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

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3-D Deja Vu?

  • Jan 20, 2010
I saw James Cameron's "Avatar" on its opening weekend. With all of the hype surrounding the film I expected it to be either A) one of the greatest films ever made or B) just another visual feast with a hollow plot. It turns out that it was actually a visual feast with a plot stuffed to the brink with borrowed ideas from other films including many of Cameron's own previous projects.

The film's basic plot is that a human mining company has arrived on Pandora, home to the Na'vi, in order to mine unobtanium, an extremely valuable mineral. The head of the mining operation, Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi), has determined that the blue-skinned Na'vi must move in order for mining of Pandora to continue. However, the Na'vi have no plans to leave the sacred forest in which they live. In order to appease the Na'vi and attempt to persuade them to leave peacefully, the Avatar program is established. This program uses genetically engineered human/Na'vi beings that can be remotely controlled by a mental link established with a human host.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a paraplegic Marine who is brought into the Avatar program when his twin brother dies and a genetic match is needed for his avatar. Despite resistance from the program's director, Dr. Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), Jake is allowed take his brother's place. While on a mission, Jake is separated from the rest of the team he is on and must fend for himself in the very deadly and very beautiful jungles of Pandora.

The mining company, meanwhile, has grown tired of the peaceful attempts to move the Na'vi. Under Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), a massive force is built up to physically and/or fatally remove the Na'vi from their homes.

While lost in the jungle, Jake befriends Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a Na'vi princess. Eventually, Jake befriends Neytiri and a bond begins to form between him and the rest of the Na'vi.

Quaritch sees Sully's friendship with the Na'vi as a way to learn of their weaknesses in order to make a military strike successful. At this point, Sully becomes a double-agent for the military and the Avatar program. He also begins to fall in love with Neytiri and her people. Soon enough, Jake finds himself torn between the people he has learned to love and the military that he was once part of. His ultimate decision might prove fatal not only for himself, but the Na'vi as well.

Of course, that's the plot on the surface. If one reads any other reviews or watches anything about "Avatar" on television, they will soon find people arguing that the film is everything from a "white guilt fantasy" to an anti-military rant to an environmentalist's plea and beyond. While I can see sound reasoning for most of these arguments and do agree with some of them to a point, I have to call this film out for what it really is: deja vu.

If you've watched films like "Dances With Wolves" and "Pocahontas," you've seen the plot before. Basically "Avatar" is exactly like any film that's ever been made that involves one particular species, race, religious group, etc. attempting to invade another group's lands in order to use it for their own gain and one member of the invading party has a change of heart and becomes the victim's champion.

The only thing that sets this film apart is the fact that it has brilliant special effects and gorgeous visuals. With that said, though, the Matt Leblanc clunker "Lost In Space" also had brilliant special effects and gorgeous visuals as did the three "Star Wars" prequels. My point here is that you no matter how pretty a film might look, it doesn't mean that the actual story is worth watching.

I believe that Cameron became too caught up in wowing the audience with the film's look and allowed the plot to fall to the wayside. With each scene in the first two hours of the film, I could almost hear Cameron saying, "Look what I can do!" as jellyfish-like creatures and tall blue people ran all over the screen.

The acting in the film was okay. I preferred the avatar version of Jake Sully much more than his human counterpart. Stephen Lang chewed his way through the film as Quaritch. His character reminded me of a number of R. Lee Armey's military performances but was not as fun to watch. While I liked Zoe Saldana's portrayal of Neytiri, I felt that the animated character actually hindered her overall performance. Sigourney Weaver stood out from the pack with her portrayal of Augustine. Another actress who I feel hasn't received enough recognition for her role in this film is Michelle Rodriguez as Trudy Chacon. In a film full of stock characters, hers was actually fun to watch.

I do believe that as time passes and the wow factor wears off, this film will be remembered only for its advances in special effects and not much else. I do recommend watching it at least once, but that should suffice. As far as all of the political, environmental, religious aspects that many see in this film, I'll leave those subjects to the indiviual viewers. The film was a bit preachy as far as environmental activism is concerned in my book and it was also an unfriendly reminder of what was done to the American Indians early in our country's history. However, I must applaud Cameron for not trying to hide or sugarcoat his own ideals about these subjects. I just hope he's prepared to defend himself from the numerous attacks that have come his way.

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November 17, 2010
Pocahontas and Fern Gully all the way, great review.
September 10, 2010
I did like the film when I first saw it; but admittedly the more I see it at home, the more the story wears thin for me. It does require a lot of reading between the lines, and I do agree that the plot was pretty routine. I like your review, it brought up another side of the film quite well and it shows you care about filmmaking. Thanks for sharing...I'll be spottlighting your review tomorrow. Btw, do you rate your movies 1-10 or 1-5?
September 10, 2010
Thanks for the comments and the spotlight. I actually rated this film a 3 out of 5 on Amazon.com and bridged that review to Lunch. I usually rate films 1-5, so I'll make an adjustment to the rating on it here. Thanks.
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Kendall Fontenot ()
Ranked #17
Despite looking extremely cool, I have to admit that I'm a dork. I grew up on the outskirts of the small town of Oberlin, LA. I have since relocated to the Lake Charles, LA area.I love my home state … more
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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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