After over a month since its premiere, James Cameron’s “Avatar” is still receiving critical attention. Audiences are still pouring into theaters and IMAX showings are still selling out. And now “Avatar” has won a Golden Globe and received several nominations for the Academy Awards, such as Best Director and Best Picture – a remarkable second for Cameron, who first one the awards with “Titanic.” Clearly, there is a public fascination with the cinematic techniques used to make “Avatar,” but is this attention warranted?
Surely, Cameron has made some strides in cinematography through “Avatar.” His use of 3D and computer animation is unrivaled by any other film to date. Its colorful textures and gorgeously animated action sequences certainly can keep an audience’s attention for hours.
Not to mention the films extensive marketing campaign, from viral marketing to ads on just about every major website (including articles, which have appeared in such high profile websites as cnn.com and bussinessweek.com). When “Avatar” was released, the world was waiting, and audiences were not hard to find. Many left the theaters awestruck by the sheer size and presentation of Cameron’s decade long project. Others, however, were not impressed.
Critics of the film find their qualms within the story. In the film paraplegic marine Jake Sully is put into an “Avatar,” a body composed
of both human and na’vi DNA, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances is admitted into the species’ inner circle, falling in love with the na’vi princes Neytiri. The story has been criticized as an overused Pocahontas archetype of a man falling in love with a foreign culture and “going native.”
The motivations behind each of the characters are common tropes within the film industry: There is the man who is changed from his prejudice by love, an entire race fighting to defend their dying and misunderstood culture (supposedly this is a metaphor for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it can apply to almost any international conflict), and even the evil government officials who can be described only as heartless.
Lastly, there is the predictable outcome of the film: Good guys win, bad guys lose, hooray!
Despite these qualms with the story, the bare fact remains that “Avatar” is something new. Its use of CGI has created a mixture of real time action and computer graphics that creates a flawless stream of picture and motion throughout the entire film.
The characters themselves, while simple are believable due to the solidarity of the plot. Unexplained actions and random spurts of emotion so common in other films with romantic elements are absent from Cameron’s latest film.
Bottom line: While critics may be snipping at “Avatar,” it is a uniquely presented film and should be valued at what it is, something refreshing. Because of this, it is no doubt going to be receiving attention for years to come.
With recent talks of a sequel, new problems revolving around the film arise. Will audiences be satisfied with the same technology used behind the first, or will it grow unimpressive by the time of a sequel’s release? If Cameron does not direct, will an “Avatar 2” be the next “Alien 3”?
And lastly, if “Avatar” does not win any of the Academy Awards, will there be enough hype to keep the sequel afloat?