About the same time I was writing this review I got a new TV. It's a biggie, 60 inches. So I sat down to re-watch Avatar, mainly because my boys (8 and 12) wanted to, but also because I thought it would test the limits of the TV pretty well. Wow! It was, no hyperbole, stunning- much of the time like looking thru a window. I had expected this. What I hadn't expected was the added impact the clarity would have on my experience of the film. At that size and that resolution, properly calibrated, the effect of Avatar seemed almost exactly what I had in the Imax screening I first saw it in. Pandora and her inhabitants once again took on that mystical air of the supra-real, as if a long held curtain had been pulled back revealing some ultimate expression of the true wonder of the natural world that had previously been hidden from prying eyes.
That's what a great collectible does. It calibrates the image, making it clearer for the viewer what always attracted them to the character or object or story in question. It can be a painting, a prop reproduction, a poster, or a statue, almost anything, as long as it takes viewers out beyond themselves, into that realm where art stops being for it's own sake and serves as a connection to something greater than itself and the viewer. That greater thing is greater precisely because it is available to both, helping the object to fulfill function, the viewer to acknowledge something true. This twin aspect in it's purest form moves such an object from that which is representational to that which is iconic and moves the viewer from the shadow of the deeper into the deeps themselves, a purity of experience that makes of the willing viewer an icon, a spiritual pilgrim.
If there is any doubt that a mere collectible can accomplish this I offer as evidence Sideshow's stunning Legendary Scale figure line. Done in various scales these very large, very dynamic figures capture the absolute essence of the characters they represent and the stories they emerge from. Ordinarily it would be risky to review a product like this without actually having a production sample in-hand. But Sideshow's reputation for it's high end collectibles stands firm. I trust them enough to go into the site look at the press images at high resolution and make my own judgement knowing that though artist proofs can differ from actual production pieces that likely won't be the case here. If I had the dough I wouldn't hesitate to plunk down the cash right now based on these photos.
Avatar offered a fully-realized mind-scape featuring world and creature design that was iconic almost from the moment it first appeared. Despite the Smurf jokes from the peanut gallery and that Hitler reaction youtube video the second the longer footage, fully rendered, hit the fanverse, the reaction was serious buzz. When it came out Avatar proved to be a film that would stand multiple viewings creating and inspiring a fanbase to run with the Na'Vi. This wasn't a franchise as much as a new verse made out of decades of sci-fi and fantasy arts imagery that had graced everything from Roger Dean, Yes album covers to countless comics and and book jackets; and it was all brought to life in multi-dimensional living, breathing, glory.
True the hardest sell here was always going to be the Na'Vi themselves. Giant blue catlike creatures, they inspired the above mentioned Smurf references and countless other, sometimes hysterically funny, comments from geekdom. My personal favorite was coined by a friend who refused to refer to them as anything other than "those skinny gay Thundercats" But the truth is the Na'Vi are a masterpiece of fully realized alien culture even as they embrace so much more.
Sideshow has embodied that culture perfectly here offering a towering multi-medium figure 35 inches tall. In this pose we can take in the myriad influences that shape this astounding race. At once reminiscent of the tribal iconography, we see Neyteri as she stands relaxed yet regal upon a forested base. True Sideshow could have gone with a battle pose here, and imposing it would have been no doubt. But the LS format allows them to fully exploit almost all the things that go into the Nyteri/Na'Vi design without the added theatric effect. This is a piece that, like all the figures thus showcased in various legendary scale announcements would be at home in any prestigious museum much less in the display of a collector.
Her catlike facial features, ears, eyes and long blue tail, are offset by a humanoid body that is a thing of grace personified. There is an erotic aspect here but one that is fully harmonized with the idea of her personhood. She evokes the whole of who she is merely by being. Her loin cloth, tail wrapping and leaf necklace, as well as the beading of her hair and the bracelets arm and leg bands suggests adornment, attention to detail. Her soft eyes invite thoughts of motherly nurture. Yet the warrior in her is also undeniable. Her left hand gently curled around her bow, her quiver full of arrows and her sheathed sword are all the reminders viewers need that she is a savant of all things fierce.
The complex Na'Vi religion is constantly hinted at by the figure as well. The blue sky/ocean skin coloration is gently dotted with subtle white dots and varied darker blue striping lending the figure an overall luminous hue.The face offers an expression suggesting a sense of calmness, integration with her surroundings. She lives in the forest, is clothed by it, it is clearly sacred to her. Her leather grieves and other leather flourishes seem deliberate to the point of ritual, finely tuned to representational not just practical purposes. This is a creature that, unlike modern man, has fully embraced her connection to the other, her own emergence as a part of creation. In a dark and dangerous world she stands noble, peaceful, at one with self yet in the service of more than self.
The price point here is of course a killer $1,599. Needless to say the average collector had better be a pretty big fan of the biggest movie of all time. But collectors of pop culture iconography or those interested in a variety of subjects could be attracted here. Avatar offers an iconography embracing spirituality, tribal motifs, and a sense of general connection to science fiction and fantasy based imagery that has been part of the music scene, fine art and a host of other areas of collectibility. In choosing Avatar as a palette for this remarkable large scale line Sideshow has entered a new and exciting realm of fine art sculpture.
An abiding image for Avatar fans is that of the Na'Vi escorting armed forces off their planet at the end of the film. The image is a deeply resonant one in the way it portrays the alien race. They have no need to obliterate their enemy, no finally driving desire to exact revenge. They are at peace before their humbled would-be-invaders. What a wonderful state to aspire to; that of a ruler, fit to rule not by virtue of being able to exert force but by virtue of virtue itself, which connects all living things together in such a way as to demand love and respect for even the weakest among them.