In a future were Earth’s natural resources are scarce, humans must acquire resources from other planets. One planet in particular, Pandora, is has a wealth of resources that Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and his shareholders hope to make a hefty profit on. The problem is that Pandora is inhabited by the Na’vi, giant blue creatures that have a unique link to the planet. The humans eventually find a way to make their own Na’vi clones (known as Avatars) that are piloted by human brains. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic Marine, is offered a chance to have his own Avatars so that he can provide assistance to Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) as she conducts her research on the planet. Through his travels Jake meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), one of the Na’vi who is not fond of outsiders. When word back gets to Selfridge and Colonel Miles Qauritch (Stephen Lang) that Jake has made contact with the Na’vi, the two men see this as an opportunity to broker a deal to acquire the resources they need. Yet if Jake is unable to successfully get the Na’vi to leave their land in time, Qauritch and his soldier are more expedite things by any means necessary.
Technically speaking, Avatar is truly an amazing accomplishment! Keep in mind this is coming from a person who is not a fan of the recent 3D explosion in Hollywood. Director James Cameron has made a career out of being a head of his time in regards to special effects and this film is no different. The live action scenes are equally as mesmerizing as the animated portions. Best of all, the technology actually compliments the film instead of overshadowing it. This allows you to really immerse yourself into the world of Pandora and the characters that inhabit it. Regardless of whether it is the natural beauty of the planet, the human/Na’vi characters, or the epic battle sequences, Avatar keeps you hooked all the way to the end.
As exciting as the overall Avatar experience is, the one downside is that there are no real surprises from a story standpoint. If you have seen films such as Dances with Wolves or The Last Samurai, just to name a few, then you have pretty much seen Avatar. As a result, there are never any moments of real tension in the film. When I think back to last year’s event film, The Dark Knight, I can recall at least seven scenes where I was literally on the edge of my seat. Even when I was sure I knew what was coming, the rug was still pulled out from under me (e.g. racing to save Rachel but finding Harvey instead, etc.). Avatar has no such moments, which makes the story feel like it was a “paint by numbers” project. You know exactly which characters will rise up for the side of good and which characters will only have their own interests in mind.
It also does not help that James Cameron had this story on the shelf for such a long time. Since Cameron had to wait for technology to catch up to his vision, he used snippets from the Avatar script in many of the other films he directed up to this point. Several of the elements that should “wow” the audience come off more as a reminder of Cameron’s extraordinary canon of work (e.g. The Abyss, Aliens, Titanic, etc,). While this is not necessarily a bad thing it does take away a bit of the newness from the whole production.
To James Cameron’s credit, he did manage to bring out genuine emotion out of this all too familiar tale. There are some scenes in Avatar that are clearly designed to pull at the heartstrings and they do just that. The pain and sorrow conveyed by the Na’vi in Avatar is far more gripping and real than a bulk of the movies released this year. Zoe Saldana and the rest of the cast who played the Na’vi did a great job of providing their characters with distinct personalities and emotions.
As far as “event” pictures go, Avatar is definitely a must see in 3D. While I think the film will hold up well in regular format, this is really a production that must be viewed in the director’s original vision. Despite the predictable plot, Avatar is a film that delivers on both and entertainment and technological front.