Wednesday, February 17, 2010


People were making a big deal about this movie. And I had no idea why. I mean, when Titanic came out and people are making a big deal about it, you could kinda figure out why. But this? Aside from the name James Cameron, I hadn’t a clue. I thought, “Huh, looks weird. What’s with the blue people?”

Apparently, Avatar made and spent a ton of money. After seeing it, I understand. Now, weeding your way through the hype and publicity and Cameron-sized expectations, can you get an honest review from WLC? Absolutely.

The opening scenes introduce us to Jake Sully. It’s all a vague recollection to me, mostly because it wasn’t developed very much, but he’s in the military and currently a paraplegic. He signs up for a program on a different planet to take the place of his brother who died—I assume—recently. The program is on the planet (er, moon) Pandora, and centers around the fact that a resource mine of something called “Unobtanium” (ha, ha) is located in a place where Pandorian natives live. The age old question arises: how do we get what we want from those savages?

Thank god for Sigourney Weaver. She heads up the project to tackle this problem as the no-nonsense Grace Augustine, leading a team of scientists which formerly included Jake’s brother in the Avatar program. Basically, they climb into futuristic coffins and get their brains connected to a Pandorian avatar. Leading up to this process, Jake is criticized for his lack of background and study in the area. He hasn’t learned the language, doesn’t know the culture or landscape, and is ::shudder:: a former marine. Philistine.

Basically, humans are split on the issue: the scientists, including Augustine, believe in a diplomatic solution to obtaining Unobtanium. The special interest (translated: selfish) group, led by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi) and helped along by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) just wants to get the stuff, and get it fast. Then there are the Pandorians, who want nothing to do with the humans and would love nothing better than to see them catch the next train out of town. Sully gets caught in the middle of all this. He ends up being accepted by the Na’vi (the Pandorian natives) and learns their way of life. He even develops a relationship with a woman named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), and seems to forget about the world of humans when he inhabits his Avatar.

As is to be expected, humans grow impatient with the amount of time being spent with the Pandorians with no real progress being made toward getting the resource they want. A deadline is made, and Sully is removed from the project just as he realizes how important the Pandorian ways of life (as well as Neytiri) are to him.

In short, conflict arises between humans and Na’vi about the land, as well as inside of Jake Sully regarding where his loyalties lie.

Bravo to James Cameron for effectively helping me internalize conflict about this movie as well. However, probably not in the way he would like. The problem is, we’ve seen this movie before. More than once. We know what’s going to happen, and who is going to turn into what, down to the cheesy cliché one-liners that get thrown around way more than they should have been. And so, I’m torn between the beautiful scenes with fantastic imagery and the basically lame and uninspired plot. Creativity rose up in places it shouldn’t have (gravity-repellent land masses and lizards that spin like a top when flying) and was absent when desperately needed (natives called “savages” who wear loincloths and war paint.) Col. Quaritch evolves into a ridiculous caricature of evil. And you know, almost from the get-go, exactly what is going to happen to Jake.

Rating: 9

A feast for the eyes and ears, a famine for the mind. Does that even make sense? I don’t know, but it feels right: not much in the substance department, but oh, so pretty!!!


Dr. Worm said...

I'm on WLC's page here. It's a pretty and vapid movie.

By the way, even having seen the movies, I can't believe those names. Parker Selfridge -- who is selfish. Col. Quaritch -- who has courage.

Unobtainium I'll give them some credit for, since it's (sort of) a real term. According to Wikipedia, "In engineering, fiction, or thought experiments, unobtainium is any extremely rare, costly, or physically impossible material needed to fulfill a given design for a given application."

Still, a hollow victory for a movie that had nothing unexpected to offer and left me with nothing to think about.

Particle Man said...

okay. i want to know WHY the mountains float!!! i'm not asking much. three lines of dialog. 45 seconds of screen time. that's it! it doesn't even have to be a really good explanation, as long as it's something! our main character, Sully, is unfamiliar with basically everything about Pandora. all it takes is for him to say, "so, why do the mountains float?" i'm ready to accept rather fantastic reasons why things happen, but that reason NEEDS to be there.

this is indicative of a major problem with the film, and it plays out in many more aspects than just the floating mountain problem. Cameron seems to have no logical reason for things in his move that go deeper than "huh-huh, this would look cool." they do look cool, but we're not so easy that a show makes us applaud. we need to have some reason that we're watching the show.

jbodster said...

It's Pocahontas meets the Smurfs.