Thursday, December 24, 2009

Watching Avatar

(Spoilers here, but you’ll thank me.)

There are many beautiful things about Avatar: plants in danger zip themselves shut, trees share knowledge, forests light up at night, the animals. But there is gift wrapping, and then there’s the gift within. Remember Pushpak?

The gift within, as it were, is the story and dialogue. The movie begins with interesting circumstances - a paraplegic finds his feet in another body. He is sent to the natives as a spy, and his loyalties slowly shift. This journey into his new life is narrated leisurely, and it feels suitably meditative. Almost Eastern, in a way.

But then it remembers Hollywood. Like an Indian copy editor pressed for time, it puts an end to the journey arbitrarily, and the result is brutal. A war follows, in which copters and flying beasts go at each other. I could not believe my ears when the protagonist screamed for war at the end. It stereotyped the stereotype. For a moment I saw Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe do their thing. Perhaps that is how battles are fought and how leaders inspire. Perhaps. But I think not. Imagine Marlon Brando going “YEAH!” and doing a fist pump during his monologue in Apocalypse Now. Weird there, weird here. There’s quiet leadership, and there’s Hollywood leadership.

There were references to Miyazaki’s work and the gargantuan machines so necessary in futuristic war video games. All this has been seen before in one form or another. Even the detailing, striking for a movie, is something I found underwhelming. I mean, once you’ve played MGS4, ‘graphics’ don’t stand a chance.

But the new thing that excited me about Avatar was the way the camera used 3D. It barely ever stood steady, with the result that you felt part of it. I can’t wait to see how that evolves in the years to come.

As for the rest, meh.

Ps. The wife put it well. "$280 million on the movie. How much on the script?"