written: 2:21 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009

When Wei Chuen first told me about Avatar, I had some reservations. It was a familiar story: humans discover alien civilisation; humans march in; humans divide and conquer; humans are evil. Tried and tested, even saw it in another, but similar, form in District 9 (probably the best film I watched all year. I think I forgot to talk about it but it's really AMAZING). Definitely treaded the same grounds in books.

After watching it, though, I am surprised by how good it was, how engaging it was, and how emotionally resonant it was. I am probably more surprised that I'm surprised, to be honest - I list Titanic as one of my favourite movies with absolutely no qualms (it's really good what), and The Terminator is one of the few action/sci-fi movies that I think is meaningful.

Avatar tops all of that. I'm not into special effects and CGI and whatever; action movies, as a general rule, are to be avoided like the plague because I'm just not interested. But the special effects/CGI/computer stuff really worked to the movie's advantage. Not only that, it succeeded magnificently in creating this other world that's full of wonder, mystery, and bright fluoroscent colours, in contrast to the drab, dull, dreary grey scale of the human side of the equation. The juxtaposition of the clunky machinery utilised by the humans with the wispy, ethereal portrait of the indigenous population worked only because technology assisted James Cameron and brought his vision to vivid, wholly believable life.

It was really quite incredible. The intrinsic value of the movie aside, the movie for the sake of it was quite mind-blowing. You feel like you're really there; you feel like it's really all real. And so when the shit hits the fan, as it inevitably would, your wide-eyed wonder quickly turns into wide-eyed shock.

That's another reason why this movie is simultaneously entertaining and important: it tells a story that's tried and tested, and unfortunately so. It's set in the future, but it's happened - in real life - in history over and over, and it's still happening now. The two central themes - imperialism and environmental degradation - are meshed together in one movie to remind you of the mistakes of the past, the mistakes of the present, and the consequences to be faced in the (very near?) future. You hear about, and sometimes read about, oil companies and other assorted corporations going into rainforests, clearing land, resettling the people that are there, and you don't really know what it all means until you see it. Of course, it's exaggerated on film because it's a movie, but essentially, the shock and the anguish captured on film can't be too far off from what occurs in real life.

See, I like my movies to be meaningful, to have a point, to be somewhat intelligent - and I like my movies not to hit me over the head with it. Avatar isn't exactly subtle, but it doesn't treat me like an idiot either (like, um, Crash. Sorry, I really fucking hate that sorry excuse for an anti-racism movie). Most importantly, it lets its primary purpose reveal its underlying one: through entertaining and telling a story that absorbs you into the world it portrays, it reveals to you the issues it deals with and the messages it wants you to take away from it.

Yup, I approve. Brilliant movie. Still prefer District 9 (by far, actually - I LOVE District 9), but brilliant movie.


Too tired to continue.

before sunrise // before sunset

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