Avatar ★★★★½

Extended Collector’s Edition.

Interesting to come back to Avatar in the cold light of over a decade removed from that unprecedented run, and to do so without the 3D effects that contributed to its massive success. So does it hold up as an experience when viewed in the circumstances James Cameron wasn’t thinking about when making it?

Yeah, fuck yeah it does. Hell I’d argue the immersion is so much better on an awesome 4K home entertainment system without the stupid glasses. Pandora remains a timelessly beautiful world, it’s sweeping vistas jaw dropping and even the smallest nooks and crannies vivid enough to warrant hanging on your wall. There’s an argument to be made about the creature design being just animal A + animal B with bright colours but when this is probably the absolute closest to achieving CGI photo realism it’s easy to brush over.

Much has been made over how derivative the narrative is and I feel like people simply having been paying attention. Yeah it’s John Carter, Dune, Call Me Joe and whatever else thrown in a blender, but that’s 99% James Cameron’s entire career. If you go back throughout his filmography the man has been Tarantino-ing science fiction literature into his unique vision since the very start, the world only bothered to notice because the discourse around the film went so crazy.

That’s not to say the movie is without its narrative faults, I feel like we’re being asked to buy into a budding romance between two characters that from the perspective of a movie viewer are blue humanoid cat people which has a certain disconnect to it. Especially when we find out this is a civilisation that practices beastiality and dendrophilia. The characters and the or respective actors too just don’t seem to mesh well, although I will say both Worthington and Saldana are perfectly cast in their roles.

The narrative simplicity makes for a very fluid dedication to its world building. Again I don’t care so much about complaints that it’s a white boy going native story when there’s a very textured world and history there to explore. I do think both this and Dune get carried away in making their alien societies a little TOO alien to the point it comes off as a massive fucking chore to go native with them. I don’t see myself wanting to give up my creature comforts, but what makes the extended edition the optimal viewing choice is that it does such a convincing job of ensuring there’s NOTHING Jake Sully is missing out on by doing so.

James Cameron does an amazing job creating something that’s a very universal piece of joyful escapism. It’s so beautifully sincere and uncynical. Of course James Cameron being James Cameron he can’t help himself but to give us plenty of sci fi weapons porn and Stephen Kang’s overly badass brick shithouse villain in that’s more at home in one of his Arnold starring films. As staunchly (and correctly) anti colonialism and military industrial complex as this movie is the bad guys almost feel more fun to be around than the Navi lol.

So yeah unquestionably a fun, bold masterwork, that will leave you transfixed for 3 hours wondering why it’s over already. The everlasting debate on the pop culture footprint this movie left behind is idiocy. If there is no foot print it’s pop cultures fault, not the film’s. But strap in because this entire decade will be dedicated to returning to Pandora. Im fucking ready.

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