Frames /sing


Avatar: The Density of Being

Let’s just say that I am recovering. It is a carefully sculpted onslaught, discretely spaced with only a few flaws, but an onslaught nonetheless. And I am recovering. It’s Pocahontas meets Full Metal Jacket meets The Diving Bell and the Butterfly meets Alien meets Coming Home meets Dragonheart meets Dersu Uzala  meets Brainstorms meets Total Recall meets The Legend of Zu meets Tron meets Dances with Wolves meets Final Fantasy IV meets Logan’s Run, all of this meeting Ecological Crisis ideology meets Indigenous nostalgia meets Disney ethnic cliché and New Age ascension, and all of that sum colliding with the categorical mytho-aesthetic effect of the first Star Wars and possibly 2001. The storylines and plot topologies proliferate at animation-cell frame rates so synthesized, so graced, they are no longer borrowings, but rather operate like flipped gateways for infusions that simply cannot be qualified, nor controled. The movie downloads the viewer with such ferocity and such poetic space the film bends back cinema upon itself, and introduces its content – the question of Avatarship – into the very experience, pulling out from technological increase and its inherent relatability the buried question of sensitivity, connection and projected identification, in short, the implied organic mutuality in everything our machines have brought us. Cameron and his magicians in such a threshold defying 3D invade our bodies and throw out our affects into the arms and sinews of operators which defy all of our repeated attempts to take map of where we are. This past movie recognition, this ethnic familiarity – are the Pandorans African Maasai, elegant Native American Indians, Thai-Myanmar Pa Dong Karen, naked Amazon natives, or even cats – inundates and torques the viewer in a transport that is more than pleasured, more than reflective. It is free…free in only the sense that aesthetic renewal can be free. One is tossed outward amid the equally familiar ideological landscapes of ecological nightmare (however this reads for you), and you are vividly aware of its artifice. But in that practical synthetics the technological nervature examines you and opens you out across the help even to your well-honed intellectual compass. You rifle through cartographies, all of them familiar, all of them critically engaged, but grid on grid, none of them suffice. The imagined-to-be trite self-discovery of the main character’s authentic warrior thymotic spirit (that template) sheds all of is scales amid an interaction with image and physical movement that perhaps only equals the dislocations and alien projections of scuba or spacewalk. If anything else is communicated here, technology is sense, and sense is technology, within the scope of global concern. Nevermind that every Na’vi looks the connotations of every supermodel distortion of mundane biology. Nevermind that videogame freedoms populate with every stigma of ideological absorption. Nevermind that mythologies fragment into flattened space confrontations. The whole thing escalates far beyond its means, revealing how Ideals throw us forwards, how when technologies and techniques are sufficient, they compel the spirit into new-born orbits of extreme decay and apogee, flights that must have been there in the thousands of memory verses when one of Homer’s avatars was repeating the invented history of the Greeks with muscular hexemeter and rhythm in the residue glow of camp-fires.

15 responses to “Avatar: The Density of Being

  1. Tom Sparks December 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Wow! You should review more movies. Incredible.

  2. Paul Bains December 19, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    that is an inspiring review. I’ve been trying to see it since thursday but will have to book a ticket – always full. This is the main cinema in central orclund where I am staying presently.
    Did see ‘A Serious Man’ (Coen Bros) which I found both very funny and quite tragic – if not apocalyptic – I think some reviewer already said that…Anyway worth seeing – perhaps especially after Avatar. A serious man is almost a kind of twisted, ironic, hyper-realism – whatever that is.

    • kvond December 19, 2009 at 5:16 pm

      Be forewarned, the film requires a kind of innocence of approach that usually only low-expectations facilitate. You have to KNOW in advance that the plotlines and the character developments are not going to make up the architectural strength of the film…and neither does “special effects” (that certain kind of…”well, you better Wow me!”). Instead you have to just relent and let the film happen, something like a fairytale. If you are too analytic, too film-criticish, or too expectant, you’re not going to “get it”. That being said, once you go there, well as you can see, it smacked me some. Make sure that its 3D though (and IMAX is probably even better).

  3. Paul Bains December 20, 2009 at 4:07 am

    Well I’ve just done the thing. 3D has developed a lot in Wellington!
    I second everthing you wrote – esp the ‘innocence.’ You could kind of tear it apart if you put your mind to it.
    I couldn’t help thinking of the kauri trees (forest giants – the few left) in nz.

    • kvond December 20, 2009 at 4:10 am

      Fantastic. Yes, you could tear it apart if you put your mind to it. But when you don’t it reads like a limpid, floating, ideological space (and what is Art, but that). The associations and layers and plots all interindex with an incredible gridding, and strangely accomplish something.

      I’m glad the film affected you, in whichever way it did.

  4. Adrian Ivakhiv December 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks for this beautifully written review. “technology is sense, and sense is technology”: I think this line echoes with your readings of Massumi (which I’ve been wanting to reply to, just haven’t had the time) and of all the Spinozan themes that shimmer and circulate through your blog. It captures something very profound.


    • kvond December 21, 2009 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks Adrian. Much appreciated. Perhaps what lies between the apparent differences in technology and sense, is “technique”. Technology as a technique of sense, and sense as a technique of the technological.

  5. Adrian Ivakhiv December 21, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    For anyone interested, my own brief review of the film is here.

    Also, for a book of film criticism (and theory) informed by a perspective that’s very complementary and compatible, I think, with kvond’s, I strongly recommend Sean Cubitt’s book “Ecomedia.”

  6. Pingback: Avatarship and the New Man: Reading Ideology and Hope « Frames /sing

  7. Pingback: The Wild Hunt » Hollywood’s Rampant Pantheism

  8. Pingback: Phantasmagoria « Box 3, Spool 5

  9. Selmin December 26, 2009 at 1:46 am

    This is a great review! In terms of the familiar plot topologies that the film references, there is also a little bit of Gorillas in the Mist, Mononoke, and Spirited Away in there.

    • kvond December 26, 2009 at 1:32 pm

      yes. There were many more, but when I added them the list just got unwieldy. The plot comparisons keep coming to me as well. I like Gorillas in the Mist. Lawrence of Arabia certainly is there too.

  10. Pingback: Avatar: Panthea v. the Capitalist War Machine | immanence

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: