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James Cameron's epic sci-fi fantasy film released in 2009.

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One Word Sums it Up: WOW, with a few reservations!

  • Jan 12, 2010
  • by
Pros: Special effects are mind-altering.

Cons: Nothing worth noting.

The Bottom Line:

Avatar is a visual and emotional feast that should be experienced as often as you dare.

James Cameron is known for his big epic movies; remember Titanic (1997) the highest grossing movie of all time?  Mr. Cameron hasn't directed and or produced a feature film since Titanic played itself out grossing some 1.8 billion dollars worldwide.

Now some twelve years later Mr. Cameron has released his most ambiguous movie to date, Avatar (2009), to much hype and critical acclaim.  At a purported cost of some 300 million to produce, Avatar has so far grossed 212.3 million domestic box office, 410 million foreign box office, for a combined total of some 642 million worldwide as of December 29, 2009 according to Box Office Mojo.com.


Written and directed by James Cameron (Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies) one hardly knows where to begin to tell the tale of Avatar, but I'll give it a go.  It's the 22nd century and the human race has depleted the Earth.  Green, as in trees, grass, plants, and forests, are gone and man is looking for a new place exploit.  They have found the Earth-like moon of Pandora some five months space travel from the Terraforma.

An unnamed private corporation is mining an invaluable mineral known as "unobtanium," on the planetoid that fetches a tidy sum on the open market back home.  Pandora is a beautiful lush planetoid populated with diverse wildlife and a race of 10 feet tall forest dwelling blue humanoid creatures called Na'vi.  They are a primitive race of people, by human standards, but very in touch with every living creature on their moon.

While the private corporation is intent on mining the ore it is also concerned with public relations and as such has hired Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver ~Alien, Working Girl, Galaxy Quest) to produce "Avatars," a combination of human and indigenous Na'vi DNA and controlled by its human host.  The Avatars have been interacting with the local Na'vi tribe in order to gain their trust and hopefully work out a diplomatic solution to the current impasse.

But there is also a substantial and powerful military component to the private corporation, one that has an unsteady truce with the Na'vi.  This is exacerbated by the discovery of a large unobtanium deposit underneath the Na'vi's home called the Hometree.  The Hometree is a huge oak tree wherein the Na'vi live.

Enter crippled (from the waist down) U.S. Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthingham ~Terminator Salvation); he is replacing his deceased twin brother as an Avatar.  While his brother's mission was supposed to be scientific, the military commander, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang ~ God and Generals, The Fugitive, Public Enemies) has different ideas; he wants to wipe out the Na'vi, and he wants Jake to help him do so by gaining the confidence of the Na'vi in order to help destroy their habitat, their Hometree.

The leader of the expedition is Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi ~ The Postman, Saving Private Ryan, My Name is Earl), his only concern is quarterly profits and mining planet regardless of the Na'vi.

Shortly after Sully becomes an Avatar, he becomes separated from Dr. Augustine, who is also an Avatar, and he is discovered by a female Na'vi named Neytiri (Zoe Sladana ~ Drumline, Six Degrees, Star Trek).  At first she is going to kill him, but then thinks the better of it, and instead take him to meet her father Eytukam (Wes Studi ~ The Last of the Mohicans, Deep Rising, Kings), the leader of her (Omaticaya) tribe, and her mother Moat (CCH Pounder ~ Law & Order: Special Victims Unit , The Shield, Bothers), the spiritual leader of the tribe. 

They decide that Neytiri should teach Sully the ways of the Na'vi much to the consternation of Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso ~ Stomp the Yard, The Last Stand, Mano), the Na'vi she is promised to.

My Thoughts

Now about the story itself: it is of course lifted straight from the White-guy-saves-the-natives, Hollywood story mausoleum, and it is one the American audience knows all too well.  After all we have seen it before: Broken Arrow (1950), Dances With Wolves (1990), At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991), Pocahontas (1995), The Last Samurai (2003), and to a lesser extent, District 9 (2009), all have the same basic theme.  It has come to be known as The White Messiah fable wherein a manly young Caucasian seeks his fortune and adventure in the wild only to encounter the backwards, but spiritually-connected-to-the-land-natives, who are noble, strong, and pure.  But not strong enough apparently the help themselves, so he, The White Messiah, has to deliver them from the evil clutches of his greedy brethren. 

