Dark Side of the Sun

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Avatar, an archetypal story

The most frequent criticism I have heard against Avatar is about the story. Even some people who loved the movie say things like "It's amazing, although the story is not". Well, I disagree.

I agree that the story is predictable and not specially original or witty. It's a story told a hundred times before, and it all looks very familiar. But it's the kind of story that great classics are made of. It's a strong archetypal story, full of archetypal characters and archetypal symbols. It is not a story to be intellectualized. It resonates with the deepest instinctive storymonger in us. There's the chosen one/hero, the mentor, the rite of passage, etc... And that makes it work in many, many levels: visceral, instictive, moral, intellectual, spiritual.

I will issue a warning here: "Archetypal" does not mean simple or superficial. I also think that it's a story masterfully told, with all characters carefully and sklillfully built, and every one of their actions adds to the meaning. If, as the great storytelling mentors say, your story is your character, then Avatar's story is excellent, because it has excellent characters. All of them. I cared about and related to all of them, and every single one of their actions had great meaning and importance to me. Even the pitiful and mindless obsession of the "bad guy" to destroy everything, because that's all he knows how to do. It's the dark side of every human-being.

I am the kind of guy who doesn't flinch at the scariest scene in the scariest movie, or who doesn't even get watery eyes when everyone else in the room is buried in handkerchiefs. When watching Avatar, I had goosebumps more times than I can count, and had tears to my eyes more than a couple, and not specifically on sad or happy moments. Has a movie ever had you almost crying of rage? Avatar was the first for me. And I know I am not the only one. I could feel it in the people around me. For almost 3 hours, the silence was absolute, and heavy with emotion.

I could keep elaborating about many more arguments to make my point: the way that every element in the movie (art direction, the music, or even the other stories it reminds you of) reinforces the story. But I will just state my position simply: My opinion is that Avatar is an example of very skillfull cinematic storytelling. In every single character. In every single action. In every artistic choice. Anyone who wants to learn storytelling should study Avatar. Thoroughly.


Francisco said...

los blooosegumps no se lo que son, pero comparto lo de la emocion y las lagrimas....

Mayec said...

goosebumps: piel de gallina

Anonymous said...

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