Avatar – James Cameron Channels Shoji Kawamori and Every Awesome World Ever

I’ve read some reviews by people who said that Avatar, while visually amazing, was a less-than-great film for having a cliche plot. My message to those people is a kind and well-mannered ‘fuck you.’ Avatar was an amazing film – and precisely because it didn’t have any kind of unique or intelligent plot. It was all about the experience – the single most incredible cinematic experience I’ve ever had (in 3D IMAX no less!) Avatar didn’t need to be great in the way that your Slumdog Millionaire is great or your Quentin Tarantino film is great. Instead, it is great in the way that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is great, or, and more importantly as we escape film, the The Legend of Zelda is great or that one of my favorite JRPGs is great – it’s because of sheer immersion.

I don’t care what the plot of Avatar was, but if I did, I’d still have something extremely solid. Cameron is a fucking genius director, mastering pacing and packing in an airtight script that may be full of recycled lines, but all are lines that make sense where they are, and the movie is never ‘wrong’. You’ve seen it before, but you’ve never seen it done this well except by other films of it’s ilk. The story is straight from the environmentalist sci-fi new-age textbook, the likes of which anime director Shoji Kawamori loves to grab from. My little brother told me afterward ‘I feel like I did after I watched Arjuna!’ and I couldn’t agree more – and being as I love Arjuna, it’s not a complaint. I always like to see a spiritualist message, and while Avatar has it, it doesn’t rub it in your face or become annoying as it can in some works (Arjuna even included.) In many ways, it reminded me of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, though with less important characters.

Not that there weren’t great characters in Avatar. The main character avoided the usual stereotype of a douchebag Human hero by being distinctly lax and having as much fun as the viewer throughout. The Big Bad villain, a psychotic Marine captain, was awesome as he fought tooth and nail against the main character and just refused to die for as long as possible – Cameran has always been great at creating villains, and this is no exception. Sigorni Weaver is fun as the sarcastic scientist chief who is really in love with the Na’vi race and fights to protect them. Michelle Rodriguez was also in this film as a badass tomboy helicopter pilot, which was VERY welcome – I consider her to be one of the hottest actresses alive myself~ The Na’vi had a bit less personality, but they served their purpose to the plot well and the leading lady was a ton of fun – not to mention undeniably attractive. I’m serious.

But we’re going to stop there with the speak of characters and plot – this movie was all about experience. You may have noticed a lack of screen shots in this post, and that’s because they won’t do the film justice. I don’t even need to talk about the special effects – the entire movie was special effects, but fuck if you can tell that. You’ll get confused if you try to believe that what you are seeing isn’t real. It’s more obvious and easy to think of the blue people and the creature as CG, but when you look at that world, or even the machines, you’ll doubt your own brain if you say it isn’t real. This is the magic of Avatar – it feels completely tangible. At first, in the very beginning, you may think that you are watching a movie – but then as you go on through the two and a half hours of the film, you will gradually forget that there is a reality, much as this happens to the lead character. It continually becomes an experience and one you won’t soon forget.

The only thing I could immediately compare this movie to was my experience of playing The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. Zelda isn’t particularly known for it’s story – I might not even remember Ocarina’s plot were it not so simple. However, I can tell you everything about the world from that game – I loved that world for being so enthralling and interesting and unique, and it’s that world that keeps people playing the game over and over or accomplishing all of the quests. It’s like World of Warcraft (which I didn’t jump to first because it’s a much bigger animal and has no real plot) or any good JRPG that tells you it’s story not through dialog and characters so much as through experience.

I experienced Avatar and never wanted it to end – I was IN that world. I watched this movie with a group of 9 and all of us were absorbed in it. No Name was telling me how he didn’t even know what to do after watching that movie. He said ‘I laughed, I smiled, I shook, I cried, I jumped, and I felt completely connected to the world.’ I felt the same – I couldn’t stop smiling throughout the film, and when Jake gave a speech to the Na’vi people calling them to war, I felt chills not just because of the delivery of the lines or the strength of the words said, but because I was ready to go off to war – I was there.

When the Na’vi go to war, they travel to all of the tribes and we see some stunning unexplored locales where the people come from. There are currently two sequels planned for Avatar – as much as I wish Cameron would do his Battle Angel Alita movie, I would love nothing more than to see the rest of the world of Avatar in as many films as it takes.

18 thoughts on “Avatar – James Cameron Channels Shoji Kawamori and Every Awesome World Ever

  1. This post had so many perfect explanations and points that I really do not have any follow up comment other than Avatar was brilliant, and I agree with almost everything you said here, especially regarding Michelle Rodriquez, who is a complete smokeshow.

    Avatar is truly a movie where you feel like you are part of the world, which is something I’ve felt from some movies, books and shows, but never to this degree.

  2. I hated it precisely because I didn’t feel connected to anything in it.. there was no suspension of my disbelief after maybe 15 minutes into the movie. When I’m being spoonfed everything there’s no room for my own imagination, and so any little thing that feels idiotic stands out like a sore thumb. With Avatar this happened a great deal more than it ought to have, and my brain couldn’t reconcile one problem away before another happened. Everything from the comically bad characters to the criminally cliched “plot” was positively wretched.. it felt like a B-movie. Even the visuals sometimes made me want to laugh and pretend I was watching a parody of something.

