By now, plenty of you would have seen Avatar, James Cameron’s newest movie. I was completely blown away by the movie, and that was before I’d watched the video above. After watching this, I’m even more blown away. This really does represent a new era of movie making.
Someone left a comment on Twitter about how watching the film reminded them of how they felt when they first saw Star Wars in 1977. I had the same feeling when I was watching Avatar. I also remember being so excited to see the new installment of the Star Wars movies, the introduction of Anakin Skywalker. I vividly recall being so incredibly disappointed while watching it. It didn’t represent movie magic to me; I knew most of it was a digital creation. Avatar is different; yes, there is computer imagery, but it’s the blending of the human with the computer imagery that makes it so much more sophisticated and watchable. (in my opinion, anyway!)
I’d really like to spend time discussing Avatar with a class. I’d like to see what students make of it; are they conscious of the sub texts in the plot? Can they relate what happens on the screen to modern day conflicts or even conflicts from the past? Is some of the terminology used in the film eg: ‘shock and awe’ familiar to them? Do they sense a message to us all about the environmental impact of the way we live our lives? What do they make of the roles of male and female characters? Why is ‘the human being’ the saviour? In fact, what would be best is to pose no questions to them at all, and instead, let them brainstorm discussion points.
Another interesting way to look at it would be to have students search the web (or Twitter!) for links to items that would pose interesting discussion topics. One such link that came to me from Tony Hollingsworth the other day was from a blog called ‘Dark Roasted Blend’ and the title of the post was, ‘10 possible sources of Avatar in Science Fiction‘. In it, they make reference to an Ursula Le Guin novella from 1972 entitled ‘The Word for World is Forest‘. Here’s their opinion and precis of the plot;
Similarities? Well, how about a forested planet with the deeply “connected” natives, a human military raid on a huge tree-city and a subsequent retaliation of natives… some scenes seem incredibly familiar, even though Le Guin plot is markedly deeper and more sophisticated.
It makes for interesting reading. Very good fodder for a book club discussion.
There are some scathing criticisms of the film out there too, and they would prove very useful for a class to dissect. Love it, just like it, or hate it, there’s plenty in Avatar that would make for an interesting examination of film making and how it relates to and draws from the human condition.