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The Invasion of Technology

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

So “Avatar” is now out and is being hailed by a lot of people as a “masterpiece”.  Whether its a US Critic like Roger Ebert (The Chicago Sun Times) or Manohla Dargis (The New York Times), or an Indian critic like Raja Sen (of Rediff.Com) or Mayank Shekhar (The Hindustan Times)…everyone is heaping loads of praise on the film and on the creative juices of James Cameron.

I too saw the film a few days ago (albeit not in IMAX 3-D) and would tend to agree with everyone on the ingenious filmmaker that Cameron is.  The movie is surely a creative wonder, with eye-popping visuals that seemed wonderous even in non-3D and a seldom seen-before attention paid to the details of the planet Pandora that Cameron has created.  He has amazed us in the past with his creative abilities in smashes like the first two “Terminator” films, “True Lies“, “Titanic” and my personal favorites, “Aliens” and “The Abyss“.  But with “Avatar“, James Cameron has alas gone the George Lucas way, letting technology take control and pushing the “human factor” into the background.  Which is why, IMHO, “Avatar” is a very good movie, but a masterpiece?  Nah!!

The first 15-20 minutes of the movie brought back memories of the space/aqua stations created by Cameron in “Aliens” and “The Abyss“, and I started looking forward to a ride into Pandora through the eyes of Sam Worthington’s character, Jake Sully.  But what the film instead turned into was an extended stay on Pandora, with the audience spending all the time with Pandora’s Na’vi clan sans any “human aliens”.  Which means that, for me, the movie became a display of how advanced technology has become today and of what it allows you to do, while playing with the mind of the audience.

In short, “Avatar” looked great and had jaw-dropping visuals….but it never transported me to Pandora.  It just felt “not real” to me!!

I had the same issues with the second and third installments of the “Matrix” Trilogy (The first one kept the “human” quotient fairly high).  As well as with “The Lord of the Rings” and to an extent, the “Harry Potter” series.  But the worst of them all, was of course “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones“, which, in my opinion, almost destroyed my entire respect for the legendary series.  “Clones” came to me as nothing more than a computer generated video game, where I searched hard in vain for the human factor throughout the movie.

I call this the “Invasion of Technology” into our movies, where filmmakers let technology speak instead of their actors.  Undeniably, technology has advanced with leaps and bounds over the years…especially in the past 10-15 years (and Pixar is the prime..and the brightest example of that).  Things that writers/directors could only fathom in their imagination are now possible to translate onto the big screen with the help of those machines called computers.  But I feel that it has also, at times, relegated the most important aspect of a movie….the story…to the background.  Yes, technology allows you to show what you are thinking of, to your audience, but don’t forget that we, the audience, are also suckers for memorable characters which remain more etched in our minds than a vision of a huge vision tsumani wiping out earth (“2012“) or the Na’vi clan riding their mini-dragons and flying in the air.  I would always prefer a “Joker“, a “Dark Knight” or a “Green Goblin” over any of the afore mentioned because those directors never took their attention off of the fact that special affects should only be used to enhance the experience for a moviegoer.  At the end of the day, it is always the story that reigns supreme.

The jury will always be out on this topic and discussions are ongoing between the two groups of people even today — one that loves technology-dominated flicks and the other that always craves for “substance over style”….not that style does not matter for them.  I have take my side.  Are you ready to take yours?

Categories: Hollywood
  1. Sanjay Sukhrani
    January 4, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I went in to se “Avatar” with very low expectations and came out with the conviction that the movie is a game changer. I think this movie is a precursor of changes in how movies will be amde. The costs may be seen as prohibitive….but:

    – The costs will go down.
    – Producers of content will not have to rely on high priced brand name
    actors to make runaway hits.

    I say things will neer be the same again!

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