    If it was a videogame, I could potentially get a sense of immersion because I’d be actively participating. It it was a book, I’d have to visualize it myself. With a movie that doesn’t happen, and if too many stupid or cliched things happen I can’t just will it away. Even a film adaptation of a book like Lord of the Rings can distract me if I’ve read the source material – I can compare my visualization of the world to someone else’s – yet Avatar even robbed me of that possibility.

    But anyway, enough of that.. I’m the weird one here judging by the heaps of praise others have given Avatar. I’m glad other people can enjoy it, but just thought I’d rant a little as well while you’re at it :)

    • Might you want to give an example of these stupid and cliche things? I seem to have missed them on my viewing.

      • here’s a few of my favorites that i still remember:

        – “unobtainium” is only in one place on this gigantic planet, apparently
        – we are advanced enough to get to this planet, and create “avatars”, but our mining tech isn’t good enough to get the unobtainium without disrupting the locals.
        – we already have the unobtainium now, so why are we attacking the aliens a second time? because corporal angry mcmeathead wants to?
        – we have maybe 4 or 5 defectors on this entire planet, so let’s not guard them properly.
        – i’m the big bad, so i can physically exert myself while holding my breath because all i need is blind rage
        – my real life sucks, so i’ll be put in an expensive virtual life where i might eventually defect without so much as a counselor.
        – the businessman who’s sole purpose was apparently to be greedy and evil
        – we have superior forces and technology, so why bother with tactics? zerg rush!
        – didn’t anyone SOS earth for reinforcements? maybe we shouldn’t be celebrating yet.
        – i’ll put my undefended remote base where it can be easily attacked, because my lover has to save me at the very last second
        – arrows can’t penetrate our bulletproof windows.. except now
        – stormtroopers always forget how to fire their guns when attacked head-on by a large, soft target
        – you are inexplicably the chosen one, neo
        – mother earth never takes sides, neo, except for your sake
        – lol neo, why should we listen to your rational “run like hell” advice?
        – everyone hates you, neo, until you find the deus-ex machina that will instantly convince them to follow you to the depths of hell
        – our magical healing technique requires everyone to dance and chant
        – when we’re in love even our footprints will glow
        – who reads compulsory video logs anyway? i just want to go to sleep, so i’ll just say whatever

          • i do.. but well.. you asked :)

            i still enjoyed the movie, though. the op might not have, and i can understand why given that his/her standards seem much higher than mine.

            • hehehe. Alright then, it’s fine if it didn’t bother you. Personally, I don’t see the point in getting upset about plot ticks – it’s a movie, no one said it had to have a great plot, just that it has to be entertaining. Avatar was one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever seen, so I loved every minute of it.

              • yeah, i only went to see the eyecandy anyway. i guess it was entertaining enough.. but different strokes, different folks, etc etc.

                still, if cameron screws up alita, i’ll probably be on the other side of the fence :D

  3. I was bothered by the presence of “disaffected white man rescues the natives and does everything they do better”-ism. But aside from that it was an entertaining movie. The night scene was beautiful.

    • A few days ago Owen told me ‘to a blind man, even one eye would be a blessing’, which I only agree with if the man used to have sight. I posit that the guy, who was fed up with life, had lost his legs, and lacked direction, was the perfect candidate to delve into those shoes, and I think he was able to catch the biggest dragon because he had a different perspective than the natives.

  4. I completely agree with you. I got the ‘chills’ at the speech scene as well (and the chills remain even in repeated viewing). People can talk all they want about how the dialogue, characters or the plot are flawed but I don’t care to argue.
    I recognize MAGIC when I see it.

  5. I agree. It was amazing to watch, and even though it was pretty heavy handed in the plot, it still hit the right emotional buttons. I still was bothered by how racist those blue aliens were though :(

  6. “this movie was all about experience”
    couldn’t have said it better myself. I said “WOWOW” after I got out and couldn’t really convey real feelings towards the movie till the day after I had seen it because I wanted to think about it more.

    Sure the plot was cliche but damn that was the BEST done story that had been done before EVER. I can’t wait to go and see it again! It also made me think of an old childhood movie I use to watch called Ferngully. So it was mixed with that movie and Pocahontas imo but done in an AWESOME way.

    lol at making you think of Arjuna XD if i had to compare it to an anime i suppose that and princess mononoke would be my choices.


    This could have gone terrible in so many ways but instead it went great and rang true. It has a subtlety most people won’t give it credit for, and when you do, it just feels awesome.

  8. Saw it a few days ago. Was full of win and FUCK YEAH!!!

    A couple of times I was like lol the trees = Command Cluster from Eureka seveN. Definitely had an anime world vibe in more than one way.

    Loved the post.

    I’ve been on spontaneous hiatus for a while, trying to get some genuine progress done on this here sci-fi novel. I’m trying to get back into the blogging business again. I’ll be seeing you around bro.

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