The movie ‘Avatar’ is a modern masterpiece
Thank you for the opportunity to address my learned friend Dr. Steve Surujbally’s missive entitled, “The movie ‘Avatar’ perpetuates a racial fantasy”, which appeared in Kaieteur News Thursday February 11, 2010.
Being an avid movie aficionado, I was eager to find out first hand whether James Cameron’s epic was worthy of the hype it was receiving. Remember that this is a movie that became the highest grossing film of all time, a mere 41 days after its worldwide release, and became the first film to gross over $2 billion dollars a week later. Clearly, there must have been something pulling the masses to the theatres!
Let me also make it clear that my tolerance for sci-fi and futuristic type movies is minimal, so James Cameron was already starting at a handicap in my eyes.
As I stated to a number of my friends, Avatar would need something else beyond the obvious technological wizardry in order to sustain my interest. So after sitting through all 162 minutes, I can emphatically conclude that Avatar is nothing short of spectacular!
There is no denying that the technological work that went into the making of the movie was groundbreaking. Now I’m no ‘techie’ so I won’t even pretend to know about the technology involved in making this movie.
However, even to my untrained eye, the director’s attention to detail was meticulous. For example, even though the native tribe, the Na’vi, were all of similar build and structure, they were each given distinct facial features to distinguish them from the others. Also, the film’s protagonist, Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington was paralyzed from the waist down and therefore wheel-chair bound in the movie.
The director, through whatever visual effect, was able to create the illusion of detailed muscle atrophy in the legs, which would be present in a person with the actual condition. Mind you the actor in real life has a fully functioning pair of legs.
However, despite the strong visual effects, there were other elements that impressed me.
The detail that went into creating Pandora, the earth-like moon which was home to the Na’vi, was amazing. As James Cameron said in a 2006 interview “we’re creating an entire world, a complete ecosystem of phantasmagorical plants and creatures, and a native people with a rich culture and language.” And that’s exactly what they did.
The flora and fauna, while in some ways similar to that of Earth, are in other ways unlike anything imaginable. Even an entire language, of about 1,000 words, was created for the movie.
Dr. Surujbally states that “Perhaps Mr. Cameron doesn’t see the element of condescension and counter-productiveness as he walks happily to the bank.” The director has acknowledged that his inspiration for the movie was, “every single science fiction book he read as a kid.”
He also acknowledged that Avatar shares similar themes with the films “At Play in the Fields of the Lords”, “The Emerald Forest” and “Dances with Wolves.” Therefore, Mr. Cameron is well aware of the message his movie conveys and not quite as oblivious as Dr. Surujbally implies.
In terms of the theme of cultural imperialism, Dr. Surujbally makes reference to the “White Massiah (sic)” and states that “the natives cannot defend their territory without his presence, inspiration, wisdom and fighting ability.”
In all honesty, there was no way that the Na’vi, with only their arrows and bows could fight off the humans with their heavy arsenal of sophisticated weaponry.
They did in fact need a human, someone on the inside who knew their battle tactics, in order to stand a chance. In fact, they even needed some of the human weapons to fight back.
The movie also addressed some more serious themes, which are quite relevant to the state of our world today.
The human occupation of Pandora in order to pillage the precious mineral “unobtanium” can be likened to the continued U.S. presence in the Middle East, which some feel is based on another precious commodity, oil. One final noteworthy point is that Guyanese-born actress C.C.H Pounder played a prominent role in this film as Mo’at, the tribe’s spiritual leader. I think all Guyanese should celebrate the fact that one of our own has done us proud on the international stage yet again.