Thursday, January 14, 2010

Avatar: Welcome to the feelies

Avatar has been slammed by pundits on both the left and right. If you step back, the movie does seem quite formulaic and maybe disingenuous. The problem is, for me stepping back was not an option. The movie is so audio-visually overwhelming, it’s impossible to describe in mere words. And as the limbic system in the brain (involved in the generation of our emotional responses) is intimately linked to our senses, the movie is much more, well, moving than it should be on the strength of its predictable story line. My eyes even teared up a couple of times. The irony is that, from now on, anyone who wants to make a credible fantasy picture will need a gazillion dollars for that computer-generated virtual reality James Cameron has firmly set as a standard. Thus mega corporations will have stronger control over the making of the kind of anti-corporate propaganda that will bring Cameron incalculable profit. One critic said Avatar had broken the hold of the Matrix (the movie) over the making of sci-fi films. But what can break the hold of the matrix with a small “m”?
P.S. On second thought, I probably have an underperforming left prefrontal cortex incapable of inhibiting inappropriately strong emotional responses – as it should in any civilized person. There is an older Discover article covering this irritating cortical dysfunction (“Wired for Emotion,” April 2000). With this in mind, I won’t make a cool pundit. And I may be giving Cameron a bit of undeserved credit for his shock-and-awe, scorched-eyeballs creative strategy.