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Avatar Review


I was one of the lucky few to catch the James Cameron flick Avatar late last night.  I didn't come laden with huge expectations, nor armed with film reviews or analysis of the flick. I did hear that there was an Indigenous element to the film and that it was  in 3D and sci fi, and well of course involved avatars, and I was sold.

The theater was packed with geeks young college boys who looked like they could be gamers. A loud, excited chatter built up to the film as we waited the half hour for the film to start. Once it did, the whole audience quieted down to complete silence for the entire film (with the exception of suggested on-screen sex, then everyone tittered).

I was hooked on the film within the first 15 minutes, as we got right into the action of the Na'vi world. I was drawn into the graphics, the 3D effects, and the fantasy elements. The story revolves around one character, Jack Sully (Sam Worthington), a wheelchair-bound ex-marine who gets put into an avatar operation to interact with the Na'vi people and learn their ways so that the corporations can begin to extract their resources.

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The story just reeked of colonization from the first moment. When the ex-marines were being sent to the unknown land, Pandora, they were giving them speeches that was reminiscent of when the British sent out men to conquer and settle on the then uncharted North American lands. The Na'vi are the Indigenous peoples of Pandora and are referred to often as 'savages', and even as 'blue monkeys.'

When Sully lands among the people he is brought to the leader of the people, who's cadence sounds exactly like an old Indian chief (voice is by Cherokee actor Wes Studi). He is brought there by his daughter, Neytiri,  who speaks her Native tongue and English. It's like she's walking between two worlds (groan). She begins to take him under her wing and teach him about energy flow, and understanding the spirits of animals. I actually expected a song like 'Colors of the Wind' to suddenly erupt in the script.

If you follow the movie closely, it can almost become a trivia game to figure out which elements of the movie are appropriated borrowed from Indigenous cultures of the world. Yelping while hunting - Native Americans as seen through a Western Hollywood lens, chanting while cross-legged on the ground - Tibetan, Mohawk hairstyles - Iroquois, feathers in hair - Native Americans. And so the list goes on. The best is the Indigenous flute music that floats through certain scenes.

All cheesiness aside, the message of the film is that the land of the Na'vi peoples is sacred and has a greater value than the resources that the corporations want to take from it. That is something that we all need to take to heart in this current climate of environmental change. The movie was a whopping two hours and 40 minutes but even when it was done and it was 3 AM on an early Friday morning, I couldn't help but want more.

by Lisa Charleyboy from Urban Native Girl Stuff


23 comments:

Karen said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but it from the trailer it does remind me of Pocahontas in space. Nice review!

Candice Frederick said...

wow, with every good thing i've heard about this movie it just adds up to one thing--mandatry viewing

V-Knowledge said...

Avatar is incredible, especially in IMAX 3D! The story may be familiar, but damn it if Cameron didn't make it work to great effect. I've also reviewed it as well:

http://vknowledge.blogspot.com/2009/12/film-review-avatar.html

Anonymous said...

Just to give a different perspective, I could see how one could compare the Na'vi to Native American culture, but the Na'vi were wearing braids and had largely African features and habits. The reference to them being 'blue monkeys' was also a dead give away to me that this group of people were modeled after 'indigenous' African cultures. It's not hard to miss either, the gold rush, the diamond rush in precolonial Africa? James Cameron definitely put a sci-fi twist to an old school story. Loved the movie though.

The Reel World of Zachary Hayes said...

Great Blog guys... even though I feel threatened by it because I wrote a review of Avatar in my blog which also uses 'Reel' as word play. Yet you have more readers :(

Cameron admitted that the movie was 'Dances With Wolves... in space' I personally disagree. There were no similarities because the main character of 'Dances With Wolves' falls in love with a white woman living with the natives. Cameron got it right having the character fall in love with a true native.

You gotta see Avatar in theaters because it is an amazing 3-D experience. One you probably won't get on a TV.

Film Gurl said...

Great review!

Rain said...

You wrote a perfect review! You took the words out of my mouth! I just saw Avatar earlier today! It also felt like colors of wind was going to begin to play during that scene! Also i felt as if the tree was very Pochontas like ie Mother willow as in avatar they went to the tree to speak to someone wise and seek guidance! Not in to sci-fi movies but I wanted more! Great movie!

deb said...

Just saw Avatar, did not read any reviews before I saw the film,just hear from co-workers it was GREAT. It was the best visual movies I have ever seen. I was truly impressed with the computer graphics.The story line is Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves. I liked the Native American and African mix of the tribe. It was a GREAT movie, you gave a excellent review. ( must see in IMAX 3D )

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