December 21, 2009

Avatar: eagerly waiting for part 2, in the meantime, my review.

How many people can say that they read the first song on radio? They read the world's first newspaper? Saw first show of TV, well, thanks to James Cameron, I saw Avatar. Yes, thats how much of a game changer this movie actually is.

I have mentioned this thing to a few close friends, family, acquaintances, chat buddies, in short anyone and everyone I came across, that Lord of the rings (LOTR) is probably the best movie ever to be made, and no movie can ever surpass that, thank you Mr. Cameron, I feel so stupid. Avatar surpasses LOTR, and my expectations and how. A cinematic excellence, visual delight, and a man's imagination so colorful that it leaves you breathless and gasping for more by the end of 3 hour spectacle. Yes, Avatar does open your eyes, just like its first scene, just like its last.

Avatar, according to Wiki, means a computer user's representation, by a picture or a 3 dimensional character or something like that. Its like your alter ego. In games like World of warcraft and Second life, your avtar is you. You control your avatar to communicate with people, do designated tasks, and socialize, but then at the end of the day, its YOU. You avtar, no matter represented by tiger, wolf, pig, or in my case, super hot and sexy hunk, is actually you. You are just controlling it, maneuvering it, from a more comfortable place. And yes, the word is derived from Sanskrit, which was used specifically for gods coming in human bodies, performing miracles, saving humans and annihilating demons, but then they were the gods. And thats how an avtar is different from re-incarnation, an avatar and user can coexist, though in different forms/bodies, in different places, whereas in re-incarnation its not the case. Now after a crash course in the meaning of Avatar, which probably would be longer than whole review, lets move on to the movie.

Year 2154, humans are living in a dying planet Earth, with no greenery, because we ourselves have killed our mother nature. But then our fascination with the natural treasures has still not diminished, just because we don't have any of our own anymore, we go to a distant planet, Pendora, to take theirs, after all, jiski lathi usi ki bhens. At some 41343392165178.1 Kms, non stop for around 6 years, or 52594.92 Hours, so roughly at the speed of.... 786071965.984 KM/Hr we reach a place, my bad, heaven, inhabited by lush green forests, some unbelievable animal kingdom (including six legged horses), clear sky, so clear that you can actually see planets, air which is toxic to human lungs, and then, Na'vis. So, this rock, which is supposedly worth 20 millions a kilo, has to be brought back to earth by the company called, "Company", and name of the mineral? "Unobtanium". Yep, you read it right, Unobtanium, so company Company is trying to obtain the Unobtainium. For our nonn geeky friends, its a geek joke, its like an impossible material with impossible qualities, which can solve any improbable problem. like frictionless pulleys, weightless, loss less fuel, LOL, ok, may be it wasn;t funny for you guys, but it is very funny in our geek world.

But then there is a problem, this mineral is actually resting under a tree, which is home to the native Na'vis. So, they have to move, after all humans are the ones with bigger guns, better bombs, and na'vis have like what??? Bows and arrows? But then its not like humans are not giving anything back to them, we are so ready to give them schooling, roads, medicines, light beers, cigarettes, and may be jobs in near future, if it sounds like Singoor-TATA thing to anyone, please let me know. But then shareholders are not really fans of bad press, thats where Avatars come into the play. To find diplomatic solution to the problem, while preparing for a full blown war at the back of the mind, expensive "remote controlled vehicles" are being made to be controlled by human beings. The whole idea is to make "people" who look like Na'vis, talk like Na'vis, so that they gain confidence of the natives and convince them to move to some other tree, since the planet has them in abundance.

Jake Sully, a paraplegic ex marine, who lost his mobility due to an injury suffered during the war in Venezuela, yes, Cameron thinks that Venezuela has nothing to worry till 2100 atleast, goes to become the avatar and full fill the obligation of his recently died brother, in exchange of enough of money to get himself up and running again, again a good news, by 2154 we should be able to find the cure. While doing his mission in the land of Pendora, Jake falls in love with the land, inhabitants, their way of life, and Neytri. There comes a point in his life when he finds the life in the body of his avatar more real than his own, now that can also be due to the fact that he is all normal while in his avatar, but when in real life, he is a wheel chair bound ex marine, who is eating god knows what, and may be he wants that life to be real than this one he is having right now.

