Anthony's Film Review

Avatar (2009)

Avatar is another incredible cinematic masterpiece from director James Cameron...

A little over a decade after the phenomenal critical and commercial success of his 1997 film Titanic, director James Cameron returns to the genre of science-fiction, which he has always been known for, given his credits that include Aliens and the first two Terminator movies. His 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar is another one of his masterpieces and is easily his best film since Titanic. It is visually stunning, emotionally moving, and breathtakingly exciting. Any fan of science-fiction movies, films with great stories, and just incredible films in general should not miss Avatar.

The first thing I want to talk about is not the story or the characters, but the setting, because it does a great job introducing the scene. Avatar takes place on a faraway moon called Pandora, an Earth-like place that can sustain life, with luscious jungles and blue humanoid creatures that inhabit the moon as natives. The humans from Earth have established a presence on Pandora, in the form of a corporation that plans to mine a valuable mineral from the moon. Unfortunately, conflict has arisen between the corporation and the natives, to the point where an all-out war is close to reality. There may be a way to prevent this, and it lies with the corporation's science team.

Essentially, there is a method for humans to disguise themselves as the blue creatures. But it goes beyond putting on a false appearance. It works like this. Each human is assigned the body of a blue humanoid, one that is kept in preservation, to use as an avatar. With a combination of DNA mixing and electrical technology, the human lies in a body chamber and goes into a state of dreaming, during which he or she mentally controls the humanoid. The human can experience everything the humanoid feels and does, basically becoming the creature. And when the humanoid goes to sleep in a safe place, the human can safely exit the chamber and put aside the avatar until morning, when it's time to resume the role.

This ability to assume avatars of the blue humanoids makes it possible for a team to blend in with the natives and try to make peace with them. And this is where I introduce the main characters, which are really just a few. Sam Worthington plays a paraplegic marine named Jake Sully, who goes on this peacekeeping mission along with two other characters, including Sigourney Weaver as a scientist named Grace. Not long after being taken to Pandora's jungles by a dual-rotor helicopter, the mission takes an unexpected turn involving an encounter with some dangerous creatures, after which Jake gets separated from his party. While trying to survive on his own at night, he meets the female humanoid Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana.

What follows is essentially a two-part movie that I would describe as a science-fiction version of the 1990 movie Dances With Wolves. In the first part, Jake follows Neytiri to her tribe and is given a chance to learn the natives' way of life. He spends his time becoming acquainted with the language of the natives (though the natives do speak some English after their past encounters with humans, whom they refer to as the Sky People), learning to hunt and ride a flying beast, and getting in touch with nature. There are many gorgeous special effects and awe-inspiring camera shots, especially with the scenes of flight. And throughout this wonderful drama, Jake and Neytiri slowly fall in love.

In contrast, the second part is a more heartbreaking and suspenseful war story. The corporation is so heartless and greedy in its thirst for wealth that it is willing to destroy a giant tree that the natives have considered sacred for generations. The aerial attack on that tree, led by a ruthless colonel, is a scene that can easily make some people cry, as the native humanoids run for their lives, with some of them not being able to survive. Eventually, there is a final battle between the invading humans and the native humanoids, with a few humans, including Jake, choosing to ally themselves with the natives of Pandora. This climactic sequence is, no doubt, something that is very exciting to watch.

The story might not be 100% original, but that really is the least of my concerns. The more important thing is that this movie still has some creative moments. Plus, the film keeps the audience engaged all the way through. Many times throughout, I did not want to turn away from the screen, because every single camera shot is done beautifully and smoothly moves the story along. Best of all, the underlying themes related to the beauty of nature, respect of all life, and understanding of other cultures give the movie plenty of heart. Overall, Avatar is another outstanding achievement by James Cameron, and he should definitely keep doing what he's doing: telling great stories on film.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Avatar, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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