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(2009) ★½

In 2154, wheelchair-bound Sam Worthington is “just some dumb grunt going someplace else I’m going to regret.” Take a number, Marine! It’s a fresh start on a new world. Pandora, home of the Na’vi. They’re blue, but they’re not mean. The air’s toxic, so the humans use avatars, remotely-controlled surrogates, to get around. Like the unwelcoming officer says: “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Hey, several familiar fantasy films are ‘quoted’ inside the first five minutes, so why not the Wizard of Oz? After all, the story’s just a hi-tec rehash of Dances With Ewoks (with bigger battles and better hardware, obviously). Maybe it all looked better in 3D. But dialogue as clunky as this would sound dumb whatever dimension you’re in. The future of movies? It’s James Cameron’s Final Fantasy. He claims he was aiming for the ‘mystique’ of Kubrick’s 2001 and the ‘magic’ of Star Wars. So why does his film look more like an old comic book, filled with ‘prog-rock’ artwork in the legendary NME style of Big Legged Woman With My Dinner Ready When I Get Home From Mars? So much of it – the flora, the fauna, but especially the ‘exotic’ wildlife – looks so goofy that the only traces of humour in the earnest story remain in the realm of the unconscious. There’s simply no getting away from it… those jungle scapes look tacky, like a bad Santa’s grotto. None of it looks remotely real, although I guess that would be the whole point. More pertinently, none of it looks fresh. There’s none of the shock of the new that made Starship Troopers so exciting. Avatar ends up more like an old Tarzan movie. Even so, big political themes have been read into a hackneyed story that lifts major plot points from the kiddie dragon flop Eragon and the old cartoon FernGully, the Last Rainforest, while resurrecting crowd scenes from The Matrix Revolutions. Get a grip, guys! It’s a fantasy. Featuring blue giants with tails. It’s not always easy to tell but, among the myriad computer FX, there are some real actors involved. Stephen Lang is laughably over the top as the psycho-Marine in charge of genocide, Zoe Saldana’s hidden under a Na’vi snout and Sam Worthington’s already proved what a dull screen presence he is in Terminator Salvation. But it’s good to see Sigourney Weaver, God bless her, can still be relied upon to be Ripley-prickly, smoking enough fags to qualify the movie for a ‘12’ rating. So, behold the future of cinema according to King James, the man who turned the tragedy of the Titanic into an end-of-pier penny-dreadful. All films should be in 3D, reckons Cameron. Except Piranha 3D. Hilariously, and with breathtaking arrogance, Mr Cameron claimd Piranha 3D ‘cheapens 3D’. Not like his big green-screen fantasies filled with big blue aliens. He thinks the format is best left to heavyweights like himself and Martin Scorsese. Seriously. This from the director of Piranha 2 – Flying Fish (he usually neglects to mention that one in his CV). Never mind the fact that 3D is a goofy marketing gimmick that’s perfect for cartoons, video games, and cheap-thrill stuff like Piranha. How the studio accountants must have scratched their heads when The Artist – a black and white silent picture (from France!) – cleaned up at Bafta and the Oscars. Back in 2013, Cameron likened his proposed Avatar fantasy series to the family saga in Francis Coppola’s Godfather trilogy. In 2014, he told Empire magazine that the three as yet unseen Avatar sequels (yep, three – one’s a prequel) will be ‘bitchin’. He also claims ‘you will shit yourself with your mouth wide open’. To misquote RoboCop, I would not buy that for a dollar.

Certificate: 12
Duration: 176min

Other Showings Time & Date
Film4 Saturday, 27 June at 5:40PM