By Orisakolade Orisadamilare
Avatar is a fantasy action adventure directed and written by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington as Jake Sully, Zoe Salddana as Neytiri and Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Grace Augustine. The story follows the arrival of Jake Sully on the moon called Pandora, which is a lush rainforest type Garden of Eden that also produces a high intensity magnetic field. Jake is a paraplegic marine dispatched on a mission to take part in an avatar programme to interact and convince the Navi (the inhabitants of Pandora) to leave their land, in order that a large corporation can have easy access to a mineral called unobtanium laying beneath the forest.
James Cameron is tasked with the duty of conceiving Pandora’s environment and peoples, the colonies coming from Earth, their settlements and equipment. Roger Ebert looks at the technique employed in achieving the vision, “Like ‘Star Wars’ and ‘LOTR,’ ‘Avatar employs a new generation of special effects. Cameron said it would, and many doubted him. It does. Pandora is very largely CGI.” CGI is to Avatar as Technicolor was to The Wizard of Oz, a necessity, hours could be spent on the way in which Cameron created the vast jungles in Pandora, but there’s no point. This film has to be seen to give it true justice. The flamboyant use of colour particularly at night when many of the plants came to life with bright neon colours highlighted the floor-to-wall green vegetation that glistened in light. Although the film was shot mainly within interiors lighting was never an issue, whether beneath the forest canopy or in the human base camp, objects and props were clearly defined, and nothing was unnecessarily hidden in shadow. The Navi and the wildlife are also magnificently coloured complementing the forest they live in, and when the forest’s neon lights shone, to be any other colour than blue would have been a disappointment.
Pandora was a moon in harmony, but also during the conceptual art, everything complemented everything, colour schemes, the otherworldly lighting, and a good proportion of scale with landscapes in real world perspective. Just as Pandora gave a vision of a realistic working environment, the human equipment and base station followed suite in this theory. All the equipment and machinery conceived had to work, and if built for future use would probably be reproduced in the same fashion. All these items had to be logically constructed to be able to work in the world in which they served. Therefore, not only did the machines have to work as real life concepts, they had to work on Pandora. The aircrafts all contained hover technology which could lift off vertically from any surface especially within Pandora’s jungles; the weapons were good old-fashioned projectile machines which were noisy and emitted plenty of brass.
All these mid 21st century machines were used for two reasons - one, this technology was the most advanced that could function on Pandora, and anything more sophisticated shut down under the high intensity magnetic field. The second, Cameron wanted the audience to feel comfortable with all the technology in the film, so there could be no supposition on their part; they could associate all the machines with what they had previously experienced, allowing them to concentrate on the unfolding drama and special effects. Exactly what the drama Cameron is trying to get across to the audience is the age old story that is played out in contemporary modern day wars; or a classic tale of an incompetent native unable to defend himself, who needs a so-called ‘sophisticated’ hero to fight his battles.
Cynthia Fuchs elaborates further on this association, “For all its powerful technologies and even Grace’s subtler dimensions (she’s so tough and cool she smokes in her lab and no one makes a peep), Avatar can’t get out from under its essential cardboardness. It can point to the evil effects of racism, but remains entrenched in the fundamental premise: the tribe both endangered and saved by the cowboy, the marine, the same-old romantic lead. Okay, so he’s also blue, in an appropriative and opportunistic way. He’s still the One.” Nevertheless, this does not take away from the great accomplishment Cameron has achieved in portraying his vision on celluloid with such precision, enthusiasm and imagination.