film

Years in the mak­ing, James Cameron’s first film since Ti­tan­tic is a bom­bas­tic sci-fi spec­ta­cle that is en­joy­able – though far from the sec­ond com­ing of cin­ema, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Front Page -

Was it worth wait­ing 12 years for Avatar? Don­ald Clarke’s re­view,

AVATAR Di­rected by James Cameron. Star­ring Sam Wor­thing­ton, Zoë Sal­daña, Sigour­ney Weaver, Michelle Ro­driguez, Stephen Lang, Gio­vanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder 12A cert, gen release,

162 min

SO, HERE IT is. Af­ter 12 long years, James Cameron has fi­nally de­liv­ered his fol­low-up to the be­wil­der­ingly suc­cess­ful Ti­tanic. Such has been the wait and such has been the hype that the pa­tient film­goer could be for­given for ex­pect­ing not just a movie, but also the inau­gu­ra­tion of a whole new medium: Cin­ema 2.0 in Cameron­vi­sion with en­hanced Tran­scendo, per­haps.

On the other hand, if you at­tended the puff­ing on the in­ter­net dur­ing the sum­mer – Jim’s epic space drama was par­o­died as Dances with Smurfs on a re­cent South Park – you might have re­signed your­self to a catas­tro­phe of Phan­tom Men­ace pro­por­tions.

The truth is some­where in be­tween. The 3-D cin­e­matog­ra­phy and mo­tion-cap­tured per­for­mances are much bet­ter than those in, say, Dis­ney’s A Christ­mas Carol, but you couldn’t hon­estly say they her­ald a mighty par­a­digm shift. Much of the imag­ined world does, in­deed, look like My Lit­tle Pony’s hol­i­day re­treat, but there’s enough old-fash­ioned boom and bang to dis­tract you from the fre­quent of­fences against aes­thet­ics.

Put sim­ply, Avatar is a mod­estly in­tel­li­gent, pass­ably en­ter­tain­ing ex­er­cise in noisy sci-fi pulp (com­plete with in­dus­try-stan­dard Go­daw­ful di­a­logue and the usual dire score by James Horner). Spread­ing a small knob of thin story over a vast plane of cin­ema, the film de­tails the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween a ra­pa­cious cadre of 22nd cen­tury hu­man con­quis­ta­dors (boo!) and a tribe of enor­mous blue mon­key-things named the Na’vi (yay!).

The hu­mans, led by a shouty gen­eral (Stephen Lang) who looks and sounds like Su­per­in­ten­dent Chalmers from The Simp­sons, are pur­su­ing an ex­tremely use­ful min­eral, large de­posits of which lie be­neath the Blue Ni­cies’ sa­cred tree.

The colonis­ers have a cun­ning plan. For some time, a group of kindly an­thro­pol­o­gists (led by Cameron’s old pal, Sigour­ney Weaver) have been insin­u­at­ing their con­scious­nesses into Na’vi bodies and go­ing among the tribe for re­search pur­poses. Gen McBel­low in­structs a tough marine named Jake Sully (Sam Wor­thing­ton), who now uses a wheel­chair, to join the pro­gramme and pass on in­tel­li­gence about the Na’vi’s move­ments.

How­ever, af­ter in­hab­it­ing his big blue body, Jake falls in with a fe­male Nicie (Zoë Sal­daña), be­comes en­am­oured with the alien cul­ture, and be­gins as­sist­ing with a vi­o­lent in­sur­rec­tion against the in­vaders. So, yes, as the South Park team di­vined, there is a lot of Dances with Wolves in the story, but there’s a fair amount of Rambo III to boot.

Cameron piles on ex­plicit con­dem­na­tions of Amer­i­can fol­lies from Wounded Knee through Viet­nam and Iraq. The phrase “shock and awe” ap­pears and some­body even sug­gests that they should “fight ter­ror with ter­ror”.

Yet the most in­ter­est­ing po­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sions here are surely tak­ing place be­tween dif­fer­ent sec­tors of James Cameron’s brain: the mas­ter or­ches­tra­tor of cin­e­matic mil­i­tary may­hem (those hu­mans with their de­li­ciously de­struc­tive ma­chines) stands against the

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Alien en­counter: Sam Wor­thing­ton meets Zoë Sal­daña’s avatar

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