Sunday, December 4

I have reviewed ‘Avatar’ for the first time since I saw it in the cinema and I think that these 13 years have been great


I never stopped loving ‘Avatar’. I saw her on her day, and Even though James Cameron is a director whose sense of the show interests me a lot, his proposal was far from my favorites of his filmography (podium occupied without much effort by the first two ‘Terminator’ -the first well ahead of the second-, ‘Aliens’ and ‘Lies risky’, very few surprises there). I recognized the technical effort and that’s it, and I didn’t connect too much with the aesthetics or with the story.

With the sequel, it’s time to revisit the original film and assess to what extent its groundbreaking reputation is justified: did James Cameron sign a visionary masterpiece or just a pretentious jungle adventure? I retrieved the three-hour extended version, the longest montage Cameron has ever released, and set out to ride the banshees through Pandora.

A curiously agile narration

In general terms, and even facing a film that already has everything to lose with me with its duration of two hours and fifty-eight minutes in tow, I was surprised that what I remembered as a heavy and relatively slow movie was not at all in this review. ‘Avatar’ is a relatively agile film with a considerably concise and very to the point narrative.

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What I remembered as long scenes full of somewhat naive mystique are still there, but they are not too burdensome. The military transition scenes, tostones of planes taking off and flying in formation, flight sequences with the banshees, Jake’s training, everything that I remembered as the lowest moments of interest in the film come back, but they are very bearable. No sequence takes longer than is reasonable, they don’t get bogged down in excessive introductions, and there is little padding: almost all of them serve a narrative function. Which, I insist, is not turkey mucus for three hours.

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Seen with the stopwatch in hand, what I already knew about the narrator Cameron (that one does not manage to place half a filmography in the top of the most watched films in history if his films do not work like clockwork) is confirmed. The movie it is so concise in its development and its subplots unfold with such clarity that it could even be divided into three blocks of courses, like chapters. Another thing will not have ‘Avatar’, but paradoxically given its duration, it does not entertain itself with padding.

Still technically impressive

In its day ‘Avatar’ had a visual impact, but over time, it is possible that we were not fully aware of its findings because we thought that a time would come when a good part of cinema would be like this. Or that was the bike that was being sold to us. The truth is that this has not happened, due to technical and economic limitations: but 13 years later, ‘Avatar’ is still visually as spectacular and unique as it was in its day.

It is incredible that, with more than a decade behind him, ‘Avatar’ continues to amaze by the realism of his animations. Sequences in recognizable environments and with human characters, such as laboratories, are indistinguishable from scenes shot with live actors and handheld cameras. But now, in addition, it is easier to appreciate the enormous effort invested in the creation of an alien fauna and flora, simply because it has not been unparalleled.

And that Cameron knows how to shoot action is almost an oxymoron, but taking into account how digital tools have evolved in this regard due to the rather horrible genre scenes that the mainstream current (Marvel in the lead), ‘Avatar’ is almost a ball of wonderful oxygen. Well-planned and edited chases and combats, aware of the space and the possibilities of montage and its rhythm, and that take advantage of digital tools to shoot the impossible with clarity and simplicity, without cluttering everything up. The final showdown is the best example of this.

The problems are still there

All in all, it is difficult to ignore the shortcomings of ‘Avatar’, and that they come from a well-meaning, but somewhat naive, contemplation of indigenous people, and that fits with the multiple contradictions of Cameron, an author obsessed with military discipline and war, but also with ecological and pacifist messages. The description of the customs of the Na’vi as a tourist would in Kenya and the vulgar connections with the native Americans, with a point of involuntary racismwithout a doubt, is what has aged the worst in the film.

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It is also indisputable that when the film becomes tacky, it is devastating in that sense. The most spiritual sequences are the most jarring, with some sparkles and designs that were already limping in their day, and now much more so because of their mixture of ingenuity and the aesthetics of a telephone operator announcement. In the same way that the designs (from the military vehicles to the fauna of Pandora, going through the magnificent natural settings) are very remarkable, the visualization of the spiritual as an after party in Ibiza is not the most memorable of the whole.

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As much as I haven’t found the suckling pig I was expecting, ‘Avatar’ is an adventure film that triumphs visually (the action, the innumerable visual aspects) and it does not work so well in what it considers important (a very superficial ecological and spiritual message). But as a curiously isolated proposal in time, with no more precedents or continuations than those that Cameron himself has wanted to grant it, it runs perfectly.

Possibly, the director would not be very happy with this consideration of a fascinating and partially failed technological toy. But for me, with three hours of agony waiting for me, it’s enough for me.

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