Very much the Big release of the season, James Cameron’s Avatar delivers lush, gorgeous special effects and a big story on a big budget in a cornucopia of colour and action on a positively Titanic scale. It’s got a bit of everything — Romance, epic battles, magical creatures, a redemption story, Sci-fi wars, a touch of the Matrix and Eco-consciousness and even a dash of incarnational Theology. Cameron’s verdant living CGI rainforest makes Lord of Rings’ NZ look like Accrington.
It’s 2154 and Jake Sully is a US Marine who has accidentally lost his legs in a war somewhere — Afghanistan’s probably still going — and gets a new career as an Avatar on the Planet Pandora. Being an Avatar brings limitations. It only works whilst he’s asleep, for example. But in principle Avatar life suits Jake, because he’d be a bit pushed to swing through the jungle on creepers in his wheelchair. He’s not the only human goody — Sigourney is finally out of hypersleep on the Nostromo, and has set up as a benevolent biologist who loves everything natural — except her own hair, which, for some inexplicable reason, she has dyed Unwanted Christmas Present Sock Orange.
Back on Planet Pandora (geddit?), the Na’vi are the noble savages. They have broad flat noses and bright yellow eyes, like Max the Cat. This seems, no offence, a little primitive. They wear tiddly little jockstrap thingies made out of Russian Vine or something. Mercifully Na’vi keep in shape. A human missionary called Trudy has taught them enough basic English to prevent the movie becoming entirely incomprehensible. She has an Avatar body like all the others, but rather sticks out from a crowd in her red lycra gym top and yellow M&S tennis shorts.
Na’vi have stringy little tails with a tufty bit at the end, a bit like Eeyore’s, that just dangle in the breeze. This is particularly disconcerting in 3-D. They haven’t yet invented underpants, but tend to rely on tastefully arranged wisps of creeper to cover their skinny behinds, like the racier female contestants on Strictly Come Dancing. Na’vi are unashamedly primitive, but stylishly so. They may defecate in their hands and chuck it around when nobody’s looking, but you don’t get to see that. And in spite of the Na’vi’s primitive habits and wacky polysynthetic language, the little chaps are incredibly mystical and plugged into the Universe and steeped in ancient wisdom. They have lustrous plaited pony tails which connect them up directly to Nature. Oh, and of course their skin is bright blue and slightly reptilian.
They have plenty to be blue about, especially Chunky Colonel Miles Quaritch and his bunch of mercenary Apocalypse Now chums the Na’vi call “sky people.” That’s us, folks — or the US at any rate. The Colonel lives on raw meat, preferably from endangered species, and his neck actually seems thicker than his head. His blood vessels bubble out from his skin in an unusual way, as though he’s having his blood pressure taken. And his blood pressure is permanently about to blow. Miles’ kind of hobbies are anthropogenic global warming, shooting noble savages and nuking whales, clubbing baby seal pups, and nailing kittens to treetrunks, just for fun. And that’s just his spare time. His day job is bombing sacred trees to put in a few amenities, like a nice strip mine. He and his chums don’t give up easily, and the only kit the good guys have against his gunships are bows and arrows. Let’s hope Jake can fix it.
The script ain’t no King Lear, but the movie delivers, and the effects are superb. It’s certainly worth seeing in the Cinema, and shelling out the extra £1·50 or whatever for 3-D. Indeed the 3-D effects, said by some to be vomit inducing, are less meretricious than is often the case. Some people will dislike this film, and find the script and storyline less compelling than the CGI. I bought it, however, and might even go to see it again, just to see what I missed first time round in the luscious complex flora and fauna of the Pandoran rainforest. 4 and a half out of 5.