Some science fiction takes you to far-away places yet remains rooted in familiar ideas. This is the case with Avatar, a visually stunning James Cameron film that becomes very pedestrian if you stop looking and start thinking.

Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a wheelchair-bound marine sent to the planet Pandora, a jungle planet far from Earth. This planet is rich in a resource that the mysterious/menacing company wants to mine. Unfortunately, native species the Na'vi -- blue aliens twice as tall as humans, with with tails and large yellow eyes -- is hostile to humans and protects their land with bows and arrows. Worse, their village is on top of the richest deposit of this resource. Company man Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) wants to avoid bloodshed if possible, while Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) is ready for combat.

Hoping to reach a diplomatic solution, scientists Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) and Norm Spellman (Joel Moore) have created Avatars: a mix of human and Na'vi d.n.a. that looks like a Na'vi and a human mind can transfer into. Sully's twin brother was part of this project when he was killed, and Jake can transfer his brother's Avatar.

On Sully's first day out in his new body he becomes stranded alone on Pandora at night, where he meets and gains the attention of beautiful Na'vi warrior Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Soon Jake is being taught the language and ways of the Na'vi, Grace and Norm are thrilled to be learning more about the Na'vi, and Colonel Quaritch wants intel on the aliens -- and promises to have Jake's legs fixed when the mission is done.

Avatar is about 60% cgi, and that part of the movie is absolutely stunning. The planet of Pandora is lush and mysterious, filled with floating mountains, various benign creatures and deadly predators, and even dinosaur-like monsters. The Na'vi (and Avatars) are remarkable creatures, alien to us and yet believable. I enjoyed seeing how each Avatar resembled its human operator. There's also a nice contrast between the natural ways and weapons of the Na'vi (organic bows, flying steeds) and the cold metal of the human military (large 'Mechs, hovering helicopters).

Unfortunately, Avatar is absolutely predictable. As with his previous movies, James Cameron has his good guys and bad guys so obvious they might as well wear white and black cowboy hats. Ditto for the antanogism--to-romance relationship between Sully and Neytiri. While we could all learn to be more respectful of nature, this movie really clubs its viewers over the head with that message. If you are ever going to see Avatar, see it on the big screen for the special effects. Just don't expect to be surprised or impressed by anything else in the movie.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

1 comment:

StevieVee said...

James Cameron's Avatar The Movie 2009 and 2010 - Best Sci Fi Movie For Now... Wondering why? Not only because it is a good story, with lots of action and it has a good cast, but more importantly, because it is a real changer with the 3-D technology and all. From now on, Sci Fi movies will be once again, different. I mean, will HAVE to be.
As Sigourney Weaver declared:
“The MOST ambitious movie I have ever been associated with..”

Yes, Sigourney Weaver's Avatar Performance Is Her Best In 30 Years Since Alien. Ditto!