In Avatar, Cameron dresses up the themes with dazzling special effects and a rich surreal landscape, but the premise is the same; Jake is the Messiah and Neytiri is the native girl who falls for him despite the traditions of her people that already have her mated to another.  It did not escape my notice that all of the native characters in Avatar as voiced and acted by minorities.  The highlight of Avatar is when Jake is redeemed, and the tribe's spiritual leader Moat, begs Jake to save her people!

Would it have hurt Cameron's movie to have a Black, or other minority character portray Jake?  I don't think so, because the rest of Avatar is just so rich and enchanting.  Does the hero always have to be White for a movie to sell?     

The forgoing aside, as the credits rolled on Avatar there was only one word I could use to describe what I had just experienced: WOW!  While the base story, that of good verse evil; greedy corporation verse the environment; arrogant humans verse noble, but ignorant savages, is nothing new (see above), I love the way Cameron choose to tell it.  And it's not as if I didn't know the eventual outcome of the story, but getting there was certainly a fun filled-and for some, tear filled-adventure I would most certainly want to relive!

The world of Pandora is unlike one I (we) have ever experienced, or even imagined in a movie before.  Cameron created a surreal world that is vivid, vital, and alive with color, spirituality, and possibility.  The Na'vi live a straight forward, but exciting live full of adventure and wonder.  They are one with their world in ways humans have long ago lost touch with.

And Cameron managed to make me envious, and respectful of the Na'vi.  The fact that I would root for them was preordained, but the fact that I would get so emotionally invested in the outcome of their situation, surprising.  But that is attributable to the strength of the world Cameron created for us to experience.

The special effects throughout Avatar are like nothing I have ever seen before.  The attention to every minute detail made the movie come to life in unexpected ways.  Yes, in some shots the fact that the Na'vi and other inhabitants of Pandora are  computer generated is all too evident, but that did not prevent me for thoroughly enjoying this wondrous movie.

The principles did an excellent job of drawing me into the story, including badass Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight, S.W.A.T., Lost) who portrays Marine helicopter pilot Trudy Chacon.  There is something so sexy about Michelle despite her outward masculine stance...

When the credits finally rolled on the 2 hour and 40 minute movie, it is attributable to writer/director Cameron and crews' visual mastery that I did not want the movie to end; I wanted more, much more.  Avatar is everything Cameron promised it would be and more.

Yes, the Na'vi are caricatures and a lot of the dialog is pulled straight from the Hollywood designed-to-invoke-an-emotional-response word vault, but who cares, none of it matters because Avatar is just that good.  The movie is a visual and emotional feast that should be experienced, dare I say often(?)


Movie Mood: Action Movie
Viewing Method: Studio Screening/Premiere
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Script

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Vincent Martin ()
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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About this movie


Avatar is a 2009 American science fiction epic film written and directed by James Cameron and starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez and Stephen Lang. The film is set in the year 2154, when humans are mining a precious mineral called unobtanium on Pandora, a lush moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system. The expansion of the mining colony threatens the continued existence of a local tribe of Na'vi—a sentient humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. The film's title refers to the genetically engineered Na'vi and human hybrid bodies used by several human characters to interact with the natives of Pandora.

Development on Avatar began in 1994, when Cameron wrote an 80-page scriptment for the film. Filming was supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron's 1997 film Titanic, for a planned release in 1999, but according to Cameron, the necessary technology was not yet available to achieve his vision of the film. Work on the language for the film's extraterrestrial beings began in summer 2005, and Cameron began developing the screenplay and fictional universe in early 2006.

Avatar was officially budgeted at US$237 million. Other estimates put the cost between $280 million and $310 million for production, and at $150 million for promotion. The film was released for traditional two-dimensional projectors, as well as in 3-D, using the RealD 3D, Dolby 3D, XpanD 3D and IMAX 3D formats, and also in ...

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Director: James Cameron
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Release Date: December 18, 2009
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Writer: James Cameron
Runtime: 162 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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