James Cameron’s new sci-fi epic,
brings back to the cinema a sense of the sublime. All you
have to do is put on those funky 3D glasses, and then you are
Alice with all the wonder of a child again. To immerse
oneself in this magic world is to surrender to the power of the
movies, to give in to this hallucinatory and ever-so-beautiful
dream. Shot in digital 3D, Avatar is an aesthetic experience
light years beyond the old rudimentary technology—here one flies
in the glorious light on winged horses that are colored and
patterned like the most beautiful butterflies or Issa dresses.
Flight is a metaphor here for movement—for it lets our hero Jake
Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic war vet, be free to
soar, to move as he pleases, to find love. The word
Avatar is literally ‘descent of a deity,’ from the Sanskrit
avatarana ‘descent’ (of a deity to the earth in fleshly form),
lit. ‘(s/he) crosses over.’ Our modern high-tech
computer-speak usage is drawn from this idea—making its first
appearance in Snowcrash, the 1992 Neal Stephenson novel.
has some of the awe-inspiring grandeur of Star Wars and
Lord of the Rings—it is bastard child to those remarkable
films and to Cameron’s own such as Alien, The Abyss,
and The Titanic.
The plot itself is simple, delineated in rather broad strokes, and
the script (all Cameron) borders on the simplistic—none of the
dark poetry of
here, all incandescence is saved for the technological creation of
this marvelous imaginary world, for the pixels of this visual
paradise. Avatar is actually several stories in one:
an environmental fable of sorts, a love story, and an
old-fashioned tale of a hero who comes of age and to the rescue on
a dashing horse.
The planet Pandora is a lush Paradise, home to the slender,
blue-tinted, delicately-decorated, cat-like Na’vi people
who live in harmony with the natural world that surrounds them,
but unfortunately, also live directly above mineral deposits that
human invaders need in order to save their own dying planet.
It is a meticulously imagined and wondrous world: foliage-covered
islands are suspended in the air, huge banyan-like trees with
hanging roots and endless branches that are roads in the sky soar
up into the mist.
It’s a planet just different enough to
seem alien, just similar enough to remind one of a giant
tripped-out Amazonian jungle—it’s the call of the other with just
the right amount of familiarity! Sully is taught the Na’vi
ways, their respect for Nature, even going through the Na’vi
ritual of taming his Bucephalus. This is a story about
literally trying on the shoes to see if they fit, and then when
they do, and perfectly, taking on the new role. And here’s
another take on another old story—Sully is the alien in a foreign
world gone native. Or just recovering what has been lost to
humans: the ancient reverence for Nature. Avatar also surrenders to the romantic streak in Cameron that he
unapologetically confesses to: the love story between Jake and the
lovely Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the daughter of the Na’vi
leader, is tender, innocent, all pixelated subtlety of her large
is both about the power of the imagination and the wonder of
our own, earthly reality. Go take that joyride!
Hinduism, the Buddha is considered the ninth avatar of Vishnu!