Friday, December 18, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

There are films, and then there are movies. I am not going to be technical here in my definitions, I'm just going to speak from how I feel the difference is between the two words. A film is a piece of work that might be artistically engaging, but is just meh, whereas a movie is all that and a bag of chips.  A movie is something that sweeps you away into its world and keeps you riveted to your seat till the credits roll. James Cameron's Avatar is a movie in the best sense of the word.

Avatar has been in production for nearly fourteen years, and it shows in the world in which James Cameron has created. The world is Pandora, an alien moon covered in lush rainforests inhabited by wild alien creatures of astounding design, and an indigenous race of 10 ft. tall cat people called the Nav'i, who have had their own language created specifically for this movie.  Humans have come to Pandora to mine a precious resource that is unique to the planet, but in order to do so they must relocate the Nav'i, which is almost impossible, so the humans have instituted the avatar program. The avatar program is where human scientists mix the DNA of a human with that of a Nav'i in a test tube, resulting in an organically grown humanoid that a human can link their mind into Matrix-style. All of this is unfurled upon the audience within the first thirty minutes or so, and while it all seems a touch too explanatory, it is necessary information needed for the rest of the movie to work.

The hero of this story is Jake Sully (likably played by Aussie, Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-marine who comes to Pandora after his identical twin brother's death to fill his brother's slot in the avatar program. While in his avatar, Jake can run and walk unlike he can as a human. Eventually Jake meets Neytiri, a Nav'i princess (portrayed by Zoe Saldana, who completely disappears into the role). Jake and Neytiri fall in love and Jake begins to embark upon an ordeal to get inducted into Nav'i civilization. All the while, the war-mongering human corporation behind the whole shindig is chomping at the bit to eradicate the Nav'i from the face of the planet in order to mine. This conflict results in Jake having to choose sides between the humans he hails from, and his newfound home with the Nav'i.

The story has traces of so many different movies found within. It's ecological message can make you want to compare it to the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, where as it's sci-fi/fantasy story of a man crossing over to fight for an alien race can make one think of The Planet of the Apes, not to mention the influences found from our own country's Native American history. Of course, to me Avatar is a wholly original experience. James Cameron should be applauded for attempting something that isn't based upon a book, comic book, or video game. In a way, Avatar is far more thought out and better executed than many movies that are already part of pre-existing properties. What Cameron did here was tell a story that blurs the lines between science fiction and fantasy, much in the way that he blurs the realities between Jake's two worlds.

Avatar is many different things, it has romance, action, adventure, and drama. The film has moments of sheer wonderment, and moments that make your heart ache or wanna punch the bad-guy Col. Quaritch, played to perfection by Stephen Lang. That is why Avatar is such a good time at the cinema, because of these moments. Cameron actually took the time within the film to detail the world, to give you a sense of its scope and its scale, and it all adds up to make Avatar a rollicking success.

When all is said and done, Avatar is a special time at the cinema. It's one of those movies that has to be experienced again in order to fully drink it all in, but even after one viewing, the film is very much appreciated. Thanks, James Cameron.

I give Avatar a 10 out of 10!

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