As for my mother, she steadfastly refuses, and I know I'm not going to win this one. I often wonder how she can be my mother when she hates SF and I am so into it -- and Avatar conflates my two loves: science fiction that includes space ships (I love space opera) and fantasy. Yeah, there's no magic in this, but I'm talking about the feel of it, and all the bits with the Na'vi, apart from the battles with the humans, feel like fantasy.
I have other friends whose responses to this movie perplex me more than my mother's -- my friends who love science fiction, but refuse to see this one, who say it looks stupid or cartoonish. Now, to me, those Na'vi were completely real. I'm not that into animation either, but I didn't see any in this film. I was there, on Pandora: those people were as real to me as the humans in the film. I wonder if my friends' responses have anything to do with the hype. This film is getting lots of hype, even from me! I can't stop talking about it.
I've read that way back in the 1970s, James Cameron went to see Star Wars and was seriously pissed off. This was the film he should've made. And so off he went and made movies and wrote a script for his Star Wars (yes, Avatar), but which he had to shelve until a time that technology could reasonably cope with it. I too went to see Star Wars, but a bit reluctantly -- because of all the hype! My brother had seen it and said it wasn't that good, and I remember going with a few friends and warning them about what my brother had said. They all said they'd heard it was fantastic. Somewhere in the movie, probably in the first thirty seconds, I went from doubting to loving it, and they went the other way. They were all lukewarm when they came out, whereas I was raving. I went back to my brother and said, "What about this . . . ?" and "What about that . . . ?" and he kept saying, yeah, that he'd forgotten that had happened. By the time I'd finished, he was as convinced (or almost as convinced) as I was that it was the best movie ever. I couldn't get enough of it and saw it more than thirty times in the cinema. (Admittedly, in those days, films weren't on in as many cinemas and had longer runs. Star Wars ran for over a year, something impossible to imagine for any contemporary movie.) The hype had put me off initially, but once I'd seen it I was on the bandwagon. Star Wars was unlike anything I had ever seen, and the battle to destroy the Death Star had me on the edge of my seat, in a way very few movies have (in fact the only other movie that did this to me was Gladiator, in Maximus's first contest at the Coliseum.)
There have been several other movies along the way that I've seen many many times, though none quite that many. There's finally a movie I could see that many times, if time allows. For me, Cameron's quest to make his own Star Wars has been a success. This is the first movie that has excited me to the same degree. (These days, however, I prefer The empire strikes back to what is now known as A new hope. But I didn't at the time. I like that there's a lot more character development in Empire, but at the time, notwithstanding that blood-chilling moment when I first discovered Darth Vader was Luke's father, I was disappointed in the ending as it felt unfinished. Because it was. It was much more part of a trilogy than stand-alone, whereas Star Wars did stand alone.
My other really major movies:
- Alien -- I saw the opening session in Melbourne and was completely freaked out. I have never been more frightened than I was seeing that movie, and seeing it over and over in no way diminished the fear.
- Battlestar Galactica -- yes, it had a cinema release, and I went about seven times, then had to content myself with seeing it on TV. While it wasn't quite a Star Wars in terms of movie experiences it still held me captive.
- Excalibur -- the film that turned me from science fiction geek to fantasy geek. I have loved everything Arthurian ever since, though these days have moved away from wanting to write my own King Arthur novel, maybe because I'm addressing aspects of this story in my own -- just things like the triangle of lovers, which is a stalwart in fiction, anyway.
- The right stuff -- my goodness this was an amusing movie (even though many others didn't seem to notice). Very, very clever. And tapped right into my love of rocketry. Yeah, rockets make me go all gooey. Nothing phallic in that, I assure you.
- Capricorn One -- did I say that rockets make me go all gooey? Yeah, so does all that NASA chatter -- "We have Outboard Engine cut off." "Roger that, OBECO at ten minutes after the hour . . ." (It's cool to be a nerd these days, right?)
- Gladiator -- completely swept me up, the politics, the unfairness of it all. And, as I've said, the first film since Star Wars to have me literally on the edge of my seat. (Alien had me jumping out of it!)
- Lord of the rings trilogy (especially The Two Towers). I'm not sure I needed all the endings in the last film, and there could never be too much Aragorn, but these were beautifully realised films, and I loved them. Love them.
- Avatar -- yeah, but I think you've gathered that already.
Which brings me back to my mum. When Star Wars came out, I argued and argued to get her to see it and eventually succeeded. She slept through the first half. Was asleep (it was a hot day, and we were on holidays) before the movie even started -- though how anyone can sleep through all those explosions is beyond me. By the time she woke up, she had no idea what was going on and so declared the movie stupid. I tried to get her to see it again, but failed. And so not even Star Wars was able to change her mind. I know if I get her to Avatar she'll hate it, but I still think she should see it and see if we can maybe expand her boundaries a little bit. Maybe I'm just crazy?