By the help of Jake, Cameron grabs you from the edge of your seat, and throws you right in the middle of Na'vis, its like watching a National Geographic channel documentary which takes you into a tribe of people and show you their way of life. How they hunt, how they sleep, how they pray, basically, how they live. Thats where script of Avatar rises above LOTR for me. When LOTR was an outsider's view of a war between good and evil, James make you a part of Na'vi culture, makes you a kind of an insider. When Jake becomes a part of their clan, its not just him, audience does as well. Because now they know about this pagan tribe, the one which respects its mother nature, fellow living inhabitants of their world. Like our own pagan cultures, Na'vis also respect life, even when they kill to save themselves, or hunt, they feel sad, say apologize to their prey, and thank its spirits for being their food, and ultimately, part of their own body. Like all pagan cultures, Na'vis also believe in one source, a source which gives life, and where all spirits go. Like you remember that scene from Mahabharata where Krishna shows his Virat roop to Arjun on the battlefield, and shows him how humans are coming out of his mouth and going in his mouth? Thats exactly what Na'vis believe as well, like all spirits must go back to their source, their deity. Also, its not that they use animals, domesticate them, but when they use animals like ride their horses, or flying dinosaurs kinds Ikrans, they do so by making a bond with them, again showcasing how they respect nature. Much like every pagan culture, Na'vis believe in signs and prophecies, and even re-birth.

One more thing fascinated me alot about this land of Pendora, that was everything in Pendora was somehow like everything here in earth. For example, we have horses, Pendora has horses, we have rhinos, Pendora has rhinos, just like humans walk on 2 legs, have 10 fingers, one tail (yes humans have tails, atleast human embryo does), Na'vis have tails, ok they are little different, like animals have six legs, but then there are like so many similarities like you can tell this is a horse, albeit with 6 legs. Not even that, there are trees, bushes, plants, leavs, touch me nots, Mushrooms, all look like same, more or less, not only that, alien Na'vis even bleed red blood. So, when every alien movie, like MIB, War of worlds, showed aliens starkly different than humans, even James's own Alien, why does this one has alien flora and fauna similar to the one found here on Earth? Is it because of lack of imagination? Can;t be, right? A man who imagined this world, this movie, can not be low on imagination. So, is it like, just like that? I don;t think that as well, when there are so many references to capitalism, Iraq wars, "Replying terror with terror", how can this be just like that? Or may be James wants to say that whether we are yellow, black, white, brown or blue, we are more or less the same? Or he believes in single origin of life, may be in different planets, but single origin.

So, after doing a whole lot of sight seeing of the planet, and learning the ways of its people, we see what we love the most, WAR. Missiles, bombs, gunships, aircrafts, uber cool war suits which might even put Ironman to shame, ok, his is cooler, still, whooping the ass of natives. Best of the artillery against bows and arrows, and flying dinosaurs, yeah yeah, thats how our people fight. We first make sure that enemy has no weapon, no WMDs, and then we launch our own, and in case it does, we give billions in the name of aid. This is how James is also showing 2 sides of technology, at one end its technology which has brought Jake among natives who is helping them stop this cruel enemy, that is us BTW, at the other end its the flip side, the same technology when used elsewhere is trying to kill everything in its way.

So, after ruthless killing, some heroic stunts, and inspiring speeches later, just as Jake open his eyes, ours are opened as well, to a world of limitless innovations, technological brilliance, and above all, power of a human mind, which even computer industry had to wait for 15 years to match.

Coming to the main star of the movie, visuals, lets say, keep an oxygen mask beside you, thats how breathless it would make you. Floating mountains, glowing plants, chopper-like flying insects, lush green valleys, and god knows what not will make you just wonder if you can ever go to Pendora, even if for a few hours. Its the movie where you lose hold of real and virtual, you don;t know what was created on computer what was not. Its a marvel to behold. And in 3-d, effects just turn out to be 3 times better. When I saw the movie for the first time, I just saw the movie, when I saw it for the second time, I actually saw it. I was like a tourist actually visitng the land of Pendora, trying to see every waterfall, every mountain, every valley.

Now finally, whats next? Avatar 2? Why not? There are many things in the movie which can easily form the basis of part 2, like why humans need Unobtaniium? Is it a drug, a bomb, or just common salt, and by 2154 common salt will be so uncommon that we will be ready to pay 20 millions for that, damn, I am so gonna stock up salt. Why natives don;t want to move from there? Is that rock giving some kind of power, energy to those natives? What does earth look like? A dying planet, a planet lost of all greenery, how is it? Are we even living on Earth? Will the company be back better prepared to get back which is "rightfully" theirs? Will the Na'vis now bring war to our home planet? Well, this is what i can think of, and i am no James Cameron.

My rating?? Let me not give numbers or stars, let me just say this much, STOP WASTING YOUR TIME READING THIS CRAP, AND GO AND WATCH THE MOVIE INSTEAD.

PS: it was awesome to see Michel Rodriguez, I love her, that girl kicks some serious ass, even when she looks a little fat :D


Pardesi said...

Kunal - :bows:!!!! Awesome heartfelt review! I want to say so much about your review but I will wait to see the film first. I am sticking to my guns to see it in 3D first and have not been able to get tickets yet.

Cameron's imagination and the technology to make it happen are to be lauded - this much I can say from the stills and previews. I know the plot is simplistic, but then so was Titanic a simple and cliched story. I like the simplicity here - Unobtanium (LOL), and the simple good vs. technological evil opposing each other. Loved the geek-talk in your review.

Pardesi said...

