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Home ENTERTAINMENT 'Avatar' is back in theaters, and it's still great

‘Avatar’ is back in theaters, and it’s still great

Zoe Saldana in avatar.
Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

For all his technical expertise and storytelling prowess, James Cameron may well be the master of cinematic change of scene. I still remember the week in 1997 when titanic It went from being seen as an impending disaster, one that would take two major studios with it, to being seen as a blockbuster that would remind everyone why we kept Hollywood. The tide similarly turned avatar in 2009. For months, many of us were expecting a long-overdue, over-indulgent monstrosity from a filmmaker who clearly lived in his own head and had no one to tell him no. I remember Dana Goodyear’s epic New Yorker profile which Cameron described freaking out over seemingly unnoticeable VFX details. (“That’s great!…Look at the gill-like membrane on the side of the mouth, its light transmission, all the secondary color saturation on the tongue, and that jawbone. I love what you did with the translucency in the teeth, and the way the quadrate bone pushes the teeth forward”).

And then, we saw the damn thing. After the first screening of the brain-melting all-media film at New York’s Lincoln Square IMAX, suddenly everyone wanted to talk about avatar. The rest is history, as it was with titanicas it was with Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The word got out and the word remains: never underestimate James Cameron.

One can sense a similar sea change for Cameron’s long-delayed sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, which after years of false starts and date changes is now scheduled to arrive this December. During years avatar – both the extant original and this very slowly approaching follow-up – have been the butt of narrow-minded jokes and hot-shots, the most frequent being that the film has left no pop cultural imprint. That silly take, of course, contains its own rebuttal. Yes avatar he’s so forgotten, how come some new person needs to remind us every week that he’s so forgotten?

Perhaps most importantly, to play the pop culture footprint game is to fall into the hands of the corporate IP lords who have stuffed us with second and third rate. star Wars and Marvel and DC offerings over the last decade or so. No, there haven’t been dozens of avatar sequels and spin-offs and reboots and broadcast television shows and series; Hulu is not currently working on an origin story for Home Tree, and as far as I know, there is no Disney+ animated series that follows the adventures of a family of thanators. This is a good thing. let avatar be avatarand that its sequel succeeds or fails on its merits, and not on whether it fits into an exhausting and stupid extended universe, or if it sells enough lunchboxes.

But as I said, a change is coming, and the last few months have seen a massive surge of interest in Avatar: The Way of Water, perhaps because people have suddenly started caring about movies and the theatrical experience again. Now, to prepare for the sequel, avatar is back in theaters, which is still the ideal setting to see it, especially in 3-D, as it’s one of the few productions to use the technology properly. In fact, after the unprecedented success of avatar, Hollywood spent so much time trying to adapt big releases to 3-D that they almost killed the technology. Maybe that’s another measure of avatarThe pop cultural shock of: All the movie graveyards full of would-be blockbusters who couldn’t deliver on the promise of avatar. The failure of others can also be a measure of your success.

One of the side benefits of not having dozens of other avatar properties out there is that, seeing avatar again after all these years, one realizes how special it is. Turns out all that fuss over jawbones and gill membranes is worth it: Cameron and his artists have so lovingly imagined Pandora’s moon that every shot of the film contains new wonders. One can get lost in this world and, as I recall, in his day, many people did. No kidding: there were reports of people experiencing depression after leaving the movie because Pandora was too real, too tempting, too beautiful. A term for it began to stick: Postavatar depressive syndromes.

Cameron’s special strength has always been his ability to mix high-tech macho bluster with a kind of earnestness that would be corny in less demanding hands; I once called him a fluent tough-talking flower boy. He populates his movies with believable tough guys who talk like they know what they’re doing and handle their guns the way they’re supposed to. There is no pretense or condescension with such characters, even when they are cartoonish villains, as they are in avatar. Or even when they’re comic relief: think of Bill Paxton’s turbulent Hudson in aliens, whose mix of muscular bravado and skittish whimpering is one of the most memorable parts of that movie; in some ways, she is the most relatable character in the film. You can tell Cameron on a fundamental level that he likes these guys. He, after all, co-wrote Rambo: First Blood Part II.

But his heart goes out to the romantics and the dreamers. Machismo tempers and authenticates the feeling, and vice versa. the abyss is a great seafaring action movie that ends up being about a divorced couple reconciling. titanic it’s a painfully sincere teen romance that plays out against a mercilessly recreated disaster with an engineer’s precision. other avatar is a movie about a gruff grump who learns to commune with nature and falls in love with a Na’vi princess. (Let’s not forget, it’s also a pretty blunt allegory for the US invasion of Iraq, complete with calls for Bush-era rhetoric like “shock and awe” and the villains’ declaration that “Our only safety lies in an attack We’ll fight terror with terror.” But this was actually par for the course for great action movies during this era. See also: George Lucas’s star Wars prequels, which were even more politically pointed).

The overall premise of the image is, as everyone and their mother has reminded us, not new. The director himself made reference to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars novels as they do, and the soldier-going-native conceit is its own subgenre for now, found in everything from Lawrence of Arabia a Dancing with Wolves. And hey, let’s not forget that the film seems to borrow the work of Terrence Malick. The new Worldalso, not to mention FernGully: The Last Rainforest. avatar it may be derivative, but it is not insincere. Cameron clearly feels every beat of the story along with the viewer of him. He lets us discover Pandora through the eyes of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), first as a fearsome and terrifying place, then as a land of unimaginable wonder and delight.

There’s nothing pro forma about Jake falling for Zoe Saldana’s Neytiri. Cameron has a bit of a crush on her. As our heroes ride their banshees at breakneck speed off a cliff, we can feel Cameron living viscerally through his creation. It’s every nerd’s dream: to find a beautiful partner, preferably with fangs, with whom you can compete with your magical flying dragons in a faraway wonderland. It’s very clear that Cameron wants the Na’vi world of bioluminescent veins and mystical spirits to be real. He so wants it to be true that he has created a whole science for it. His aforementioned, almost parodic attention to detail isn’t just the obsessive rantings of a billion-dollar Hollywood boss, it’s that of someone who has reversed the typical artistic exchange of cinema, in which artists create worlds for that the public misses. In Cameron’s case, one suspects that the more real he is to us, the more real he will be to him.

So Jake Sully’s leading man, the soldier torn between duty and the tantalizing wonders of a mystical world, also feels very personal for Cameron. Not only in the tension between tough guy turned hippie crusader, but also the idea of ​​the dreamer having to learn to let go of what he once believed was the real world. Contrary to most movies, his heroes would eventually come to terms with reality, avatar again it goes in the opposite direction. She urges us to leave all that behind. It becomes an allegory for Cameron’s own inability to let go. And it’s clear that he hasn’t done it yet. He is reportedly working on four sequels. Let him dream for a long time.

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