English / Movie Review

Avatar (2009)

Avatar: Reincarnation of Formula Films

Remember the infamous film cliché — formula film? Every producer and every director, especially in Bollywood, has a formula for success. This formula was, and still is, often repeated without thought in the hope that a formula film will spell success at the box office. Let’s look in to the dynamics of a typical formula film:

10-Step Guide: Formula Film for Dummies

  1. Boy meets girl or girl meets boy. What the heck! Boy and girl meet each other.
  2. Boy falls in love with the girl.
  3. Boy woos the girl.
  4. Girl also falls in love with the boy.
  5. Boy unsuccessfully tries to convince the girl’s family/community/people (as the situation demands).
  6. Enter Mr. Villain to throw in some conflict and things go a bit awry.
  7. Boy stands by the girl and protects her.
  8. A fight ensues between the boy and Mr. Villain and Co.,
  9. And wonder of wonders! Boy defeats Mr. Villain and emerges victorious.
  10. Boy gets the girl. All’s well that ends well. -THE END-

Well, Mr. James Cameron got really creative. He took the typical formula film and tweaked it to his heart’s content. He throws in amazing state-of-the-art 3D (3-Dimensional) effects; applies science fiction to create half-human, half-alien, half-monkey, half-cat and half-whateva’ characters; makes the leading lady an independent woman who, unlike in Step 7 (above), doesn’t need the boy to protect her. But needs the boy nonetheless; liberally sprinkles the narrative and dialogues with Oriental philosophy; draws a parallel in the storyline to the US invasion of Iraq for oil; and finally tosses it all with a call for peace and respect for nature message. Voila! — That’s Avatar for you. The reincarnation of the formula film to entertain today’s Gen-X.


Avatar - At A Bangalore Theatre

What Cameron does for Avatar is no mean feat. And, I do not in any way mean, nor am I being mean, to demean Avatar by terming it as a formula film. On the contrary, it is highly commendable that James Cameron takes the oft-repeated “formula” and with his film-making skills creatively metamorphoses it in to a wonderful experience for audiences worldwide. Wake Up Johars and Chopras of Bollywood; take notice of how Hollywood can beat you at your own game.

Many disagree with this notion of Avatar being a formula film. Watch carefully beyond those 3D glasses. Although Avatar might have various layers meticulously embedded in to the storyline, at its core it is a formula film about Good versus Evil wherein good emerges triumphant in the end (See Step 10 above). The storytelling too is unoriginal, complimented by a lengthy narrative and screen time.

In the end, what works for Avatar is the emotional bond with which it sucks its viewers in to its exotic world. The sheer grandeur with which Cameron plays God, and creates a dream world so beautiful, make the drawbacks seem minuscule in comparison. And all debates about formulas and clichés apart, Avatar might not be a great movie but the 3D version definitely is a visual ‘experience’ that one must not miss.

If technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it, then Avatar is exactly that. James Cameroon has arranged his world with such ingenious precision and detail that you are spellbound by Avatar. Imagine 10-feet tall indigenous human-like species with blue luminescent skin, wagging their tails, swinging between trees like monkeys, and purring and crawling on the ground like cats? Or 6-legged horses, hammerhead rhinos and a 4-eyed aerial predator? Floating mountains, plants that disappear with the slightest touch or surface that glows with every step? Welcome to Pandora — the exotic world of the Na ‘vi. A world created using photo-realistic computer-generated technology for celluloid. A world that seems so real that for one moment you forget that the real world is actually outside the movie theatre. Now, that’s the kind of after-effect Avatar will have on you. Specifically, the 3D version.

In terms of visual film-making, Avatar is not just in-league with its predecessors such as Star Wars, Star Trek and The Lord of The Rings but places a giant leap forward to set new standards for the next generation of visual and graphical cinematic experience. Is this good or bad, only time will tell? But it does reaffirm one thing: The not-so-distant future is about technology that will consume our lives and colour our experiences with a make-believe world, ironically making the real world experience seem so unreal. Philosophically speaking, reality itself is questionable? But that’s another topic for another day, another time and maybe on another planet like Pandora.

3 thoughts on “Avatar (2009)

  1. Great review! I especially thought you were spot-on in your closing paragraph where you say, “But it does reaffirm one thing: The not-so-distant future is about technology that will consume our lives and colour our experiences with a make-believe world, ironically making the real world experience seem so unreal.”

    AVATAR is a leap ahead…but into what? And do we really want to go there?

    Here’s my review of the film:


  2. Pingback: Gravity (2013) | Talking Talkies

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