Despite the queue and the icy Beijing weather, I’ve finally managed to watch the highly advertised and long expected ‘talk of the town’ movie, James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’, a blockbuster of exorbitant costs, in terms of budget (reports vary from $230 million to $500 million) and in terms of time (it took 10 years to make it).
I won’t express here any personal opinions on the aesthetic and conceptual value of the film.
I won’t talk about the exciting and dizzy experience of watching it in IMAX 3D with polarized glasses and the consequent hyper-realistic buzzing of butterflies on screen.
I won’t either focus on the many quotations, myths, legends ‘Avatar’ is imbued with (from the Greek ancient myth of Pandora and the evil side of human nature, the linguistic ‘utopia’ of a new language, Panism and the ecological message, science fiction and utopian studies).
What I here want to bring to the fore is an interesting connection between Cameron’s movie, China and RMB City. In the fantasy planet of Pandora there’s a breathtaking place called the ‘Hallelujah Mountains’: immense and slender floating peaks surrounded by natives, flying creatures and dragons. The magnificence of this scene is to be ascribed not only to Cameron’s great imagination, but in this case also to the astonishing beauty of nature. The inspiration actually comes from a RL place named the ‘Southern Sky Column’, one of the highest rock towers in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the Chinese province of Hunan. Apparently, they inspired Cameron, who relied for some set choices on the ideas and suggestions of a photographer who spent most of 2008 immortalizing the now famous mountains. The circumstance has clearly begun an occasion for the government to promote natural tourism in China.
From fiction to reality and back to fantasy again, in RMB City too there’s an imaginary mountain: an original project by Chinese artist Jiang Jun for RMB City, the virtual mountain is a humorous representation of fake and pirated goods and a more general concept of ‘non-real’. In tune with Cameron’s movie and the possibility of re-birth into a new life (main character Marine Jake Sully is a disabled who infiltrates the Na’vi people with the use of an ‘avatar’ identity), RMB City fake mountain is also an interesting study into the meaning of virtuality, replicas and hyper-reality against the general assumption of ‘reality’.