Graeme Stewart is spellbound by James Cameron's magnum opus
Unfortunately I wasn’t alive when George Lucas’ tale of a galaxy far, far away came to cinema screens, creating a buzz and excitement amongst audiences rarely experienced since. Very few movies in this day and age seem to garner such attention, rather they seem to come and go.
Over the past few years, however, I have been keeping an ear to the ground, reading about James Cameron’s ‘top secret’ project, a film promoted as a ‘game changer’ and one that would revolutionise the way we watch and more importantly experience movies in the future.
When Cameron first embarked on what would be an epic journey of technological discovery, he had not yet finished Titanic. The seeds of the film, Avatar, were there, but Cameron decided to wait until technology had caught up with his vision for what the film would and could become - and with a budget of over £120 million, he certainly had a lot to play around with.
Cameron’s work on such blockbusters as Aliens, Terminator and The Abyss set new standards and opened audiences’ eyes to new and unexplored cinematic territory. This is, in essence, what Avatar is all about - it is a film that heightens the senses and takes us on a voyage to a new world. As one member of the cast tells us we’re 'not in Kansas anymore…'
The film’s storyline has been the subject of much criticism, with many critics branding it as clichéd or derivative. Surely this same criticism could be levelled at Star Wars, or other such science fiction films, which are all essentially about one and the same thing - a fight for survival, and the struggle between opposing forces.
In a nutshell, Avatar concerns itself with a young paraplegic marine, Jake Sully, who has been asked to replace his brother on a journey that will take him to the distant planet of Pandora, where humans have begun mining an expensive new mineral. There is, however, one slight hitch - the largest deposit of the mineral is situated beneath the settlement of one of the planet’s tribes, the Na’vi who are unwilling to leave their land.
Sully becomes one of them through his ‘avatar’, a scientific breakthrough which enables a human being’s consciousness to be fused with a living, breathing Na’vi created from human and Na’vi DNA. What unfolds is an epic story of love, betrayal and war, as Sully attempts to integrate himself with the Na'vi to earn their trust, and avoid conflict.
There are times when Avatar leaves you spellbound by the level of detail and imagination that has gone into creating this world. Everything, from plant life to the look and feel of the environment have been realised digitally in great detail.
It has to be said that the immersive quality of Cameron's 3D effects certainly help to cultivate a sense of realism. This is surely the pinnacle of the new breed of 3D films. Cameron has adopted an approach of using new technology - designed with his own hand - to layer and texture the look of the whole film, giving definition and clarity, and also a wonderous sense of perspective.
If you go to see Avatar expecting a story about little blue men, you will be pleasantly surprised. James Cameron has set a new standard in modern filmmaking. Avatar is a deeply immersive and immensely enjoyable spectacle, featuring some of the best visuals and effects you are likely to see this side of the known universe.