After all the rumours and oodles of PR can James Cameron’s Science-Fiction movie epic-to-beat-all-epics really live up to the hype? Eh. No. ‘Avatar’ is the culmination of twelve years planning and waiting on the part of the director-producer of such Sci-Fi cinematic hits as ‘The Terminator’ (1984) ‘Aliens’ (1986), ‘The Abyss’ (1989), as well as the impressive if soggy lovefest ‘Titanic’ (1997). Most of the waiting to make ‘Avatar’ was down to Cameron’s desire to have the vision he wanted of a Science-Fiction masterpiece up there on the sliver screen and the need for technology and special effects to catch up with that vision. Whether the wait was worth it is certainly open to debate.
The storyline is a familiar one from the Sci-Fi genre: an exotic far away planet being exploited by the human race for its resources against the wishes of its alien inhabitants. Naturally of course it raises all sorts of historical parallels from world history and if the average viewer starts thinking about the experiences of Native Africans versus the big European powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, or Native Americans against the colonial expansions of the British, French and Spanish (and later United States) across North America from the 1600s onwards, then that matches the obvious intent of the movie makers.
Onto this rather tired cliché is projected every conceivable form of special effect under the sun, and quiet a few that didn’t exist until recently. The grotesquely tall, blue-skinned aliens live on an exotic and admittedly visually stunning world which fills the screen but what storyline there is up there is fairly negligible – or just plain silly. It is enough to say that the narrative is little more than an excuse for Cameron to go 3-D mad, with more CGI than you could shake a light sabre at: albeit wrapped in a warm and fuzzy eco-friendly message.
Essentially then ‘Avatar’ is ‘Dances with Wolves’ for the Xbox generation, and the movie is on about the same linear, one-dimensional level as a video game. It is all smoke and mirrors for none of it has any more substance behind it than candy floss on a stick. It is easily digestible, instantly forgettable – and probably bad for you.
If you really wish to sample the dubious delights of ‘Avatar’ there are numerous DVD and Blu-ray editions available (as well several movie-based video games on various consoles – where perhaps the film should have in the first place). If you really want to view a movie about the exploitation and colonisation of Native peoples and their lands then try Kevin Costner’s epic (and entirely superior) ‘Dances with Wolves’ (1990). Or read a history book about Ireland.