Review of Avatar (thanks to Angelica for link):

The buzz on the film Avatar was that it would “change the way films are made,” and that it would be as transformative an experience as the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps that advance promotion was unfortunate, because James Cameron has made an entertaining popcorn movie that moves quickly and creates a beautiful vision of a forest world with its stunning CGI. Unfortunately, it also uses stock characters and a plot that telegraphs every single punch, making it a fun amusement-park ride but not a terribly engaging story.

Let’s start with the best aspects of the film, and the best of its best is the CGI for the scenes on Pandora with the Na’vi, an indigenous race on a planet whose natural resources are coveted by “the Corporation,” an East India Trading Company for the 22nd century or so. That plot line revolves around an element laughably called “Unobtanium,” but more on that in a moment. The film was made using similar techniques employed by Lord of the Rings in animating Gollum, and by Beowulf in animating all of the characters. Beowulf did a poor job of it, badly translating facial expressions and movements by the actors into its animation, making everyone in the film look wooden (except for Angelina Jolie, perhaps). Avatar accomplishes what LOTR did and Beowulf could not. The characters come alive, at least physically.

The scenery is lush and seemingly magical. It is truly a character in its own right, and for a purpose. The flying scenes with the Na’vi are spectacular … but in the manner of the world’s best video game. Only in a scene at the climax does it seem realistic at all. That doesn’t make it less enjoyable, but it’s hard to shake the World of Warcraft feel. It’s about the same feel as The Mummy, which was also a good popcorn flick, but with far fewer pretensions at being something else.

All of that gets wasted to some degree on a plot that combines Dances with Wolves and Dune, with a dash of Return of the Jedi for a Luddite noble-savages-defeat-technology flavor. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) gets to be Paul Atreides in this scenario, the outsider who becomes a messianic figure for the natives after mind-linking to an engineered body of a Na’vi. The Corporation sends him to learn about the Na’vi so that they can convince the natives to let them rape their land. Does he succeed, or does he lead a heroic revolt against his own greedy people who have “killed their own mother [Earth]“? If you can’t answer that from the trailer, then this may be the first movie you’ve ever seen.

Conservatives have more or less primed themselves to hate this film because of the presumed anti-war politics of the movie. It’s there — in fact, it’s unmistakable — but it’s not as bad as one might presume. It mostly comes later in the movie, when the commander of a military base attempts to rally the humans in response to what he calls “terrorism,” talks of making a “pre-emptive strike,” and promises a “shock and awe” effort. All of that happens within about a five-minute burst. As for the anti-business Corporation plot line, that’s a retread of Aliens, which Cameron wrote and in which Sigourney Weaver also starred.

The real flaw in this film is its predictability. Except for loud noises and some creative imagining of animal and plant life, nothing is terribly surprising in this movie. It tells no new tales or offers any lessons that haven’t already come out of Screenwriting 101. The cast does a very good job with this limited material, which makes it entertaining but hardly a deep intellectual exercise. The pace was good but the film was too long at 2 1/2 hours. I enjoyed it, but at best would give it a 7 on a scale of 10.

Addendum: Just to make sure I had a realistic take on the film, I went with the Mathemagician to see it, whose perspective on politics differs from mine. We both largely concurred that it was entertaining, but very predictable.

Anonymous said...

You are right Kunal, he actually believe in single origin of life thats why spirit in end was able to move from one body to other. He imagine change in form because of difference in climate.

He made horses, deers, wild dogs, flora, race like human being every thing but with imaginary changes. changes which make them look different but still help us to recognize them and feel bonding.

Pardesi said...

Hey Rudresh! So you liked it too?

Kunal said...

Thanks to Angelica for the review, but there is one problem which I have with most of the critics/reviewers, its like they go to movies to critique, to review them, not to enjoy them.

And that just sucks the fun out of watching movies and reviewing movies, IMHO. Thats a big reason why you see a whole lot of reviewers missing the taste of audience.

Khanabadosh said...

But people are different.... For example some students take notes and understand the topic at home..Some understand during lecture and then write at home :)

Kunal said...

KB, i agree, but I think when sole purpose of watching a movie is to critique it, it will just suck the fun out of everything. You can even find faults in Sholay, Lagaan.

Kunal said...

Rud: You are right Kunal, he actually believe in single origin of life thats why spirit in end was able to move from one body to other. He imagine change in form because of difference in climate.

Its a good point about spirit, Rud, never thought it at that time, but now that you have mentioned.
Yes, it has to be about one single source of life only.
Thanks for putting it so eloquently.

Caulfield said...

Great review Kunal. Avatar is a technically flawless film. I don't know how Cameron imagined he would be able to achieve this. Though, the story is very predictable, the way it was shown, it is simply mindblowing. As Abhishek Bachchan puts it - Avatar isn't a movie. It is an EXPERIENCE.

rudresh said...

hi Pardesi, I loved it. It is an experience. I agree with this statement.

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