Pros: Avatar has great story, great effects, very engaging movie.
Cons: Sure the stories in Avatar have been told before, but not quite like this!
Avatar. It is a representation of you, but it is not you. Anyone who plays video games, especially online role playing games is familiar with Avatars. Of course, anyone who plays role playing games too long knows what I know too. Avatars can become you, and your alternate reality can become your reality. James Cameron knows this and blends this idea with many other sci fi themes to create one of the most stunning science fiction films I have seen in a long time.
I took my son and one of his friends to see this new multi million dollar James Cameron film at a 3D Digital screening Christmas night, not knowing quite what to expect. I don't quite know where to begin!
Jake Sully (Scott Worthington) is a Marine on a moon called Pandora. He has been sent there as part of a project to study the native indigenous population of Pandora, the Na'vi. A large multinational corporation has been sent here to mine for minerals. Apparently, it is the same corporation that sent the Nostromo to do the same thing with bad results with another race of not very pretty aliens. Anyway, they sent Sigourney Weaver again, but this time she is a scientist, Dr. Grace Augustine, who wants to learn about the Na'vi. (and no, actually Ridley Scott's Alien has nothing to do with James Cameron's Avatar, they just both feature greedy corporations sent into space and both had Sigourney Weaver in a starring role) Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) plays the cold corporate leader of the colony who sees the native population as a roadblock to corporate progress. He just wants them all to move out of their home so that he can strip the forest and mine the unobtanium that lies beneath.
To survive on Pandora's different atmosphere and interact with the Na'vi, the colonists have created clones of them and control them through a virtual technology that allows them to stay in a chamber in the base camp and control their avatar in the world that is Pandora. If Blizzard Entertainment gets ahold of this technology, World of Warcraft should go from 11 million players to 110 million players. Sigourney and her scientists hope to figure out a way to get the Na'vi to move from their home so that the miners can mine a rich deposit of unobtainium and make hundreds of millions of dollars. The miltary, led by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) would just as soon take it the old fashioned way, by brute force and superior fire power.
Our Marine, Jake Sully is confined to a wheel chair and the only reasaon he is here is because his brother was the scientist that his avatar was specially designed for. However, Sully's brother was killed before being able to participate. Jake Sully is excited at this opportunity, because it will let him explore Pandora despite being in a wheelchair. With his Avatar, Sully is a 12 foot tall, muscular, agile blue skinned Na'vi. He experiences 10 fold what the average video game player feels when they become their on screen/online persona. Sully goes with the other researchers to meet with the Na'vi and see what they can do to reach a diplomatic solution.
I have to say that the world of Pandora is drop dead stunning gorgeous. I saw that it was filmed in New Zealand, but by adding the 3 D and special effects, the world just becomes real and sucks you right in with its beauty and strangeness. I really felt like I was in a giant alien rain forest. Soon Jake ends up separated from his party and ends up being rescued by a beautiful native Na'vi, Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). She is an alien dream girl, 12 feet tall, thin, light blue with large gold eyes. Next thing you know Jake is meeting up with the village chief and it turns out that Neytiri is the chief's daughter. She is also to marry the villages best warrior Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso). Neytiri's mother, the village spiritual leader tells her daughter to teach Jake Sully about the ways of they Na'vi.
The scientists are delighted, they never made that much progress with the Na'vi and the military are delighted because they can use Sully's observations against the Na'vi.
Anyone who has an avatar may be able to figure out or at least not be surprised at what comes next. Millions of people forget that their game is only a Final Fantasy. Azeroth is not just the World of Warcraft, it is the world. In this film of course, Pandora is not just a software companies creation, it is a real world full of living breathing sentient beings who love their world. Living among them, learning about them, soon Jake is in love with their world, learning about the tree of life, the connection all living things have with each other, the spiritual connections of the Na'vi, the animals and the trees. Of course he also falls in love with Neytiri. (For those unfamiliar with this plot, see Dances with Wolves, or at least South Park's recent episode, Dances with Smurfs).
As corporate greed and military might push towards their goals, Jake Sully must decide between the humans and the Na'vi.
Despite some elements of the story being told many times before, it moved me, because it was told in a unique way and the characters are so well developed that you really care about their fates. When bad things happen, you will feel bad, and when good things happen you want to cheer. The whole audience clapped and cheered at the end when we saw it.
3D immerses you!
One reason that your video game avatar becomes you and you it, is because today's video games have such rich graphic environments. You truly can immerse yourself in another world. Avatar uses 3D effects to do the same thing with film audiences. At first the 3D seemed a bit disconcerting, but soon I actually felt like I was actually in the film, right there with everyone. I was as much in Pandora as was the films protagonist, Jake Sully. This was really 3D like I had never seen it before. I've seen plenty of animated films in 3D, but this was the first live action film I'd seen, and it was just very impressive. I really felt like I could walk to the front of the theater and into Pandora. In some scenes mountains literally floated in the sky as if Roger Dean's YES album covers had come to life!
Even the Soundtrack is awesome!
Like a good video game, the soundtrack swells and moves you through the story. Jack Horner composed the soundtrack and it was powerful and fit the movie well.
Some story elements were borrowed. Dances with Wolves came to mind as did Isaac Asimovs sci fi tales of planets that literally had a world mind. Some of the fight scenes and the whole falling in love with the chief's daughter promised to someone else have been done countless times before. Cameron made me forget that for the most part though. I was so immersed in his AVATAR that for 2 hours and 40 minutes his world became my world. I loved the Na'vi and I rooted for Jake and his tall blue skinned love Neytiri. I identified with this race of people in touch with their land and their ancestors rooted against the humans who only thought about profit and military conquest. It honestly reminded me of my own Avatar in Blizzard's World of Warcraft. I became a member of the Horde, the so called bad guys of the game. However, after a few months of being immersed in it, I really identified with the shamanistic earth loving ways of the Orcs, Trolls, Elves and Tauren. As I carried out quests to stop human mining and timber cutting and otherwise disturbing and destroying the land, I developed a real hatred for the humans and the Alliance.
There are scenes in the movie in which Neytiri shows Jake how to choose and bond with one of Pandora's native flying creatures. It reminded me of when I first bonded with my pet tiger or when I first got my own wind rider to fly around the Outlands. The film was so dazzling that I really felt like I was flying through the floating mountains of Pandora with Jake. Cameron really understands the bond with your avatar and your side and see things from their point of view. For many, it really does become a reality. In one point during the film, Sully remarks that his world was flipped, it was real when he was in his avatar among the Na'vi and it was but a dream when he was in his own world. All these elements are presented so well in Cameron's Avatar, that you don't have to be a "tree hugger" to identify and root for the peaceful Na'vi, you will find yourself hating Parker Selfridge and Colonel Quaritch.
Cameron has taken some of the basic good human concepts and put tehm together in a very eye opening film. Yes, on a visual level it is eye opening because of the stunning 3D effects and cinematography. However, it is also eye opening in that he is saying that as we spend time actually listening and learning of other cultures and understanding them, we may actually be able to empathize with them and find their way of life rewarding. Of course history teaches us that this isn't exactly true, just ask the native American Indians or the Australian Aborigines or perhaps the Tibetan monks. Nevertheless, Cameron's message is a good one and it is very entertaining to watch.
Avatar cost a lot to make. It has a lot of hype surrounding it. It was worth the money, it lives up to the hype. I strongly recommend going to see this wonderful fascinating film. I want to see it again!