Thursday, 6 May 2010

What's to like about Avatar?

 Had I been in Avatar I would have looked a little something like this

James Cameron's recently DVD released CGI classic Avatar has been on the Grachman family DVD player several times in the past few days. It was bought as a sweetener for the Grachettes after farming them out to Grandma's at the weekend so that I could go out to play. And they love it. As, I have to admit, do I. Hence, in the space of three days - Saturday, Sunday and May Bank Holiday Monday - the film managed to run its entire course a grand total of 5 times.

It certainly is entertaining, even after the glorious 3D world of Pandora is shrunken down to TV size and you suddenly realise that CGI still has a way to go before it ceases to look like a computer game once those 3D specs have been removed. Even so it's a great way to pass two-and-a-half hours despite the viewers being fully aware that they are being completely emotionally manipulated by a computer.

So, what is it about Avatar that makes it work? It's not the technology. Yes, the graphics and the technology are impressive, but it's still not the finished article even if my mum was convinced that it was people dressed up and seemed completely baffled when I tried to explain that it wasn't. You see, despite this being a major advance in film techniques (so we're told) you still get that funny "dribbling 1950s footballer" style running that films made on a computer inevitably possess. One day, in a few years time, it will still probably look as dated as "Reefer Madness" does today.

So what is it then? Subtle social comment. Oh sure, there are references to recent major news events. Or am I over thinking this stuff? American attempts at diplomacy conveniently failing - that'll be Iraq then. Natives in rough terrain getting a good home-track advantage. That's Afganistan. I think. Tree being knocked down. That's 9/11 that is. Alien trying to stop a bulldozer by standing in front of it. That's Tiananmen Square. It is. I notice these things.

Nope. It's not that either. It's this. It's because you can't beat a good old tribal epic in which baddie English speakers invade and attempt to wipe out poor, helpless, long haired, tree-loving natives of somewhere. And it has one crucial ingredient in particular to make it work. It has what every good piece of overly expensive anti-English-speaker propaganda needs. It has Wes Studi.

The moment the Studi-played head of the Na'vi clan begins speaking you know it's good old Magua himself. In that instant the film skips up a notch of the Tribalepicometer and you just long to hear him say: "When the Grey Hair is dead, Magua will eat his heart. Before he dies, Magua will put his children under the knife, so the Grey Hair will know his seed it wiped out forever." But he doesn't.

 Have a heart, Wes

And on the subject of hearts - the film manages to find a big one in the shape of Zoe Saldana, who plays the slim, sexy (no, really!), cat-eyed love interest. At least I think it's her. It could just be a computer graphic, but what the hell. She still does it for me and I still "would" given half a chance - just as Jake Sully rather recklessly does at one point in proceedings. This is what I'm not sure about. Is it actually her acting? Or is it just her voice? It's so hard to tell these days. Not like in my day when we had proper films, with real actors and tunes you could hum along to. Either way, you feel her pain when Daddy Magua (or whatever his name is) gets a bit of a rough deal during the film.

Poor old Wes. One day there might actually come an expensive tribal epic in which he manages to make it through to the final credits. He certainly deserves to at least once. Magua understand English speakers very well. But they or theirs always seem to get him in the end.


  1. So who is the Avatar character at the top of the page? Jake Sully's understudy?

  2. Yes. He's a copy of Jake Sully called Fern Gully.

  3. Check out the Wes Studi interview for all you need to know about this acting legend!