The film Avatar has been out for nearly 6
years(12/09 to 6/15) after being in development since 1994, more than 20 years ago now. I have read many reviews, listened to many
comments and discussed it’s style and content with many both in cyberspace and
in our wide-wide-world. This prose-poem
tries to encapsulate some of my initial thoughts on this blockbuster, its
initial reception and some of its meaning drawing as I do on several sources of
comment during these last six years.
James Cameron, who wrote, produced and directed the film,
stated in an interview that an avatar is an incarnation of one of the Hindu
gods who takes on flesh-form. In this
film, though, avatar has more to do with human technology in the future being
capable of injecting a human's intelligence into a remotely located body, a
biological body. "It's not an
avatar in the sense of just existing as ones and zeroes in cyberspace,” said
Cameron; “it's actually a physical body." The great student of myth,
Joseph Campbell(1), should have been at the film’s premier in London on 10
December 2009. I wonder what he would
Composer James Horner scored the film, his third
collaboration with Cameron after Aliens and
A field guide of 224 pages for the film's fictional setting of the
planet of Pandora was released by Harper Entertainment in late November
2009. The guide was entitled Avatar: A Confidential Report on the
Biological and Social History of Pandora. With an estimated $310 million to
produce the film and $150 million for marketing, the film has generated a
myriad positive reviews from film critics as well as its share of criticism
especially over what many reviewers refer to as the film’s simplistic content.
Roger Ebert, one of the more prestigious of film critics,
wrote: “An extraordinary film: Avatar
is not simply sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough." Avatar
has had overwhelming success as a work of cinematic-art. Its enormous visual
power, its thrilling imaginative originality,
its excitingly effective use of the 3-D technology seems bound to change
permanently the nature of cinematic experience henceforth.--Ron Price with
thanks to Wikipedia, 5 April 2010.
Like viewing Star
Wars back in ’77
some said/an obvious script with an
earnestness & corniness/part of what
makes it absorbing/said another/Gives
you a world, a place/worth visiting/eh?
Alive with action and a soundtrack that
pops with robust sci-fi shoot-'em-ups...
A mild critique of American militarism
and industrialism.....yes the military are
pure evil........the Pandoran tribespeople
are nature-loving, eco-harmonious, wise
Braveheart smurf warriors…….Received
nominations for the Critics' Choice Awards
of the Broadcast Film Critics Association &
on and on go the recommendations for the
best this and that and everything else. What
do you think of all this Joseph Campbell???
You said we all have to work our own myth(1)
in our penta-polar, multicultural-dimensional
world with endless phantoms of our wrongly
informed imagination, with our tangled fears,
our pundits of error, ill-equipped to interpret
the social commotion tearing our world apart
and at play on planetizing-globalizing Earth.(2)
(1) If readers google Joseph Campbell they can find some
contemporary insights in his many volumes of analysis and his comments on the
individualized myth that Campbell says we all have to work out in our
(2)The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh,
has been presented as an avatar in India beginning, arguably, in the 1960s.
There were only 1000 Baha’is in India in 1960, and now 2 million according to some reports.
Baha’u’llah has been associated in the Bahá'í teaching initiatives with the
Kalki avatar who, according to a major Hindu holy text, will appear at the end
of the kali yuga, one of the four main stages of history, for the purpose of
reestablishing an era of righteousness.
There are many examples of what one might call a cross-cultural
messianis m at the core of the Bahá'í teachings. This applies in India and in/to
many other countries and religious communities. This approach has included: (a)
emphasizing the figures of Buddha and Krishna as past Manifestations of God or
avatars; (b) making references to Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, (c) the substitution of
Sanskrit-based terminology for Arabic and Persian terms where possible; for
example, Bhagavan Baha for Bahá'u'lláh, (d) the incorporation in both Bahá'í
song and literature of Hindu holy spots, hero-figures and poetic images and (e)
using heavily Sanskritized-Hindi translations of Baha'i scriptures and prayers.
For an excellent analysis of James Cameron’s films and especially Avatar go to
the following link and my quotes below:
http://www.nybooks.com/ar ticles/archives/2010/mar/ 25/the-wizard/
Cameron’s real attraction, as a writer and a director, has
always been for the technologies that turn humans into super-humans. However
“primitive” they have seemed to some critics, the Na’vi—with their uniformly
superb, sleekly blue-gleaming physiques, their weirdly infallible
sure-footedne ss, their organic connector cables, their ability to upload and
download consciousness itself—are the ultimate expression of his career-long
striving to make flesh mechanical.
The problem here is not a patronizingly clichéd
representation of an ostensibly primitive people; the problem is the movie’s
intellectually incoherent portrayal of its fictional heroes as both admirably
pre-civilized and admirably hyper-civilized, as a-technological and highly
technologized. Avatar ‘s desire to have its anthropological cake and eat
it too suggests something deeply un-self-aware and disturbingly unresolved
within Cameron himself.
Cameron’s films depend for their effects—none more than Avatar—on
the most sophisticated technologies available. Cameron tells himself that the
technology that is the sine qua non of his technique isn’t as important as
people think. In fact what makes Avatar special is the “human interest”
story particularly the love story. But there is a large flaw in Avatar—one
that’s connected to Cameron’s ambivalence about the relationship between
technology and humanity.
The message of what is now James Cameron’s most popular
movie thus far, and the biggest-grossing movie in history—like the message of
so much else in mass culture just now—is, by contrast, that “reality” is
dispensable altogether; or, at the very least, whatever you care to make of it,
provided you have the right gadgets. In this fantasy of a lusciously colourful
trip over the rainbow, you don’t have to wake up. There’s no need to go back
home to the grey world. If you are really lucky you can stay immersed in the
wonders of modern technology with the end of effort and the triumph of
sensation. Whatever its futuristic setting, and whatever its debt to the past, Avatar
is very much a movie for our time.
5/4/'10 to 23/6/'15.