Movie Review: Avatar

Zoe Saldana is Neytiri in <em>Avatar </em><em>Photo courtesy of WETA &20th Century Fox</em>
Zoe Saldana is Neytiri in Avatar
Photo courtesy of WETA & 20th Century Fox

If you are a producer, director and writer and your last film was the hugely successful phenomenon, Titanic, how can you ever follow it? Well, if you’re James Cameron you bring Avatar to the screen.

Comparisons, as I am fond of saying, are odious. Titanic was rooted in some fact and dealt with a human tragedy familiar to most of its audience before they saw the film. Avatar is futuristic fantasy populated in great part by creatures from another world and genetic mixtures of those creatures and humans. Yet, in the end, we care about them as much as we cared about Jack and Rose when their ship sank.

Avatar exists in a beautiful, meticulously created world photographed splendidly by cinematographer Mauro Fiore. The world is a planet called Pandora. Paraplegic former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is brought to the planet to finish a project his look-alike brother had started when he was killed in a robbery. If Jake cooperates he is promised his legs back.

Of course, the corporation who brought Jake and the scientists to Pandora want something that planet has that is worth a great deal. So, of course, they go to great extremes to acquire it. The air on Pandora may not be breathable by humans, but the flora, fauna and — yes — alien inhabitants on the planet fill the viewers’ eyes and touch the soul.

In a fair portion of the film the dialog is in Na’vi, the spoken language of the Na’vi tribe. Subtitles are sued for translation. The language was created by USC Professor Paul R. Frommer who explains the creation process in an LA Times blog post.Now, the question is: if Avatar proves as popular as Star Trek, will Na’vi prove as popular as Klingon? Will we see a translation of Hamlet into Na’vi as we do in Klingon?

Pandora is a splendid place, shimmering with colors, movement, and life forms that have a strange beauty. So odd at first, the faces of the aliens are, we quickly see, most capable of real emotions and we respond, hoping that in the end they will triumph against the evil, money-grubbing corporation. The 3D aspect doesn’t dominate the viewer’s experience, but serves to elegantly enhance it, making it sharper, more real.

You see, if film is like theater and requires the suspension of disbelief, as I believe it does, then Avatar is in many ways the definition of this. It is a rollicking adventure movie, with a real hero and heroine. It’s got suspense, epic battles, very human moments — it’s got it all. Avatar is amazing and is highly recommended. I’d even recommend seeing it in 3D because, it is just enough better to make the price difference between 2D and 3D worth it.

In addition to Worthington, the cast includes, as the humans, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodrguez, Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang. Along with Saldana, the aliens are played by CCH Pounder and Wes Studi.

James Cameron says he’s considering re-releasing Titanic in 3D. He is a master of that art and I, for one, hope he does so…more quickly than the 12 years it took to release Avatar after that triumph.


2 responses on “Movie Review: Avatar

  1. This is one of the movies that I really want to see in a theater — sounds like it is really a fantastic visual experience!


  2. OK, I went and saw it today — And I did see it in the XD 3-D version and the technology was superb. But it’s a travesty of a story — A white dude, who’s also an alien, is the great savior who apparently is the only one who can save an indigenous people in a land, far, far away. Let’s see, what would this be? Perhaps it should have been called:

    Dances with Wolves + The Lion King + anyone of a dozen B- science fiction scripts + a storyline with no redeeming elements + a unbearably slow and plodding plot line where nothing unexpected happens. I’ve seen better character development in stories hashed out by amateurs in the 24-hour film project. The battle scenes were visually arresting — too bad the logic and the subplots were lost (presumably on the “digital” cutting room floor).

    I did like the visual effects — and costumes, make-up, modeling, — in fact, everything visually about the movie — but a real gagger of a movie — I loved the flying effects — but come on — With all of those amazingly talent movie professionals — couldn’t Cameron have found one screen writer to write a story element worth remembering? What a masterful portrayal of the aging white guy in the all-evil head of security– if you like wafer-thin character development.

    And now, a fellow scribe on LLV, would like to see this film form the basis for a new casino resort here in town. Yikes!


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