I have never smiled through an entire film, reveling in the eye-candy, the characters, the convincing fantasy world, the 3D effect, total invisibility of any line between live action and CGI, the implications of it on future cinema, and the sheer pleasure of the wow-factor. Yes, Avatar blew my socks off. And I’m a sci-fi junkie.
One of the most endearing features of this fantasy world to me is the meticulous detail built into the natural world, in most ways scientifically plausible (with a dose of suspended disbelief regarding the laws of physics and such, but that’s okay). Importantly, in this sci-fantasy the scientists are the good guys again. Grace (Sigourney Weaver) literally wrote the book. (Who is her publisher?) Flaming Liberal Hollywood rarely manages to link disciplined, ethical scientific process to what’s true and right in the world. How refreshing.
I’m being sarcastic about Liberal Hollywood because the blogosphere is ripe with criticism that the plotline of Avatar is “out of touch” with the Conservative heartland of America with a story that is anti-military and anti-development. Sorry, but I stubbornly do not believe genocide and scorched-earth strip-mining are Conservative ideals, but these evils appear in our nonfiction daily news and still need to be battled. And the heroes in Avatar are soldiers of conscience. There’s a great American tradition in that. Sure, Neytiri is an insurgent. So was Paul Revere, but he didn’t get to ride a banshee.
There is also a common argument out there that people are only going to the movie for the visual spectacle and ignoring the story. That’s quite a stretch for a film that’s already grossed over $1 billion. It is transparently the old Nature vs The Machine and white-guy-going-native story, but realized with eye-popping visual magic. (See also the anime epic Princess Mononoke for a similar theme but with an Asian ambivalence.) My only criticism is that the bad-guys in Avatar are two-dimensionally bad to the bone. It’s a three-hour movie, for heavensake: isn’t that enough time to develop some Shakespearean complexity to the antagonists?
Obviously, I come in squarely on the side of the Na’vi. Syncing with the trees does not seem far-fetched to me at all—though I don’t have the ponytail linkup. But we must not be too sanguine; one resolution for this year is to be sure Confluence Book Services participates actively in sustainable printing and publishing programs and services. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of a leonopteryx.
The familiar storylines will always be with us, but the new storytellers are using emerging media and technologies with astounding potency. Cameron’s latest leads us to expectations of still richer feasts of imagination on screen. The $500 million in technology developed for Avatar will be readily available to other producers (Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Peter Jackson have already had a chance to play with it.) and perhaps all tech-savvy mortals in a few years. Now a live actor can become anything. And even the tie-in toys are 3D and downloads. What does that mean for books in competition with multimedia? What might it lead to in eReaders and eBooks? Where will it drive reader expectations?
Well, I expect to go see Avatar in 3D again this week.
Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora, a 224-page book in the form of a field guide to the film’s fictional setting of the planet of Pandora, was released by Harper Entertainment on November 24, 2009. It is presented as a compilation of data collected by the humans about Pandora and the life on it, written by Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison. HarperFestival also released Wilhelm’s 48-page James Cameron’s Avatar: The Reusable Scrapbook for children. The Art of Avatar: James Cameron’s Epic Adventure was released on November 30, 2009 by Abrams Books. The book features detailed production artwork from the film, including production sketches, illustrations by Lisa Fitzpatrick, and film stills. Producer John Landau wrote the foreword, Cameron wrote the epilogue, and director Peter Jackson wrote the preface.
In a 2009 interview, Cameron said that he planned to write a novel version of Avatar some time after the film released.
PPS Isn’t it worth it just for the chance to use “leonopteryx” as a post tag?