Thursday, 21 January 2010

The thing about Avatar

It was in a slightly shamefaced way that I admitted to my mother that Danielle and I had been to see Avatar at the weekend. For the second time.

I like to think of us as much too sophisticated for this kind of simple fairy tale dressed up as sci-fi. Though the Chinese apparently take it seriously: they’re banning the film from state-run cinemas. It seems they’re too worried that the plight of the Na’vi people in the film (think Sioux nation) at the hands of the ‘Corporation’s’ forces (think Custer and his brutal rabble of vicious cutthroats) would remind too many people in China of their own disappointed national aspirations (think Tibetans, Uighurs and no doubt a panoply of other disaffected groups).

Still, even so potent endorsement as one from the People’s Republic of China can’t dispel the feeling that Avatar is fundamentally far too trivial for anyone with intellectual pretensions (and no-one pretends more mightily than I do). So in enjoying it I’m giving way to a slightly shameful indulgence, like a eating a chocolate biscuit or travelling first class on the railways.

In fact, to justify going to see the film for the second time, we took Jenny and George who, at 15 and 12, can still just be classified as children. I like to think of them as honorary grandchildren, or possibly adoptive grandchildren; they’re actually from two houses down from us.

I also made attempts at witty mockery to give myself an air of superior detachment from the film.

‘You’ll need to watch carefully,’ I warned them, ‘to spot the love interest.’ It takes nanoseconds after the arrival of the Na’vi woman, showing nothing but incandescent contempt, indeed hostility for the protagonist (she actually draws her bow to kill him), to realise that she’s the one he’s going to fall for. And who’s going to fall for him.

‘It’s a morally complex film too,’ I told them, ‘where you struggle to work out just who the good guys are, who the bad guys.’

George looked at me pityingly. ‘The good guys are the blue ones.’

I realised that being a smartarse about the film was just a defence mechanism, an attempt to insulate myself from the fact that somewhere deep in me, remote from all the urbanity and cynicism, I’d just simply enjoyed it.

And I suppose, when all’s said and done, that this is the thing about Avatar. It may be irredeemably trivial, it may heap cliché on worn-out cliché, it may dodge anything that remotely resembles a quandary.

But it’s fun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you've convinced me, i shall be queuing up outside the Odeon asap.