I was reluctant to see it in 3D as my previous experience of Beowulf in 2007 left me unimpressed but it was an incredible display which mostly utilised the technology in a wonderfully subtle way. Cameron was right to wait; he had an incredible vision and his patience paid off. I did like elements of the story, I enjoy fantasy and thought the interface method was certainly sparklier than the power cord to my netbook. I've recommended it to everyone I know but it didn't really touch me. It was, after all, a rather poorly disguised piece of environmentalist propaganda set against a lovely backdrop. Afterwards I was happy to wrap up once more against the cold and stomp through the snow to a steak and a glass of red wine at my boyfriend's flat.
Life went on. Until I picked up a copy of the Metro and read that fans have been left depressed, some suicidal even. Apparently they want to live on Pandora. There is a fan forum site called Avatar Forums where there is a topic thread entitled 'Ways to cope with the depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible.' The Metro's cited expert, New York psychiatrist Dr Stephan Quenzel explained that “It makes real life seem more imperfect.”
These people clearly lack imagination, passion and drive. I'm the first to admit that I love to escape into fantasy whether that be dancing in the ballrooms of the deep South as I read Gone with the Wind or taking on the X-men as Mystique but more than those junk food fixes, I look to reality and that's where my imagination really runs. I get excited about the jobs I apply for, I linger over a review of a restaurant I might visit, I remember diving with Manta Rays and think about future holidays. It's tragic that these individuals are so caught up in their provided reality that they are unable to create their own.
On Pandora there are creatures that the Na'vi can connect with and ride or fly through will. I grew up riding horses and while the connection that the Na'vi can have isn't possible with a horse, what is possible is not so different. As a rider you learn to know a horses mind, you read the signs and respond. The animals on Pandora look like lots of fun to ride but it's a bit of a cop out compared to the work that it takes to become a true horseman or woman on earth. As for the flight comparison, how many pining for Pandora have actually looked into skydiving?
What Avatar offers is not a fantasy world but the fantasy of a life where we are better; where talent and adventure are automatic parts of life. None of the Na'vi were shown as being normal, a bit scared of heights or rather fond of sitting somewhere comfortable. By being one of the Na'vi, one would automatically be slim and athletic, strong and talented. It wouldn't be necessary to have to find beauty in the world and wonder in life because those things are so blatant and accessible on Pandora. I for one embrace the challenge that the earth presents. The hassle of carrying scuba gear makes you appreciate the world beneath the waves all the more just as the cold air burning your lungs fully concentrates your mind on snowy vistas.
A poster on the thread calling themselves Elequin says ‘even if you wanted to strive to be more like the Na'vi you would be eaten alive in this world’ and that it hurt to know ‘It really would take a complete new fresh start somewhere un-corrupted.’ There are a few voices of reason in the thread such as that of the posters kaliko and Lparsons7641 but they are largely drowned by those unable to appreciate that a world where love and wonder are easy may even pale in comparison to the world where they live. I feel sorry for the likes of Elequin but wonder at the extent of their apathy towards confronting reality. The people who feel they are Na’vi trapped in human shells and only released when they dream are worrying examples of a generation so attuned to spoon-fed emotions that they lack the ability to recognise true connection with other people, animals and nature.
The thread on avatar-forums is a single example of course and no doubt the posters largely consist of teenagers that lack autonomy in their lives. It is of interest to me not so much because of Avatar itself but of a generation more eager to absorb culture than to critique it. Call me cynical but a significant part of the pleasure of reading, listening to music and visiting the cinema and theatre comes from discussion about these things, discussion that is rigorous and rates positive and negative attributes. Unthinking fandom creates flat listless conversation (I confess I only got to page 16 it was so dull) much like the rather flat and listless dialogue of the film.
I rate Avatar 9/10. For all my criticism I think it’s a visionary feast; I just enjoyed it within my ability to enjoy something on a screen. Something which for me cannot begin compete with the fantastic entity that it reality. For those trapped in a depression of the dream of Pandora being intangible, I feel the trap is one of their own making; a way to evade the responsibility of finding happiness in a world that can sometimes feel cold and hostile.