Friday, 26 November 2010
Monday, 22 November 2010
Avatar - 2009
Director - James Cameron
Plot summary / review:
The year is 2148 and the movie opens with it's protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine in a neo-noir vision of an overcrowded, polluted city on Earth. In a technologically advanced future where spinal damage can be fixed, the world is still driven by money and business but Jake soldiers on, looking for a worthy cause to fight for. Before long he is approached by men in suits who inform him of his twin brothers murder, but offer him a unique opportunity.
Jake is recruited by a corporate entity who are mining a precious mineral called "Unobtanium" from a planet like moon deep in space. After a six year, hibernated space journey, Jake arrives at the planet, Pandora. Jakes brother was part of a team of scientist hired to research into the planets inhabitants called the Na'vi who happen to be in the way of the companies objective. To work amongst the Na'vi, humans use remote controlled bodies grown from the DNA of the natives and mixed with human DNA. As Jake has the same genetic make up as his brother, he is able to use his Avatar. The company has also hired ex-marines and mercenaries as security and see's an opportunity to gain valuable 'intel' via Jake.
As Jake gets used to his new body, we really begin to explore the planet of Pandora. James Cameron has crafted an exotic, alien looking World but equally a familiar one with hints of Earth like jungles and mountains pushed to the limits of reality but still believable and awe inspiring. The level of thought and imagination that went into the design of the planet stretches through the entire planet from the strange plants and wildlife and a range of insects, alien monkeys to gigantic monsters. Jake gets separated from his team of scientists from a run in with one of these beasts and meets a native called Ney'tiri (Zoe Saldana). She believes Jakes arrival will play a significant role to her peoples future.
Total Film review 11th December 2009
"As Jake dives in and out of his split human/alien personalities, Cameron is equally urging us to leave our burdened minds and busy bodies behind - to sink into our seats and immerse in a virtual world."
Ney'tiri is ordered by her father and tribe leader to teach Jake the ways of the Na'vi, whilst he receives orders from Colonol Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) to gain access to their world and convince them to leave their beloved "Hometree", unfortunately where the biggest site of Unobtanium resides. Jake becomes more and more attached to the Na'vi way of life, going through their rights of passage, exploring the mystical floating mountains (floating as a result of the Unobtanium) learning to fly with a declan ( a mountain banshee) and falling in love with Ney'tiri.
Daily Mail review 28th December 2009
"The planet Pandora is worth a visit to the cinema, with its day-glo colours and gigantic monsters. You can tell that Cameron has a passion for deep-sea diving; the world he creates has the appeal of an underwater kingdom."
Inevitably the company decides to forcibly remove the Na'vi from their home and Jake decides to fight with the Na'vi against the encroaching military wing. He learns the planet itself has a soul called Eywa, ( a more interactive mother nature ), after leading the Na'vi to victory over the "sky people", he is accepted into their tribe and Eywa enables him to permanently reside in his Avatar body.
After a long absence from the movie industry, James Cameron has returned to cinema with a highly imaginative, visually stunning, fluorescent bang. It is full of not so subtle metaphorical parodies, for example the war in Iraq and the motivations behind it, humanities thirst for natural resources, Unobtanium the futures equivalent of Oil, but this used to craft a believable world. Yes the story has familiar arc in comparison to Disney's Pocahontas and Dances with Wolves, but the visual language and the way it is told seal it as a modern classic. The 3D adds to the spectacle and is leaps and bounds ahead of other gimmicky, blue and red tinged 3D films of the past. However, this isn't to say the 2D version is no less enjoyable, Pandora is worth a visit anytime, 3D glasses or not.
New York Times review 18th December 2009
"Few films return us to the lost world of our first cinematic experiences, to that magical moment when movies really were bigger than life (instead of iPhone size), if only because we were children. Movies rarely carry us away, few even try. They entertain and instruct and sometimes enlighten. Some attempt to overwhelm us, but their efforts are usually a matter of volume. What’s often missing is awe, something Mr. Cameron has, after an absence from Hollywood, returned to the screen with a vengeance. He hasn’t changed cinema, but with blue people and pink blooms he has confirmed its wonder."
The Dark Crystal - 1982
Directors - Jim Henson & Frank Oz
Plot summary / review:
Set on a distant planet with three Suns called Thra, the inhabitants are ruled by a cruel race of Vulture looking creatures called the Skekris. They use the power of a dark crystal in their castle to suck the energy out of the planets life forms and prolong their life.
A Thousand years prior, when the planets suns last aligned, the Crystal was split by a race called the ukSkeks, separating them into the aforementioned evil Skekris and a peaceful race called the Mystics. It was prophesied that the Crystal will be fused together by a Gelfling, an Elf looking race. Determined to keep their power and the world in darkness, the Skekris hunt down and eradicate all of the Gelflings. The Mystics raise an orphaned Gelfling called Jen, believed to be the last of his kind.
When Jen's master dies, he sets off on a mission to find the missing shard of Crystal and return the planet to peace. Jen finds the missing piece at the laboratory of a wise scientist called Augha who is subsequently captured by the Garthim, a race of robotic type creatures at the command of the Skeksis. Jen then meets Kira, a Gelfling girl raised by the Podlings, creatures who are constantly persecuted by the Skekris and the Garthim. Jen and Kira set off to the castle with the crystal shard, meanwhile the Mystics slowly converge as the suns begin to align.
The movie climaxes in the castle with Kira being struck down by the Skeksis overlord as Jen reunites the Crystal. The race of Mystics and Skeksis combine back into the ukSkeks and the Crystal reverts to it's original, clear state and is once again used for good and apparently heals the World. One of the mystical ukSkeks gives Kira back her life and they leave the world.
The film is a remarkable achievement in terms of vision, set designs and the scale of characters, all of which are puppets. Every aspect of the film, from the dreary castle of the Skeksis to the lush, lifeful forest has been conceptualised and built from the ground up to the minutest detail. The character designs are equally impressive, ranging from man sized animals, right down to figure and hand puppets more akin to Jim Henson and Frank Oz's previous creations "The muppets".
New York Times review 17th December 1982
"A lot of obvious effort has gone into this solemn fairy tale, but all of it has been devoted to the complicated technical problems involved in making a film mostly with animated puppets. The screenplay by David Odell, based on a story by Mr. Henson, is without any narrative drive whatever. It's without charm as well as interest."
Timeout London review 26th January 2006
"Henson, creator of the Muppets, has put all his energies into creating a spectacular range of live-action creatures who prance and gobble their way across the screen with an unprecedented conviction. Given this enormous advantage, it is therefore disappointing that this $26 million film should restrict itself to a very basic pulp fantasy plot - the hero's quest to free his world from the ravages of an evil race - when there are superior models available in any bookshop."
The film is let down by it's weak script and storyline. The film is full of clichés and familiar story arcs and plays out as watered down version of the Lord of the Rings or Chronicles of Narnia. Jim Henson and Frank Oz were looking to break away from their Muppets background and crack a new audience. In doing so they created a film to scary for little children and not enjoyable enough for adults. That said, the film is a visual treat and technically brilliant, if the story doesn't send you to sleep.
BBC review 1st May 2002
"Henson and Oz were, of course, the two leading creators of the Muppets and this was their first attempt to turn their skills and those of their colleagues (principally Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, and Louise Gold) to dramatic rather than comedic ends. And, simply judged in terms of its technical achievement, the film is stunning."