised” portrayal of the slim and nearly naked bodies of the blue-tinted members of the Na’vi tribe. Perhaps more tellingly, they pointed out that, even though the movie appeared to champion native tribal values, the dominant theme was racial supremacy, showing “some white guy” becoming the leader of a “non-white culture.”
On a more practical note, The Daily Mail critic warned, “By golly, it will test your bladder!” Referring, of course, to the movie’s length of three hours and twelve minutes.
Heeding his advice, I made sure to pay a last-minute visit to the gents’ toilet beforehand.
In fairness, many critics loved it, including Richard Corliss of Time magazine who called it “the most vivid and convincing creation of a fantasy world ever seen in the history of moving pictures.”
In the end, none of these opinions mattered. The public voted with their wallets, buying tickets, donning 3D glasses, and boosting the movie’s earnings to a staggering $1.4 billion dollars… and climbing. Whether or not it reaches the record-breaking $2.9 billion earned by its predecessor, Avatar 1, is yet to be decided.
Either way, it’s a massive hit.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, marvelling at Cameron’s intense personal motivation to assemble and fuse the technology he needed to create his three-dimensional epic. And certainly, I had to acknowledge the dedication of the actors, who trained for months to be able to hold their breath and swim freely underwater.
Kate Winslet, coming new to the cast, actually broke the record for an actor holding his or her breath underwater, beating Tom Cruise’s six minutes and thirty seconds with her own seven minutes and fourteen seconds.
As they say in Hollywood, it ain’t just about the money, honey.
Cameron’s movie certainly promotes concern for the natural environment, contrasting this with the horrors of commercial exploitation. In graphic detail, he shows a high-tech hunt for a whale-like creature, killing it in order to extract precious oil from its brain that can be used to halt the human ageing process.
Whether these big screen messages make any actual difference to the public’s opinions and our enthusiasm for the commercial products we buy, is hard to fathom.
Do movies really change our attitudes? It’s an open question.
Traditional family values receive a big plus from Cameron, even more than tribal ones, with the Sully clan sticking together, no matter what.
“Wherever we go, this family is our fortress,” declares Jake, adding “A father protects. It’s what gives him meaning.” That’s a tough ideal for modern dads to emulate, since they don’t live on Pandora, are not warriors, and lack experience in shooting arrows from fast-flying creatures.
One aspect of the movie that I would have liked Cameron to develop further is the mystical connection between Jake Sully’s daughter, Kiri, and the living, beating heart of the planet itself, addressed as “Eywa” or “the Great Mother”.
“I feel her,” says Kiri, closing her eyes and dissolving into inner light.
It comes close to meditation.
However, Cameron knows his public, and its insatiable hunger for action, so he is content to give us homeopathic doses of mysticism, while emphasizing combat. He’s brilliant at capturing and parodying American militaristic attitudes and, rather than demonizing these “bad guys”, he’s careful to make them human, so we can see ourselves reflected in them.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” quips Colonel Miles Quaritch, in a cute reference to “The Wizard of Oz”, on his way to combat in Pandora. He adds with a steely smile, “A Marine can’t be defeated. You can kill us, but we’ll just regroup in hell.”
I could go on, but, hey, why not check out this movie for yourselves? It’s worth the ticket price.
Oh, and don’t forget:
- Go for the 3D version.
- Choose the cinema with the biggest screen.
- And to go to the bathroom on your way in!