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

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Avatar – An Old Theme with New Dressings

  • Dec 28, 2009
  • by
Pros: Complete visual eye candy, enjoyable battle scenes

Cons: A tired theme we've all seen before, weak love plot, need some more characterization

The Bottom Line: Put Disney's Pocahontas together with Dances with Wolves, and stick them on an alien planet and you get Avatar.  It's fun - we've just seen it already.

"Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?"

Oops.  Sorry.  Wrong movie.  Although you probably could on Pandora, where the atmosphere kills you in just over 20 seconds and the plants glow with bioluminescence at night.  Still, I could easily see Neytiri singing that.  Don't worry, I'll explain.

Jake Sully is a paraplegic. Suck.  His twin brother has just died.  Suck.  And now he gets the chance to go to Pandora, a planet most people tend to just call hell.  Suck...maybe.  In doing so he gets to experience walking again.  He's replacing his brother in the Avatar program.  Pandora houses Unobtanium (yeah, real original), a rock that sells for oodles back on Earth, except (surprise, surprise), the biggest deposit sits beneath the home of the Na'vi.  The humans want it, which means the Na'vi have to move, and they aren't too keen on the idea.  In the hopes of reaching a diplomatic solution, avatars are created, a mix of human and Na'vi genetic material in which the person (in this case Jake) can go Matrix-like and shift their mind into the Na'vi body.

Except on his first trip out, Jake gets lost, and ends up being rescued by Neytiri, who also happens to be the chieftain's daughter (again, surprise, surprise).  But Jake appears special, so it's up to Neytiri to teach them their ways.  Eventually he'll have to decide.  Help the humans and keep his loyalty, or save the Na'vi way of life and their planet.

Decisions, decisions.

Watching Avatar is kind of like watching Titanic.  Both are the creations of James Cameron, and you know how both of them are going to end.  I mean, honestly, how many of us haven't heard of this theme before?  The cultural people so connected to their land and the animals (though in this case, it's quite literal) versus the "civilized" people who want the resources and will do anything to take it.  Hmm.  And by the way, you couldn't tell me that pretty much everyone in that theatre didn't think of the whole Old West-Native American thing with this plotline.  Especially since a bunch of the Na'vi rode horse-like alien creatures and yelled like many Native American warriors.  Frankly I'm surprised no one representing a Native American tribe has complained in some fashion, especially after the ridiculous Chronicles of Narnia centaur fiasco.

There are, in truth, a lot of things I could complain about this movie.  But they all revolve around the theme.  To be blunt, we've seen it.  It's not new.  At all.  Seriously.  Go watch Pocahontas.  Just as the hot outsider and chieftain's daughter hook up there while the warrior who wants to marry her gets all pissed off, so too can you totally predict Jake and Neytiri's "love" and the next chieftain in line to get all pissed and attack.  Go watch Dances with Wolves and you'll see the military man realize his folly and decide to stay with the people whose ways and language he has learned.  I haven't the faintest idea why people think the story is so great.  We've seen it.  A gazillion times.  It's simply wrapped up in a new outfit and set far into the future where - guess what? - we apparently have trashed our Mother Earth.  I just can't help but roll my eyes at the concept.  And in all truth, I could go on about the military being the bad guys, the big bad company willing to destroy all life for money, and the scientists all bravely fighting against these things in order to preserve life, but I won't.  You get the idea.

Don't get me wrong.  I love James Cameron.  I saw this in the theaters even though I totally knew what I was walking into.  I enjoy James Horner's music (because who else ever does music for Cameron?).  Besides, even with the old story, there are some cool elements and what you really cannot deny is the eye candy factor.  Avatar just looks good.  You simply can't deny that fact.  The Na'vi are bigger than humans, which is fun when they're on screen together (since you frequently forget), the weaponry the humans have kicks ass (and looks rather familiar to those who have seen Aliens), and a battle among a bunch of floating islands is hard to beat.

That's why I gave this film four stars.  It's just fun to watch.  As much as I roll my eyes at the plot and, might I add, rather weak love story, it is truly fun to watch, though much better enjoyed on the big screen.  I like big battles.  I like exotic places.  And though we have seen the story before, it's because it's a relatively decent one that most people rally around (which I suppose it apparent due to the "great story!" comments going around).  Sigourney Weaver as Dr. Augustine is ready to tackle anything that gets in her way to save the Na'vi and her acting is right on par.  I really did love Zoe Saldana as Neytiri even if she did have a lot of cliché stuff to say - mostly I was a fan of her anguish over the deaths of her people and her angery moments.  Sam Worthington of Terminator Salvation fame isn't too shabby as Jake, though the man needs to work a bit more on his accent.  Wherever he's supposed to be from in the movie, I could easily hear much of his Aussie accent slipping in off and on throughout the film.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to see this movie.  And if you haven't ever seen a movie with this sort of theme (though I maintain that you've been under a rock if you haven't), then that will make it extra special for you.  I didn't get any deep message from this, though I presume perhaps I was supposed to, and instead had a good time snacking on popcorn and looking at all the pretty colors.



Movie Mood: Action Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.
Worst Part of this Film: Plot

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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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