Avatar. One more review to add to the pile.

Three words:




I’m not going to front. I enjoyed Avatar. Dare I say, I enjoyed Avatar a lot.

With the exception of Titanic, I love James Cameron’s movies. Even when I tried to justify why I wouldn’t pay to see this movie, the rundown of Cameron’s flicks made me realize that the man is, in fact, a visionary director. So how could I not see Avatar? The over-saturating PR sweep that went along with the release of Avatar did its job in that I was persuaded that this movie would be terrible; so, with low expectations, I saw it, in IMAX 3D no less, and came out feeling good about James Cameron and the state of contemporary cinema.

Avatar is in a league above anything by Michael Bay — Bad Boys II is the exception — or Roland Emmerich. In 2009, both Emmerich and Bay released the two worst movies of the year (not that I saw Transformers, but I did see 2012 much to my chagrin), leading me to lose faith in the big budget blockbuster (that’s not to say that I was a major proponent of big budget blockbusters before; consult my upcoming best of list). Fortunately for Cameron, Avatar is as beautifully imagined as it is entertaining. As I expected, the story was trite but the acting wasn’t horrible. My only issue is that Sam Worthington isn’t very memorable. Anybody could have played his part. With that said, he does his job well. He plays a meathead marine, Jake Sully, who controls a human/Na’vi DNA hybrid, called an avatar, via Sliders-esque brain transference.  Despite past efforts of the other well-studied scientist/avatars, Sigourney Weaver and the robot dude from Grandma’s Boy, Jake Sully establishes a deeper connection with the Na’vi (the indigenous, cat-like, non-mammal-but-still-have-boobs people of Pandora).

I’m going to backtrack a bit and give props to the motion-capture actors, Worthington included. I can’t imagine how hard it’d be to visualize an entire world wearing ping pong balls and spandex. I only bring this up because I want another reason to bash the Star Wars prequels. James Cameron does what George Lucas couldn’t do: create a fantasy environment that isn’t overrun with Muppets and ruthlessly shitty writing — just okay writing. Visually, this movie was amazing. And where Cameron stood out from Lucas was in how photo-real everything seemed. I didn’t feel like I was watching a cartoon at any point like I did during all of the Star Wars prequels. Fortunately for Lucas, he’ll still get a large chunk of cash from this movie since his special fx company, Industrial Lights and Magic, was involved in production.

What kept coming up while I watched the movie were the themes of classic European/American colonialism. In what is basically a retelling of Pocahontas, or any other “root for the natives” story about conquest, I feel that Avatar tries to approach the issue with sensitivity towards the Na’vi and their spiritual connection to nature in an attempt to bring light to the savage nature of the Western world’s imperial history. In a way to redeem Western culture, there are a few, Jake Sully and the scientists, who fight against the corporation who’s hired Marines to oversee the displacement of the indigenous population in order to drill, baby, drill for unobtainium, a valuable ore found under Pandora’s surface. The avatar program was initially established as a way to smooth relations between the Na’vi and “the corporation,” ensuring a peaceful migration. We know how that usually turns out. What was disappointing was that, even though we were supposed to sympathize with the Na’vi, it still took someone from the outside to save them from impending slaughter. As advanced as they were spiritually and even though some of them knew english (as a result of Sigourney Weaver’s earlier Diane Fossey integration with the tribe), they still tried to take down combat choppers by shooting arrows. In this instance, it was the white man’s burden to save the  Na’vi. Does that make up for America’s history with Native Americans? No.  Will this movie bring some historical awareness to the audience? Probably not.

Politics aside, go see this movie. Cameron’s use of performance capture technology is in a league of its own at this point. If I were you, I wouldn’t wait. Avatar will not be the same on dvd. You’ve gotta go all out and watch this in 3D — preferably IMAX. I don’t think Avatar will be awesome as T2 in 19 years, but the pure enjoyment that you will experience will be well worth the dough.


One Response to “Avatar. One more review to add to the pile.”

  1. Andrew Pelt Says:

    Great Article! Thanks!

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