Yes to Avatar!

Popcorn entertainment that delivers a strange jolt of remembrance.

| Dec 28, 2009

Just saw Avatar, which I was predisposed to hate. Because James Cameron is such a huge cornball. While the some of the aesthetics are annoyingly Maxield Parrish, the dialog dreadful and the world-view thuddingly Manichean, I came away marveling and touched. You can read the reviews over at, but I was struck by two comparisons that I haven’t seen anybody else make.

On the set for <em>Avatar</em>

On the set for Avatar

First, Hayao Miyazaki. There are many Miyazaki tropes: fantastic flying machines, fully realized imaginary animals, luminous floating seed-pods, ecological apocalypse. The forest reminded me of the one in Princess Mononoke. Cameron’s film lacks the moral complexity and generosity of the anime masterpiece. But he shares Miyazaki mastery of action and motion. In fact, with Avatar, Cameron joins the ranks of Miyazaki, Peter Jackson and Kurosawa in directing large action sequences.

Second, Wagner. Really, Wagner really can’t be staged. If only someone would give Cameron or Jackson or Guillermo del Toro $200 million to produce The Ring, I’d be very happy.

The thing I liked most, in a way, was seeing Sigourney Weaver in her Avatar body looking like a 19-year-old college student with dreads and a little red “Stanford” t-shirt. The promise of art is deathlessness and this giant popcorn entertainment delivers a strange jolt of remembrance.

It’s sexy too.

(This article also appeared on Martin Fritter’s blog, Sounds Past and Future.)

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