So here it is, over a decade in the making and hundreds of millions of dollars we have James Cameron’s Avatar. This is allegedly the film that Cameron has dreamed of making since he was a teenager. It’s too bad when he was dreaming he rehashed the stories of Native American tribes and other movies. However, the dream of a fully realized digital world that seems real does indeed come to pass and that is a fantastic achievement.
Avatar takes place in the future. We no it’s the future because things look really awesome and spaceships fly and stuff. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a Marine who lost his ability to walk finds out that his twin brother was killed by a mugger. His brother was part of a scientific research team called Avatar. This program allows humans to control the body of a Nav’ii. You see, some corporation (I don’t recall it ever being named) wants a resource so ridiculously named I won’t even type it here. The Nav’ii are the blue skinned aliens preventing the drilling of said resource.
At any rate, Sully becomes an Avatar that gets left behind. This is because he’s a shoot first, ask questions later, Marine. He meets the enchanting Neyriti (played by the beautiful Zoe Saldana) who senses a sign about him so spares his life. The military unit employed by the corporation wants to wipe out the blue folks but understand that a diplomatic dispersal of the people would look better to the “tree-huggers” on Earth.
Perhaps the biggest let-down of the film is how heavy-handed it is. The film tosses around terms like “tree-hugger”, “shock and awe”, and “fight terror with terror”. There is absolutely no subtly. Hell the battle scenes are just a futuristic take on battles that American soldiers fought with Native Americans. The Navi’ii rely on bows, arrows, and horse-creatures whilst the humans have nano-suits and explosives. Hell, even the spiritual beliefs of the Nav’ii can be seen in many Native American tribes.When the shit goes down it plays just as you expect. The story is empty and predictable. We know that Sully and Neyriti will fall in love. We know they will rally other Nav’ii tribes once Sully realizes how amazing forest life is and how empty humanity is.
However, the great spectacle of all it can make up for this. I really have to take my proverbial hat off to Mr. Cameron. Pandora, the gas giant where the story takes place is a digital world that is so fully realized it’s unparalleled. From the glowing flora to the hybrid animal creatures, Pandora feels like a place that could exist. The mostly digital sets integrate flawlessly with the live action pieces. I was unable to see this in 3D as it was allegedly intended to be seen but I was still captivated by the visuals. Also, where can I get a battle-suit that responds to my movements and has a big fuck-off gun?
All in all, Avatar is both an accomplishment and a bit of a let-down. South Park had it right, the story is essentially Dances With Wolves meets Ferngully: The Last Rainforest in space. However, the life-like digital creations are indeed groundbreaking. Cameron really has found a way to integrate computer effects with live action in a way that’s not utterly distracting. There are very few moments where you will enter the so called Uncanny Valley.
There’s nothing more I can really say. Other critics will say more than I can about this. There aren’t enough layers to really dissect here. Imperialism is bad okay?
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