James Cameron’s AVATAR is the kind of film that moves the industry forward – and not necessarily just the movie industry. The movie’s 3D technology makes Gollum look like Max Headroom. The scope of Cameron’s ambition in terms of redefining the baseline for movie-making technology is utterly breathtaking; this is the kind of stuff that George Lucas or Steven Spielberg should have been doing with their sacred franchise cash cows’ spoils. This film was something Cameron wanted to make decades ago but was restrained by technology; the story goes that he saw Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy and realized, “the time is now”. And Jackson will surely step up his game in response – but this isn’t just a game of techno-wizardry, it’s an arms race from which every moviegoer will benefit from in terms of how movies are made, filmed, and most importantly, viewed.
GOOD GRIEF FOLKS. These are MOVIES. This one is set on an alien planet, with 10 foot tall blue natives and (regrettably the only non-original aspect of the film) a generalized Earth Military which could have been ripped straight from Starship Troopers or the Alien trilogy. If there’s a message here, it’s Pocahontas, not The West Wing.
Not every army on film is a metaphor for the US military. In fact, as is the case with Heinlein, sometimes it’s a metaphor for something else. And AVATAR is above all, a love story, and about an individual who questions the dogma he’s lived by and embraces his own conscience and beliefs. What’s more conservative than that?
What we need is a entertainment-industry equivalent of Sigmund Freud, to make the arch-observation “sometimes a movie is just a movie.”
And what a movie it will be!