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Avatar: Subtle Advertising

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I saw James Cameron’s film Avatar for the first time last night. Being familiar with some of Cameron’s films, I had an idea of what to expect. This film, however, went beyond those expectations. It was far worse than I expected.

Subtlety is not a word one associates with Cameron’s films and, predictably, there was nothing subtle about Avatar. Being impressive is clearly what gives Cameron a hard-on, and that is what this film is all about.

For Cameron, impressive means BIG – and I mean BIG. Therefore the landscape was enormous, dwarfing humans, aliens and animals alike. Trees are as high as mountains. Gigantic stone arches span green chasms that would dwarf the ‘canals’ on Mars. The branches of the trees are as wide as single-track roads, but there are no safety barriers in Cameron’s über-macho world. One slip, one foot wrong, and you fall hundreds of feet to your death. The aliens live a life, quite literally, on the edge, whether it be on branch, cliff-face or floating sky-island.

For Cameron, impressive also equals AGGRESSIVE. The film oozes aggression from every pore. The relentless hostility was extremely wearing. (By the end of the film I was longing for something more domestic, more human, such as Tolkein’s The Shire.)

So, the humans are relentlessly aggressive towards each other, the environment, the aliens etc., etc.. The people, whether army or scientist, are constantly squaring up to each other for one reason or another. The aliens, the blue people, are similarly aggressive to each other. They are like a bunch of lads, being competitive, issuing challenges and counter-challenges continuously.

The fauna that populates Pandora…….. well, what can I say? Not a fluffy bunny in sight. Most of the animals are vicious predators with gaping maws and razor sharp teeth. To say that Pandoran wildlife is red in tooth and claw is a considerable understatement. Naturally the animals never go about their business quietly. They hurtle and crash and thrash and bulldoze and roar and growl their way through the forest in relentless pursuit of their prey – usually a human or an alien. As they hurtle and thrash and thump, the animals somersault to crashing standstills, receiving blows as they do so that would disintegrate normal flesh and bone.

There is nothing in Pandora that is comfortable. There is nothing on that planet that is safe. It is impossible to do anything or go anywhere on Pandora that does not involve putting one’s life in danger.

My impression of Avatar is that it is, basically, Cameron’s earlier film Aliens, but on steroids. To inject the steroids, Cameron has plundered all the most impressive bits from other films, cobbled them together and, using “state of the art” technology, beefed them up as never before. The effect is like going to a heavy metal rock concert with the amplifiers at maximum decibels and not an ear muff in sight. There is no let up. There are no calm moments. It’s all extremely high-octane emotionalism with none of the humour of Cameron’s earlier film Aliens. to leaven the atmosphere.

It’s all very well, however, saying that one does not take this sort of thing seriously, but the influences are subtle, like the influences of advertising. They subtly advertise a concept of the world as extremely hostile. One wonders, therefore, if it is a good idea to watch such films or to expose them to children.

On the one hand, I personally draw a line for myself, and Avatar just scrapes in, but I won’t watch it again. On the other hand, many people experience excessive fear and watching violent films or playing adventure/fantasy video games which make you have to grit your teeth to make you have to withstand the violence, can be used as a sort of simulator where one can acquire a more robust disposition.

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