Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Something good this way comes

I know that some people who have followed my blog entries about upcoming writings know that it's about 50/50 on the turn out rate. The thing is, regardless of whether I get to writing the story that's got me all fired up after watching the movie Avatar (2009), I'm still coming out with a language in its infancy development stages. I've already laid the groundwork for the grammar, structure, and alphabet (phonetic and characters.) My hope is that I can get a few dedicated people to actually attempt to learn and incorporate the language in conversation. This would most likely manifest in the form of letter written once a weekly or once every other week. These would not have to be hand written letters, however hand written letters would provide me with valuable feedback on the level of difficulty for others in reproducing the characters I created. I'm not sure which to be more excited about, the story, or the language I'm creating for the story and its sequels.

Just a couple days ago I went to the theater to see James Cameron's Avatar. This movie was 14 years in the making and is the most expensive project to date. James Cameron, in case the name doesn't ring a bell, is the guy who made the classic Titanic. If you're memory is a little spotty or you're not into trivial facts concerning film, Titanic was one of the most expensive but also the most successful film in the mainstream box office. No film, not even Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight was able to surpass the gross income raked in for the Titanic. Now that you have an idea about this guy's track record, let me tell you about his latest film and possibly one of my favorite films of all time.

Avatar is set on the fictional planet Pandora. This planet is much like our own. Also like Earth, Pandora has valuable resources, one of which is so valuable that mere kilos of the material will make you rich. Our main character, Jake Sullivan is sent to Pandora to replace his dead brother as a special type of negotiator. Sullivan was selected because his genome was compatible the avatar built for his brother. An avatar, in context to the film, is an artificially developed body in resemblance to Pandora's only sentient life, the Na'vi, infused with the DNA of person who will remotely control this body.

If you're feeling lost by my run down, don't feel bad, because I'm going to catch you up real quick here. This film is excellent display of how real a CGI character can be. At times I forgot I that I was looking at computer animated characters, they blended in so well with the environment (granted many environments were CGI.) The fact is, if they hadn't done such a good job on the rendering, then I'd probably get really sick of looking at cheaply made CGI characters sloppily cut and paste onto a real forest background. The only other option would have been to make this film a motion-capture film like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and Jim Carey's A Christmas Carol. To me, and a lot of other amateur film critics, these motion-capture style films don't hold the same value as films that simply mix CGI with real characters and environments. With that, it should come as no surprise that it cost James Cameron over $300 million to make this film, and it stands to reason that someone who puts down that much cash for some renderings is going to get the most lifelike renderings you'll ever see.

What Christians going to this film will probably hear from their other Christian friends is that this movie is reminiscent of Manifest Destiny and Greenpeace's push to save Mother Earth. People who say this fail to see a major difference that Sigourmey Weaver's character points out quite vividly, Pandora's connection to the animal, plant, and sentient life is biologically explainable. While Native Americans might have claimed to have a connection to all of life through some power given to them by the Great Spirit, the Na'vi and James Cameron aren't making that claim for Pandora. The Na'vi have tentacles smaller than fingers hidden beneath a tuft of hair at the end of their braided hair which can connect to similar tentacles on the animals that roam Pandora. The plant life doesn't seem to have these tentacles, but they still can make that connection, if only a one-way communication. These connections are neural in nature, and therefore when the Na'vi connect to an animal they can temporarily conscript its service. The Na'vi, like most Native American tribes, worshiped a nature-related deity. For the Na'vi her name is Ewya, the goddess of nature and of Pandora itself, who actually turns out to be a large tree with branches similar to a weeping willow except that these branches are larger versions of those neural tentacles I was telling you about. By connecting neural-tentacle-ally to the tree, the Na'vi can retrieve the memories of their dead ancestors, which is also explained by their burial process which involves Ewya absorbing their "energy" (which is their neural synapses).

I say all that to show you that James Cameron's invented race and the mythology they subscribe to is actually, in its fundamentals, a sound religion backed by the science. The Native Americans and their Great Spirit had no such science to back up their beliefs. Try not to get too offended by nature-loving/tree-hugging message you might be receiving, it's just your oversensitive oil-drilling self getting a little trigger happy.

I would give this film a 4.5/5. I won't give a 5/5 simply because I don't give that out to any film but the ones that live up to the highest of high expectations and then exceed them beyond my wildest imagination. If you're wondering what films did that for me, I'd say Watchmen and The Dark Knight were just two action films that did that for me. Forrest Gump and Finding Nemo were two other films that also received a perfect 5/5 in my book. If there's one thing I might suggest when you go to see this movie which you now know is an film that you would be foolish not to see in theaters, is that I wouldn't recommend paying the extra $3 or $4 just to see it in 3D. I saw it in 3D and didn't realize what was 3D about it until about an hour into the film when things started falling from the sky and appeared to be coming from the ceiling towards the screen. Still, the 3D portion of the film did not live up to the expectations I had for it based on what my friends had told me, but that did not effect my opinion of the film.

Until next time and Merry Christmas,
De Facto

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