Posted by: deadmousediaries | February 16, 2010

Can Your Insanity Be Cured? – a review of Avatar from Mitchell Kyd

 I resisted in December when I first saw it but now I have to write. After watching Avatar for the second time, I can’t sleep now until I share it. Sometimes the rush of that first viewing of a hyped-up movie leaves a mystical impression that unravels the second time around. My repeat ticket on this one did not disappoint but only deepened my appreciation for the storyline and the sensory pleasures of my first visit. I expect that the reason Avatar is still playing in first-run theaters two months after it opened is because the seats are being filled with other frequent fliers just like me.

   I believe writer/director James Cameron has put a fresh face on a clichéd conflict. He takes us to a new planet but our worlds careen just as they have done throughout our history. Avatar plays out once again that there will always be conquest; we will always choose to ravage other environments as we deplete the resources of our own. “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” wrote Plato.

 The twist on this particular story is the inability of the raiders to grasp that the indigenous people, the Na’vi, are not primitive but primal; they are connected to life forces in a way we can only hope to understand. I’m sure it was intentional that the tribal name selected was a variation of “naive” and there could not have been a better name for their planet than “Pandora.”

    If you haven’t seen fantasy films of recent years (Lord of the Rings or the Harry Potter series, for example) and especially if you think you might not like them, Avatar might be your proper introduction. The blending of computer generation with real footage is seamless and the story is layered to entertain the action film junkies and sci-fi followers as well as those of us who want a solid back story. Be aware: the violence is still graphic but for the most part, the aftermath is meaningful and somehow burrows in at an unexpected level.

    In a scene of first encounters, a female tribal member intervenes to ensure Avatar’s hero Jake Sully escapes a nighttime attack of a pack of creatures. In a ceremonial gesture that mirrors other cultures of our lifetime, she bends to acknowledge the animal lives she has taken to save his. When he offers her a thank-you, she follows with the three tightest lines in the movie.

   “You no thank for this,” she says in disgust. “This sad. Very sad only.

    Sigourney Weaver again plays a great sassy bitch in her human form but it is Zoe Saldana who truly shines in a starring role although we never see her face. She plays the protagonist of the Na’vi tribe and her superb timing and vocal range and inflection turn a computer generated image into a strong, believable heroine. Her acting is backed up by an astounding depth of facial expressions on her CG image and she rattled me with her fearlessness, her passion and her pain.

    The landscape that Cameron has created for this movie is stunning; there is no better word I could choose. The world he had envisioned for the Na’vi has been executed in such vivid detail that the visual art alone was worth the price of admission for me. Inside it, he also treats the ear to a rich, new language he has scripted for the Na’vi. Infused with a thick combination of consonants, it seems authentic and unfamiliar all at once.

    The music score also has some moments of great magic. Composer James Horner draws out the emotional segments of the film by sometimes mixing tribal elements with mournful Gaelic undertones. He has also called up the haunting, four-note, brass accents that were so evident in his earlier film, Enemy at the Gates.

    For me, the crux of the story I paid to watch two times came down to this single line: “We will see if your insanity can be cured.” Those words are directed to Sully from the tribe’s female leader as she agrees to teach him the ways of the Na’vi. I think that sentence crystallizes the real dilemma: the tribe cannot relate to human greed and a quest conceived so clearly in defiance of nature.

    In short, I loved Avatar. It fills the screen with eye candy and is supported with a story I found powerful and compelling. I hope you will consider seeing it but please do it soon, before it’s gone from theaters. Cameron had been holding this script for over a decade waiting for the visual technology to catch up. You will be cheating yourself if you don’t take full advantage of the big screen, professional sound and darkened room on that first viewing. Let me know what you think?

 Copyright 2010. Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.



  1. I couldn’t agree more with your review. Wonderfully said.

  2. Earlier this year I read a book called The Fortune COokie Chronicles written by a woman on a mission to find the origin of these tasty treats. It was fascinating!

  3. The best review I have seen yet! Thank you!

    • Thanks for reading and making time to comment! MK

  4. Did you know that the word “naive” derives from the Latin for “native”? Just looked it up.

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