There was a constant buzz about this film almost since James Cameron (True Lies, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) announced he was doing it. Because it is his first big movie since “Titanic” and it would be using over $300 million in new technology people were interested. The hype reached a fever pitch long ago. Thankfully for Cameron and everyone involved in the film it is worth the wait. It is your typical James Cameron epic film filled with technological effects surrounding a simplistic story.
Jake Sully (Sam Worthington – Terminator Salvation, Hart’s War) has been recruited to the prestigious Avatar program. This paraplegic former Marine is in, despite his lack of training or a science background, because his twin brother, who was being trained in the program, has recently died. Because they share the same DNA Jake can just step in for him at this late juncture. This is happening much to the chagrin of project leader Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver – Baby Mama, Galaxy Quest).
He jumps at the opportunity to be put into the body of the alien body called the avatar because it will give Jake the opportunity to walk again. Jake’s job is to gain the trust of the Na’vi and get them to move locations so a corporation, under the direction of Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi – Public Enemies, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), can extract a very valuable metal from deep within their home planet Pandora.
As he was a former Marine, Jake is approached by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephan Lang – The Men Who Stare at Goats, Tombstone) on the sly and he convinces him to give Quaritch inside information about what is going on so he can plan how to best attack the Na’vi. He is not a man who believes in doing things in a peaceful way. Quaritch is a man who is itching to go to war.
Jake discovers through his contact with the Na’vi and especially Neytiri (Zoe Saldana – Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl), who is teaching him the ways of her people, that they are not an aggressive people and that the corporation is the bad guy here. This causes him to question his assignment and what he is doing for Quaritch.
During several points in the film I thought to myself that what I had just seen or heard sounded familiar. Then I realized that several of the scenes in “Avatar” are taken from other films like “Last of the Mohicans”, “Braveheart” and “Pocahontas”. I guess that is to be expected as it is basically a film criticizing the colonization of native peoples. It also delves into an odd spiritual side as well as an ecological (I almost expected the Disney song “Circle of Life” from “Lion King” to start up at one point) message.
I could sit here and pick apart the weak story and sometimes laughable dialogue, but I won’t. Like many things “Avatar” is an event or experience. It is visual and not intellectual. And I don’t think that Cameron meant it any other way. He, with all the new technology used on the film, meant it to be a treat for your eyes. Cameron shot the film in photo-real CG, which allows for incredible detail on the characters’ faces. There are very realistic interactions between human actors and the CG characters. Cameron has finally delivered a technology which has been promised for years.